Magazine article School Arts

A Parent Up in (Coats of) Arms

Magazine article School Arts

A Parent Up in (Coats of) Arms

Article excerpt

As an artist and a parent of three school-age children, I never pass up an opportunity that will help make my children's learning more exciting. What I'm talking about is volunteering to integrate art projects into the curriculum my children are studying.

When my son's sixth grade class was studying the Middle Ages, I created a project in which the students designed their own shields from heavy gauge aluminum. In cooperation with the teacher, I introduced the project with a brief discussion of heraldry, the study of a system of symbols used to represent individuals, families, countries, etc. I related heraldry to seals, flags and modern corporate logos as a system of identification.

The Coat of Arms

We talked about the first coats of arms used by soldiers during the Crusades as a means of distinguishing friend from foe on the battlefield, and their subsequent use in later years among upper class society - royalty, nobility and clergy. The historical precedent of no two families being allowed to have the same coat of arms was my clue that the students be original and not copy one another's designs.

The basic element of any coat of arms is the shield. Prior to designing the shields, I introduced the students to some of the common patterns, colors and charges, or symbols, found in traditional coats of arms. Marks of cadency, or status symbols that marked a son's position within his family, were illustrated on a handout. I encouraged the girls in the class, who wanted to indicate their position in the family within the design, to use the same marks or design their own.

Designing the Shield

I asked the students to think about including personal symbols that would tell others about themselves. I gave them time to sketch ideas. Although most students divided their shields into quarters like many traditional shields, some designed their own format. …

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