A Show of Hands

By Grabowski, William | School Arts, December 1999 | Go to article overview
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A Show of Hands


Grabowski, William, School Arts


Making connections between the arts and other academic disciplines is a vital component of the curriculum of any art specialist. Providing the atmosphere for young minds to discover links between disciplines and create artwork that builds bridges between them is a goal worth pursuing. This helps children, as well as parents and administrators, see the indispensible role the arts play in the global education of a child.

Our elementary school is building a web site which we hope to use more as an instructional tool than an informational one. The "Artroom" page is being constructed to introduce each element of design via a lesson plan. Students' works serve as exemplars. We re-format their creations by means of a digital camera or a scanner to make them webready. While there are no funds for such projects within our supply budget, we have explored community resources through grant proposals. This means of funding has certainly been an unexpected but vital resource.

Our next update will focus on the element of line and its qualities. I developed a drawing lesson that provided an opportunity for our young artists to become aware and sensitive to those students with special needs while practicing skills and technique.

Drawing in Three Dimensions

The unit began the following way: As a class of fifth graders sat eagerly, I asked "How many of you would like to learn a new language in art and create some of your best drawings ever?" The responses were swift and ranged from "Great, let's get started," to "Are we going to get tested on this?" We began by brainstorming ways in which we might improve our drawing skills in rendering three-dimensional objects. "Practice," "use your imagination," and "study great artists" were offered and accepted as answers. We then spoke about how artists are people who often choose to slow down the pace of life to view objects or feelings that many other people might gloss over. The technique of contour drawing is an excellent vehicle for this as it forces us to observe and record the little "uniquenesses" that breathe life into our art. We discussed our hand as an example of an object that we have seen millions of times but might not really know.

I shared differences I've observed in my own hands and fingers and asked the students to do the same.

Handling a Challenge

Children respond to a challenge. I offered the metaphor: Imagine you are an ant with a pencil strapped to your back and are asked to slowly climb over the outline of a hand (its contour), recording each slight rise, nick, and indentation as you go, concentrating intensely on the hand and not the paper--as it is the hand that has the answers, not the paper.

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