Who Said Giraffes Can't Dance?

Article excerpt

Third-graders at our school take an imaginary trip around the world as part of their classroom studies. I like to challenge students to bring new information learned in the classroom with them to the art room. This information is the basis for artistic problem-solving to enhance their critical-thinking skills. Using new information in a different way enables students to make connections between the classroom, the art room and the world. One exciting destination is the continent of Africa.

In the first art session we start our discussion by recalling the many different kinds of African animals studied in their classroom. Students mention something about each animal that makes it unique. An extensive picture file of African animals helps to provide visual clues. Which animal do they find most interesting? Students spend the rest of the class with paper and fine-tip markers drawing their favorite African animal, including the giraffe.

During the next class, I introduce a watercolor wash and wet-on-wet technique. Using student-grade watercolor paper, I load up the brush with a bright yellow color to demonstrate a wash. I wash the color on the top of the paper from left to right, always making sure to overlap, as I move down, covering the whole paper.

While the paint is still damp, I drop blobs of brown paint onto the wet wash, creating a random spotted pattern. As the pattern forms, students discover how watercolor painting can look like the pattern of some African animals. Following the demonstration, students complete their own spotted hide.

The third class begins by reading the book, Giraffes Can't Dance by Giles Andreae and Guy Parker-Rees (Scholastic, Inc., 2001). This engaging story features a giraffe who proves he can move to the beat of his own music. Now it's time for those students who drew the giraffe in the first class to become the experts. …