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Community helpers.

Community helpers To emphasize the concept of "helping," we introduced a community approach by forming committees within the class.

THIS WAS AN ART PROJECT THAT successfully combined an art learning process with social interaction: a happy combination eagerly sought by classroom teachers. When a second grade teacher asked me to parallel her class study of community helpers (i.e., police, safety patrol, doctor, nurse), I selected the familiar cut-and-paste technique in which the students had already acquired some confidence.

We started by reviewing the elements of art (line, shape, color and texture) and listing the ones which would concern us. One of the concepts we had to deal with was the use of line and its development into shape. I had students observe and draw their own arms and legs and compare them to stick figure limbs which could be destroyed by a snip of the scissors. We discovered it would take two lines to depict the solidity of the human torso and its various parts. What a discovery for a primary student!

I introduced the concept of "emphasis" to students by showing them some magazine advertising pages. We noticed that while a number of small items might fill a page, anything meant to be important was very large. We all agreed that if you made one item very special, the viewer's eye would be attracted to it. The term "focal point" was foreign, but students seemed to understand the concept as they "oohed" and "aahed" over a tube of toothpaste that was ten inches long and an isolated finger holding a wrist watch.

Although design is generally defined as a pleasing arrangement of shapes, lines and colors, I have over the years suggested to children that design is simply a "planned" picture. We were about to plan a large picture. I also explained the term "expressionism" to them. Each student was to try to put together shapes and colors to show how they felt about their chosen community helper. When work is done with great feeling, people look at it with greater interest.

To emphasize the concept of "helping," we introduced a community approach by forming committees within the class. Everyone made preliminary sketches and there was democratic selection of subject matter. It was also understood that only very large pictures would "express" each individual contribution.

The choices reflected the familiar: safety patrol, mailperson, doctor, nurse, construction worker. (This last entry was easily observed from the window of the classroom where an addition to the school was being added). There was also an affinity for circus people, zoo-keepers, gardeners, rock singers and fishermen. When freed, young children often create art based on experience and observation.

It was interesting to hear the talk about specific symbols in each category. The group selecting the Principal had some difficulty duplicating the office environment. If you showed a person and a desk, someone suggested it could be a secretary. The answer came back, "Print the word `Principal' on the door," followed by "Who can make nice, even letters?" Also overheard was, "The crossing guard always has her whistle in her mouth," and "My doctor has a plastic (meaning artificial) heart on his desk!" Combining all the elements of important shapes and personal color preferences in an acceptable arrangement caused the most interaction.

Students also displayed an understanding of dominance and subordination within the concept of emphasis. They put the fireman with the hose, the crossing guard and the policeman in the foreground, while the background delineated the context: the fire engine, the protected children and the police cruiser.

Through this experience, students learned new art vocabulary, additional principles of design, how to work with other students and how to put many things together to express one idea. We worked through five, forty-five minute sessions using colored construction paper and white glue on 18" x 26" (46 cm x 66 cm) oaktag sheets. The finished posters were laminated and are to grace the bare cinderblock walls of our lunch room.
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Title Annotation:art project for elementary school
Author:Lewis, Doris R.
Publication:School Arts
Date:Mar 1, 1989
Previous Article:Our all-school outdoor mural.
Next Article:Interrelating art and math ... and Picasso.

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