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Art teachers were STEAM-ing before STEAM was cool!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Bayeux Tapestry Project: Part One

Background: I teach art to a group of homeschoolers in 3rd-5th grade. In previous semesters, I've taught grade levels 1st through 6th. My art ideas are geared toward the middle of that range--I use my oldest son, who is 8 and in third grade (in public school), as my test subject. I have a relatively small art class and I have 1-2 grown-up helpers per week.

My art students and I just finished a wonderful project based on the Bayeux Tapestry.  The Bayeux Tapestry is one of the more famous textile pieces from Medieval times. Although it is called a tapestry, it is not really. A tapestry is woven on a loom--the design is actually woven into the fabric using different colored threads, but the Bayeux Tapestry is an embroidery. The pictures and words are sewn onto a backing fabric.

I showed the children a couple of portions of the Bayeux Tapestry in this introduction, and showed them how it tells a story with both pictures and words. I explained that we were going to be doing the same.

The books I used for this quick intro were:
"Picture That: Knights and Castles" by Alex Martin (this is a great book that makes many wonderful connections between art and history for children using colorful illustrations, engaging text and a "zoom-in" feature that highlights details that children don't want to miss. There is a brief section about the Bayeux Tapestry).

"Medieval Projects You Can Do," by Marsha Graves (this book has many wonderful projects including cooking and costumes that definitely engage and inspire children while making Medieval times more real to them).

The project is worked in fabric markers on fabric squares and has a short story with illustrations. We then attached the fabric squares to a large fabric banner and added braided cord and/or embroidered trim to "fancy it up."

Part One:


After my very brief explanation of the Bayeux Tapestry, I gave the children homework. They need to write a story for their own tapestries. These were the guidelines:

1. The child should have a personal story from his/her life (it's better if it is personal and true since it will be more special). However, the child can use a poem or story s/he has written, or even something written by someone else if the child is stressing about it. Ideas could be: a family vacation, acquiring a pet, something s/he is proud of such as winning a sports trophy or some kind of award, etc.

2. The story should be written out by the child in the exact way that it is going to appear on their tapestry. I'd like all of the thinking, rewriting & scribbling to be done at home so they can copy and illustrate in class.

3. The story should have a couple of parts to it--or be able to be broken down into about three illustrations. We don't need a novel, but we need enough to work with! Two sentences is probably not going to be enough. DO NOT WORRY ABOUT THE PICTURES! The students can sketch out pictures if they want, but focus on the story.

An example:
Our Awesome Vacation
Last year my family was tired of all of the snow so my mom and dad took us to Coco Key water park. We went on a long drive and watched a movie in the car. When we got to the big building, mom and dad said we were staying overnight and we were excited! For two days I played with my family at the water park. I loved going on the lazy river with my mom. We had pizza and soda too. I would love to go back there every year.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Valentine Solitaire Game

Well, I needed to create a craft for my son's 3rd grade class to create during his St. Valentine's Day party at school. In the past, I've sent in crafts where the kids can make bracelets and pom pom critters, but I wanted to make something that these "older" kids would like.

This summer, when my family went to The Polar Caves in upstate New Hampshire, my oldest son was facinated by the little wooden puzzles on the tables where players could jump little pegs trying to get as few pegs left as possible. The version he played was a triangle shape. I thought if I turned the puzzle upside-down,  could use a heart-shape and make a cool Valentine's craft that would appeal to these sophisticated kids in bigboy's class--both boys (who seem to hate anything with hearts on it) and girls.

They were fun to make. Relatively easy, and even though they are a little more expensive than I would normally do for a classroom craft, pretty economical. I could even see someone making a batch and handing them out as Valentine's. They would also work well for a Father's Day craft/present or a Christmas craft/present (or many, many, other holidays where a simple present is needed). The supplies for 22 of these games cost me about $30.00 without using any coupons.

Here's how to make them:

