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Pyramid power.

For the Spring Arts Festival at River Elementary School, every student in grades one through five produced at least one piece that recalled the life and art of ancient Egypt. The students prepared for their projects through discussion and by viewing pictures of ancient Egyptian life, with an emphasis on the country's many artistic and technological treasures.

To provide authentic images, my research included visuals from The Brooklyn Museum and The Metropolitan Museum of Art. SchoolArts was a rich source of ideas (see "Ancient Egypt in Modern Memphis," SchoolArts, March 1991). For background information on the history, geography, language, customs and religious beliefs of ancient Egypt, the Institute of Egyptian Art and Archaeology at Memphis State University provided a very useful learning packet. Many students, eager to learn more, elected to do their own research at their community and school libraries.

Student Work

First grade students produced two projects inspired by ancient Egypt. Using a hieroglyphic animal silhouette as the subject of their first project, students created a sun print. With markers, they drew their names and brief hieroglyphic messages, using a phonetic alphabet included in the packet from Memphis State's Egyptian Institute. This project featured shape and space, as well as the designs made by their hieroglyphic messages. For their second project, the students constructed an Egyptian bird collage from tissue paper, colored paper, pastels and feathers. In this lesson, students analyzed the shapes of Egyptian birds and trees as they learned concepts of overlapping, texture and color. Both projects easily facilitated discipline-based art education.

The second grade students made paper weavings adorned with plant forms, such as papyrus. A discussion followed on the significance of weaving and papyrus in ancient Egyptian life. Using photographs of wall paintings and sculptures as their subjects, the students constructed an "Egyptian Wall Painting Collage." They studied ancient Egyptian border designs, as well, and enjoyed using sequins to enhance their pieces.

Third grade students formedd cooperative learning groups, which included drafters, cutters, arrangers and gluers, to organize a production of the "Rivetta Stone," an adaptation of the famous Rosetta Stone. The students prepared for their work by completing a lesson and by studying visuals that focused on the historical significance of the Rosetta Stone. The students also designed colorful scratch-paper compositions using naturalistic subjects and hieroglyphics.

By combining styles from the past and present to create visual anachronisms, fourth grade students designed "Ancient Egyptian Cars" (see SchoolArts, March 1991). They also worked with the canon of proportions for the human figure, included in the Memphis State University package, and designed their own ancient Egyptian figures on graph paper. Using similar geometric concepts, the students constructed a three-dimensional tagboard pyramid.

To simulate an ancient wall painting, fifth grade students used a paper batik technique. First, they painted images in the style of ancient Egypt using tempera paints. Next, they crumpled up their dry paintings, taking care not to rip them. Then, they covered the images with black india ink which was immediately rinsed away, leaving a batik image that simulated great antiquity.

The fifth grade students also used various sculptural media to celebrate this glorious time in art history. Using self-hardening clay, they created a sphinx (see "The Great Sphinx," SchoolArts, April 1991) and continued their additive sculpture unit with blue-colored dough clays to simulate faience, an Egyptian ceramic used in pottery, jewelry and sculpture making. The students displayed their clay sculptures on furniture and pedestals assembled from wood scraps.

River Elementary's Art Club, an inter-age group of twenty students, painted six large wall panels to enhance the school cafeteria. Two of these panels were inspired by ancient Egypt. The spring concert that accompanied the art show included a costumed and choreographed rendition of the popular song, "King Tut."

Concept Formation

A successful art education program can be measured by student conceptual awareness. For example, while analyzing the stylized limestone statues depicting ancient Egyptian families, students became aware of symbolism in form. They could see that the scale of the figures reflected their relative importance rather than their actual size, and learned how the positioning of the figures and their feet had spiritual meaning. In this interesting context, the size of shapes, their relationship to each other and their direction helped students verbalize design principles. Similarly, the repetition of stylized prototypes enabled them to discuss the aesthetic appeal of borders and closure.

Providing a unified theme can result in a superior art program, as well as a more satisfying display. Planning for a thematic show provides the year's art program with visual and ideational continuity. The teacher will benefit from an organizational structure that stimulates the planning of exciting and innovative lessons, and students will view their projects as part of an ongoing process rather than as a series of unconnected tasks.
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Title Annotation:elementary school art project
Author:Gallis, Dale
Publication:School Arts
Date:Nov 1, 1993
Previous Article:Excavating King Tut's tomb.
Next Article:Travel through time.

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