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My "Big Fat" Greek Life.

Raised in a Greek-American household (my father and maternal grandparents were born in Greece), I look for ways to introduce my students to art lessons with a multicultural theme. With this mind, I developed a unit for our school's Art Club, though it can certainly be used in art class. I call it "My Big Fat Greek Life."

The unit introduces students to aspects of Greek culture, concentrating mostly on the art of modern and Classical Greece. I also share a bit of the language, customs, cooking and yes, even some dancing.

GREEK COLUMNS Most of the time is spent creating a Greek art project related to that week's theme. For example, one week the students studied the Classical Greek period and architecture, learning the three types of columns: Doric, Ionic and Corinthian.

Using the slab method, we wrapped clay around a halved paper-towel tubes and added detail such as fluting and scrollwork. (During firing, the paper tube burns away.) Once cool, students paint and decorate as they wish. Sometimes we make flowers with air-dried clay, and the flowers are attached onto a thin wire and wrapped around the column as a garland.

ALTERED BOOKS As we learn about Greek life, I encourage my students to collect pictures, sayings and photos to collage into altered books we keep as journals on the Greek unit. I demonstrate different techniques for them to decorate and collage their book. One time we painted watercolor paper and tore the paper into strips to weave into a patterned paper collage.

The Greek key is also incorporated into the books by a stamp out of a foam-core square with yarn glued onto the surface. When the glue dries and hardens, the stamp is ready to be used in the students' altered books.

AMPHORA Another project uses inexpensive glass vases from the Dollar Store. These are transformed into Greek pottery urns or "Amphora." We learn about how during the Classical period, Amphora were painted to tell a story, usually about a specific battle or relating to a Greek myth. Tempera or acrylic paint that has been blended to look like terra cotta is applied to the glass surface and left to dry.

In the meantime, students plan how they will paint their vases by sketching their ideas onto scrap paper. They must keep in mind that they will be working on a three-dimensional, so their designs need to be thought out in order to go completely around the vase surface. We discuss mythology, gods and goddesses, classical battle scenes, as well as mythological creatures.

I also have them think of a pattern to decorate the top of their vases, such as the Greek Key design or something that incorporates familiar Grecian motifs, such as dolphins and seashells. Students lightly sketch their images onto the vase and then they go over them with black paint. Air-dry clay is used for the handles of the vase. These are also painted and then hot-glued onto the vases.

"IMPRESSIVE" PLATES The Art Club also creates ceramic plates to hold the Greek cookies we later bake. I talk to the students about the importance of family and tradition in the Greek home, and share with them some of the intricate lace doilies my grandmother made. Some of them are inspired to hunt for hand-made treasures at home and bring them in to share with the others.

After our discussion, we make plates out of clay and, using inexpensive lace doilies from the Dollar Store, press designs into the clay. The plates are decorated with food safe glazes and fired.

I try to convey to the students how much I appreciate my parents for teaching me about the Greek culture. By learning to understand, appreciate and value other cultures through art, students can learn to value diversity and form a positive opinion about people and cultures different from their own.


Elementary and middle-school students will ...

* become familiar with Classical Greek pottery.

* solve the visual problem of designing on a three-dimensional surface.

* learn about Greek mythology.

* use pattern such as the Greek key on a work of art.


* Understanding and applying media, techniques and processes.

* Using knowledge of structures and functions.

* Choosing and evaluating a range of subject matter, symbols and ideas.

* Understanding the visual arts in relation to history and cultures.

* Making connections between visual arts and other disciplines.


* Pencils, scrap paper

* Visuals of Greek Amphora, key patterns and mythology

* Earthen and air-dry clay

* Paper-towel tubes

* Tempera or acrylic paint in various colors, paintbrushes

* Inexpensive glass vases and lace doilies

* Wire, wire-cutters

Sofia Dakos is an elementary art teacher at Nansemond-Suffolk Academy in Suffolk, Virginia.
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Author:Dakos, Sofia
Publication:Arts & Activities
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2014
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