Valentine Solitaire Game

Supplies needed for one game:
  • 1-4 x 5"  rectangle of 1" thick styrofoam (I needed 20 pieces, so I bought a 12"x36" piece at Michael's for $7.99)
  • 1-4 x 5" rectangle of cereal box cardboard (FREE-used my recycling)
  • 1-8 x 13" piece of red wrapping paper (or whatever color/pattern you choose) (I bought a roll at Michael's for $3.99)
  • Heart printout which includes game board and directions (Made by me--we'll see if I can upload a pdf)
  • 14 Golf tees (I bought a large quantity at Sports Authority-250 for $14.00, but there are smaller bags there for about $5).
  • Crayons or stickers for decorating (optional)(free--I used what I had on hand)
  • Scissors, tape, glue stick
How to create it:
  1. Tape the cardboard rectangle to the styrofoam block.
  2. Wrap the cardboard/styrofoam with the wrapping paper like you are wrapping a present. Remember which side has the cardboard on it--that will be the bottom of the game (the cardboard keeps the golf tees from poking through the foam and out the other side which would ruin the game).
  3. Cut out and decorate the two hearts: the game board and the directions. You can color them with crayons, markers or colored pencils (don't block the game board or directions!).
  4. Using a glue stick, glue to game board to the side of the package that does not have the cardboard. Glue the directions onto the opposite side of the package.
  5. You can now add stickers to the piece if you'd like.
  6. Now, for the holes: gently poke the golf tees into the circles on the board game side. Poke them straight in. The cardboard inside the package will stop them from coming out the back of the game. Because there are 14 pegs and 15 holes, you'll need to poke an extra hole.
You are done! Have fun playing this game alone or with your family and friends!

Step One: Tape together cardboard and foam
Step Two: Wrapping the foam/cardboard

Step Four: Gluing on the hearts
Step Six: Poke the golf tees into the board

The finished game with 14 tees packaged in a quart size freezer bag so that the kids can take them home.



Friday, February 11, 2011

St. Valentine's Day--Little Scribblers

So, St. Valentine's Day always gets my creative juices going since I need to come up with something for my kids to give away at school and I usually volunteer to send in a craft for the kids to do during their parties.

So, my criteria for both are: cheap, easy & fun (usually something that lasts and doesn't get thrown away the minute it arrives in the house).

One of my sons is giving away pencils with cute little bee toppers I picked up a few months ago at a discount store. We taped mini granola bars to them to make them "more." I think they are cute, but they weren't the first choice of the kids. Unfortunately, I didn't have enough supplies to make the "Little Scribblers" that the other son is taking to school to hand out. "Little Scribblers" are bits of old, broken crayons melted down in a muffin tin to create swirly, beautiful chunks of colored wax that children can scribble with.

I first made the "Little Scribblers" many years ago when my first son was about 2 years old. He was in the habit of peeling the paper off of his crayons and breaking them. Frustrating for mom! I felt as though he was wasting them, but then I found a recipe for "Scribble Cookies,"* as one author called them. I was able to repurpose the broken bits and made a batch of colorful crayon chunks for him to use.

I was reinspired by Family Fun Magazine, when I saw that they published a recipe just like it, and suggested making the cookies in heart shapes to give away for St. Valentine's Day. Ah-ha! I could do that! The kids were very excited and I started peeling, chopping and melting our old crayons.

But alas, the Scribblers take a good amount of old crayons so I only was able to make enough for one class (with a few to use at home).

"But wait," you say, this is a craft for a little kid--like a preschooler. "My children would never use this!!" I disagree. This craft is awesome on many levels.

First, it recycles something that everyone with children has a bucket of already in their homes.

Second, you can do this with your children. Anytime you can sneak some family time or one-on-one time into your life is a bonus. You can talk with your kids while they peel the crayons and my littlest boy (who is three), used a safety knife and his little hands to break the pieces of crayons up.

Third, it facilitates a discussion of colors. Warm colors, cool colors, colors that mix well and those that don't mix so well! As your children are plopping the crayon pices into the muffin tins, they are learnng about color theory. You could whip out a color wheel to show them if they are older.

Fourth, they are fun to use for little and big kids! While my 3yo just scribbles along all over the paper, my older kids use them to make multi-colored mohawks on the people they've drawn or make awesome sunsets on pictures (the scribblers are great to fill in large areas of drawings). They are also good to use when making rubbings. Children can study textures by placing different elements such as bubble wrap, leaves, coins, etc. under a white piece of paper and rubbing over the area with their Little Scribblers.

Wonderful! Something that looks beautiful (wait 'til you see how the Scribblers look when you pop them out of the pans with all of their swirly colors!), reuses something I was gonna throw out anyway, and inspires creativity!

Enjoy!
Mrs. P

Here's the link to the recipe on the Family Fun site:
http://familyfun.go.com/crafts/crayon-hearts-671639/?CMP=NLC-NL_FFUN_Crafts_021011_crayon-hearts

If the link above doesn't work, go to www.familyfun.com and search for "crayon hearts"

*I've looked around for the source of the Scribble Cookie recipe in my stacks of books, but I'm unable to find it at this time. I'll keep looking and credit the author when I find the info.
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