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Shelters.

Every species, from beaver to eagle to human, inhabits a place in which to raise its young. Some build their own homes and others use what they find, such as a cave in the rocks or a fallen tree. With this concept in mind, my classes talked about the meaning of shelters in our lives. After exploring the homes made by other species, the students drew on their own experience of living in a shelter. We explored what materials were used in building and how we could simulate these materials with oaktag and paint. Now we were ready to begin our own project of making homes for human habitation.

We built our houses out of oaktag after discussing all of the construction techniques we had used in the past. I made a chart reviewing methods of using tabs and how folds can make a piece of paper stronger. Examples of fringes, cylinders, cones and paper bandaids were also displayed. A paper bandaid is a short bandage-sized strip cut from the same material as the construction project. Glue or rubber cement is applied and the result has a cleaner look than tape.

Each child was given one piece of 6" x 24" (15 cm x 61 cm) oaktag. This was glued into a cylinder and then flattened, opened up and flattened again in another place. This resulted in either a square or a rectangle which was the base for the house. Next, the children cut their roof lines using their own designs. A rooftop with a pattern was added. The children shared ideas about details to enhance their homes: chimneys, steps, decks, trees, swimming pools, mailboxes and even dog houses.

City Living

Photographs of city buildings were examined by the class and a lively discussion about the students' experiences of the city ensued. The expense of real estate was brought up, leading to a discussion of the need for skyscraper buildings, which in turn, led to a discussion of the use of elevators and escalators. This introduction took most of one period, but was necessary because these children were from a rural community without even a traffic light! We decided to make a nighttime scene of our city, using fluorescent paint and a black light.

Parents had collected medicine, soap and other small boxes for our project. First, we glued shut any open flaps on the boxes. We imagined ourselves to be very small and constructed buildings taller than they were broad by gluing and taping our boxes together. When the glue was dry the tape was removed.

In looking closely at the night photos of cities, we detected colors of dark brown, red, blue and gray. Starting with a few of the children who finished construction of their buildings, we mixed black with all of the colors to obtain the night colors. The next step was to look at patterns of lights and paint lights on our building with fluorescent paint. We talked about lights being left on for workers and for safety, but also about the patterns of lights in the night photos.

The night city took four, forty-five-minute sessions to complete. The first to introduce and begin construction, the second to finish construction, the third to paint the buildings night colors, and the fourth to add the fluorescent paint and to arrange the city on a large piece of cardboard. The mural behind the city was made by another class using the same theme for a one-period project. It was exciting when we viewed our city by black light, but it had an equally exciting appearance by daylight.

Creature Comforts

Animals are fascinating to children. We talked about the kinds of animals that live in our region and where each lived ... in trees, on the ground or underground. I asked them to think about an animal or bird they knew something about, or one they would like to know more about. Each child became very familiar with their chosen creature's habitat by looking at Ranger Rick, National Geographic or other publications on the subject.

Each child was given a yogurt cup, a piece of cardboard as a base and access to wallpaper paste. I demonstrated how to wet quartered sheets of newspaper with the paste and form it around the cup to create a cave, a nest or burrow. We left our cups until the paste dried and then removed them.

Next, I gave them self-hardening clay to form the animal or bird that lived in the home. We painted the homes and the clay creatures. Children brought in sticks, grasses, moss, pine cones and whatever they thought needed to be added to the environment to make it authentic. These were glued into place.

These projects were presented in a problem-solving mode. Each child was free to make a shelter according to individual levels of expertise and areas of interest.

Judith C. Harper teaches art in the Leverett/Shutesbury, Massachusetts Public Schools.
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Title Annotation:teaching elementary students about the building of human and animal shelters
Author:Harper, Judith C.
Publication:School Arts
Date:May 1, 1992
Words:824
Previous Article:Forts of all sorts.
Next Article:Scanning your imagination.
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