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3-D Fantasy Creatures!

Third grade students are fascinated by being able to use their imaginations. Over the years, I have introduced my students to a variety of media from which fantasy creatures could be made. However, one of the most successful lessons consisted of the students forming their creatures from papier-mache while using wire clothes hangers as the armature. The lesson is introduced by having the students identify fantasy creatures they are familiar with. The most commonly named creatures include the dragon, unicorn, mermaid, and Pegasus. I asked the students where they had seen the fantasy creatures they named. Most of the students said they have seen Pegasus in the Hercules movie. One student said that she had seen Pegasus at the beginning of some movies (Tristar Productions).

A Lesson in Mythology

I introduced the students to the concept of mythology and described and showed pictures of other fantasy creatures such as the centaur, griffin, and the phoenix. I also gave additional information about the creatures. For example, the unicorn was believed to have magical powders contained within its horn that, if dipped into poison, could instantly make the poison safe and pure. Magical unicorn horns became prized possessions. Anything thought to be a unicorn horn was worth a great deal of money.

The students were to use their imaginations and make a creature that no one has ever seen before. They were given wire clothes hangers which were bent prior to teaching the lesson so that the creatures would be freestanding. I demonstrated how to form the newspaper over the top part of the hanger in order to create a head. We used masking tape to secure the newspaper shapes onto the hanger. Additional newspaper was used to form other body parts onto the hanger. I reminded the students to make sure that the top part of the animal was not too heavy so that the animal would not fall over. Also, I told them that the entire hanger did not have to be covered with newspaper because parts of the hanger could become a part of their creature's body.

Other materials such as cardboard shapes, paper egg cartons, and tissue paper rolls were cut to form some parts of their animals. The students were to make only basic body parts and focus on the details later using a modeling compound for the eyes, mouth, nose, ears, and tails.

Each week, the students came to the artroom highly motivated and filled with anticipation as they waited for their fantasy creatures to be passed out to them. They worked with much excitement. I am always amazed by the students' individual responses as they work on their fantasy creatures. One student exclaimed: "I like this so much that I am going to keep it and hand it down to my children." While another student said that "she felt as if she was an artist."

Papier-Mache Techniques

During their second art class, they tightened the masking tape in order to make sure no parts were falling off of their creatures before applying the papier-mache layer. I also walked around to make sure that all of their pieces were tightly secured before they used the paste. If strips were too large, they would lose the shape of their creatures. Therefore, I demonstrated how to determine which size newspaper strip to use. Papier-mache layers were only applied to areas covered with newspaper, not the cardboard areas. The students were to use brown or white paper towels as their second layer so that they would be able to use light and dark colors of paint without having the newspaper print show through.

After the layers were dry and during the next art class session, they used a modeling compound to add unique details to their creatures. They used scissors to cut out some of the shapes. I demonstrated how to attach the parts so that they would not fall off. Some students inserted colored feathers into the modeling compound decoration. Once the modeling compound was dry the students painted the creatures. The feathers could be removed while painting if they were in the way. A hot glue later would be used to reattach any feathers that had to be removed.

Painting The Creatures

Children's acrylic paints were used for adding color to the fantasy creatures. Students selected two or three colors to use for painting in all of the large areas first. I reminded them to paint the eyes and other small details last.

During the last week of completing the fantasy creatures, the students added finishing details. The lesson concluded with a writing exercise related to their creatures. I gave them a worksheet which consisted of the following incomplete statements:

My fantasy creature's name is ...

He/she lives ...

My fantasy creature likes to ...

Write a story about your fantasy creature using the information from the completed statements above.


Students select and use subject matter, symbols, and ideas to communicate meaning.

Minuette Floyd is an art teacher at the Center for Inquiry in Columbia, South Carolina.
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Article Details
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Author:Floyd, Minuette
Publication:School Arts
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Oct 1, 1999
Previous Article:Pop Goes the Dragon.
Next Article:Fire Breathing Dragons.

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