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In the Puerto Rican Carnivale, a traditional figure seen in many parades is the "vejigante," a clown-like character who wears a colorful mask. My kindergarteners were learning about Carnivale in Spanish class, so making vejgante masks of their own in art class was a great idea--and an opportunity to teach them papier-mache skills and painting techniques.

To start the lesson, we viewed photographs of vejigante masks and discussed the various emotions they conveyed. Some masks are meant to scare the crowd, others make them laugh and nearly all of them amaze people with their elaborate designs. The students enjoyed the colorful and eye-catching masks and tried to guess how they were made.

Next, each student was given a plastic face mold with his or her name on the back. Plaster papier-mache strips were placed in the middle of each table and the children each had a small container of water. (Flour and water with newspaper strips could also be used, but the pre-glued papier-mache is nice for younger artists and dries very strong.)

I demonstrated how to wet the papier-mache strips and use "scissor fingers" to squeeze off extra water before applying them to the face molds. After each strip is applied, it must be rubbed smooth until all the little holes disappear.

At this juncture, the students decided whether to make a wearable mask with eye openings or to cover the eyes, for a decorative mask.

On day two, we looked at the mask examples again and discussed how the artists used color and shape to create emotions in the faces. As I passed out the their masks, the children were amazed at how hard the dried papier-mache had become were excited to add facial expressions and other details.

I demonstrated how to roll the strips into snakes and balls, and manipulate them into eyebrows, lips and eyes. Horns could be made with corks, and many of the students built long horns by stacking the corks on top of each other. As the children worked, I stressed the importance of preparing the surface with that day's layer of papier-mache because the next class would be time to paint.

When the papier-mache was dry, we reviewed warm and cool color families. Students then chose one palette to work with for their first layer of paint, based on the emotion their mask was to express. In their sketchbooks, students planned how they might paint their first layer, which allowed me to see whether they understood the warm and cool color families. It also gave me time to prepare the correct number of palettes of each color grouping.

Once the students began painting, they were encouraged to fully cover the masks with tempera. It didn't matter whether they followed their original plan or came up with a new design.

Students began the final day of the project, by applying another layer of tempera paint to their masks, again choosing a color palette to complement their designs. They were advised to not cover up all of their hard work from the first day of painting.

Students next added sequins, ribbons, feathers, glow-in-the-dark beads and more. Sometimes the children can go a little crazy with decorations, so I reminded them to allow their beautiful painting to show through, and use the embellishments simply to accent their previous work.

As a final step, students created observational drawings, which encouraged final reflection on their masks.

One of the reasons this project is so successful with younger artists is the long process it takes for completion. It is valuable for kindergarteners to work on art projects for multiple sessions. Doing so encourages them to slow down and think about what they are making. They are also less likely to get hung up on "mistakes" when things don't go the way they planned--there are many opportunities to step back and think about what they are making.

The vejigante masks were fantastically colorful and festive when finished. The students were quite proud of them and enjoyed seeing them on display in the school hallway, alongside their observational drawings.

Many of the people who saw them were very surprised the masks were made by kindergarten students!


* Understand and apply media, techniques and processes.

* Use knowledge of structures and functions.

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

* Make connections between visual arts and other disciplines.


Kindergarten students will ...

* use papier-mSch6 to reflect their impressions of vejigante masks.

* work on their 3-D building skills, as well as their 2-D representation.


* Plastic face molds and newspaper

* Papier-mache strips and water containers

* Tempera paint and paintbrushes

* Hot-glue gun and glue (for teacher use only)

* Sequins, feathers, beads, ribbons, corks, etc.

* Markers and white drawing paper

At the time of this project, Anna Nardulli was teaching at North Shore Country Day School in Winnetka, Ill
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Author:Nardulli, Anna
Publication:Arts & Activities
Article Type:Column
Geographic Code:1U0PR
Date:Jan 1, 2013
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