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The artful germ.

Germs are all around us. It's impossible to escape them. In the latest study, it was found that our phones have more than 25,000 germs per square inch residing on them. A school desk has 10 million. A keyboard in a computer lab--with all the people touching it--the germs must be astronomical!

But, what does a germ look like? We could get all technical and scientific on that score, but being artists, my second- and third-graders used their creative powers to conjure up germs that live in the art room. We called them "Artful Germs."

After providing the children with some background about germs, how they are all around us, how they can make us sick, and the importance of washing our hands, I asked the students to each envision a germ. This germ lived in the art room and fed off the supplies. Maybe the germ liked to eat erasers or drink paint. Maybe it nibbled on scraps of paper. Whatever the case, the germ was to be the student's own creation.

I handed out 12" x 18" white paper and the students sketched their germs in pencil. I asked them to keep in mind that the germs should incorporate principles of design, and we went over balance, contrast, emphasis, movement, pattern, rhythm and unity. We would be painting these germs with tempera, so the students knew they should think about how they would bring color and life to their germs as they sketched.

When the germs were drawn, each student was given red, yellow, blue and white tempera paint. Giving them only the primary colors plus white encourages mixing, and students learn how to mix the secondary and tertiary colors, plus tints of colors. (We had previously painted a six-slice color wheel, so they already knew how to mix the secondary colors.) Don't you love it when their eyes light up because they have "made" a new color?

As the students painted, we talked about texture and patterns created by the paint. What about contrast and emphasis created by the different colors of paint?

When the Artful Germs were completed, the students self-evaluated, looking at the germs and deciding if they had successfully created balance, contrast, emphasis, movement, pattern, rhythm and unity.

In the end, we had a variety of Artful Germs: paint-drinking germs, paper-cutting germs, glue-guzzling germs, glitter-gorging germs ... the list goes on!

The students stretched their imaginations, reviewed the principles of design, and brushed up on their painting skills. I considered the unit of study a success!


Elementary students will ...

* recognize the importance of washing one's hands.

* mix secondary, tertiary and tints of colors, using the primary colors, plus white tempera paint.

* review the principles of design and create balance, contrast, movement, pattern, rhythm and unity in their artworks.

* successfully create/design and then paint an "art germ."


* CREATING: Conceiving and developing artistic ideas and work.

* RESPONDING: Understanding and evaluating how the arts convey meaning.

* CONNECTING: Relating artistic ideas and work with personal meaning and external context.


* Tempera paint (primary colors, plus white), paintbrushes, water cups

* Paper, pencils

Now retired, Karen Skophammer taught art in Iowa public schools for 31 years.
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Author:Skopkammer, Karen
Publication:Arts & Activities
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Apr 1, 2016
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