Magazine article School Arts

Investigating Cultures

Magazine article School Arts

Investigating Cultures

Article excerpt

Our school integrates art into all aspects of the curriculum through thematic units. Recently, the second and third grade were involved in a thematic unit focused on Native American cultures.

While immersed in this unit, the children studied the art, culture, and geography of Native American cultural groups. They researched and wrote reports, went on field trips to a nearby natural history museum, interviewed an archeologist with expertise on Native American artifacts, and in the end, took on the spirit of these people by learning their arts.

Weaving Baskets

The Chumash, indigenous to the Central California coast, are famous for their exceptionally fine baskets, so with the help of several mothers, we turned our classroom into a basket making center. Instead of using native grasses, we used two foot lengths of paper cut from brown paper grocery bags.

We folded the 4" (10 cm) widths in half to make 2" (5 cm) wide strips. Then we laid out four vertical strips and wove four cross strips to form a square base. We stapled the corners of the base, then folded the strips up to form the four sides of the basket. We wove four more strips into the upright stips forming a beautiful square basket. With help from their mothers, the children folded the ends up and stapled them to the inside.

The children painted their baskets in moss green, red, or ochre tempera paint. To embellish them further we braided yarn for a decorative trim and added beads and feathers.

Bead Making

To make the beads, we used a mixture of 2 cups of baking soda, 1 cup cornstarch, and a 1/2 cup of water cooked together until thickened to a modeling consistency. After cooking, the mix is turned out on a breadboard and cooled. We added color to small batches with tempera paint. The children modeled the beads into many sizes and shapes. They used toothpicks to make the holes in the middle. …

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