Enjoy the season while learning about art history!
Art History with Snowmen
One way to use snowmen in your art lesson plans is to ask students to look at snowmen as famous artists might have and create their own versions of snowmen in the style of a famous artist. This lesson in art history is a good way to help students understand different artists and art styles in art history because the basic shape of a snowman can be the same for everyone—three balls of snow stacked on top of one another with black eyes and a carrot nose, plus sticks for arms. To do this activity, give students art supplies such as different colors of paper, water colors, markers, glue, and scissors.
- Show students four examples of art from different artists with very different techniques. Explain the history of each artist and the technique the artist used to interpret the world around around them, including any terms that the artist helped to define.
- Ask students to pretend to be the famous artists and create a snowman in each style as the artist might have.
- Let students be creative and create their interpretation with whatever tools are available to them in the allotted time.
- After all four snowmen are completed, ask students to choose their favorite and ask some students to explain why they chose to represent the snowman in the way they did.
Some of our favorite artists to include in this exercise include Picasso, Andy Warhol, Paul Cezane, and Henri Rousseau. You can use the following paintings to help students see the differences among these four artists.
Picasso – Three Musicians
Andy Warhol - Marilyn Diptych
Paul Cezane – Boy in Red Waistcoat
Henri Rousseau - Fight Between a Tiger and a Buffalo
Ask students to look at the different paintings and compare and contrast the differences. How are colors used? What about shadows? How do the artists use perspective? Do artists use thick lines or do lines blend together?
This activity is a fun one for a day after a snow day when students have had fun building snowmen and enjoying the wintery weather.
Thanksgiving just isn’t Thanksgiving without a turkey on the table for most families. This gives us a great opportunity to teach our students about turkeys, both domestic and wild, and to have some fun while we’re at it. This activity is great for younger children.
Thanksgiving Hand Turkey Art Lesson Objectives
- Develop fine motor skills
- Investigate animal facts
- Build color recognition skills
- Explore shape, texture, and pattern
- Distinguish between reality and fiction
- Read a Thanksgiving themed turkey story with your students. We have plenty of recommendations below.
- Show your students pictures of wild turkeys and domesticated turkeys. Discuss with students the difference between the two types of turkeys and the turkeys in the story you read. Students should look at colors, feather texture, size, and patterns on turkeys.
- Ask students to compare the real world turkeys in the pictures to the turkeys in the stories. Discuss with students how the turkeys in the stories behave and how they think real turkeys behave. Compare holiday themes to real-life animals by asking students to talk about turkeys they see for Thanksgiving and turkeys in the books and photos.
- Using paper and coloring supplies, ask students to trace one hand on three sheets of white paper. Then ask them to decorate one hand like a turkey in a story that represents Thanksgiving, one hand like a wild turkey, and one hand like a domestic turkey.
Still excited about turkeys? Check out our Turkey Lesson Plans for more ideas.
Your younger students’ study of Pilgrims isn’t complete without making hats! Dressing up in 17th century clothing would be a challenge, but you can make your own versions of their hats with construction paper.
- one 18″ by 12″ piece of white paper
- Stapler and staples or tape
- Ribbon or string
- Measure and mark with your ruler 6 1/4 inches and 7 1/4 inches from the edge on the long side of the paper on each side.
- Measure and mark 3 inches straight towards the middle of the paper from the 6 1/4 inch marks.
- Using a pair of scissors, cut straight from the 6 1/4 inch mark to the 3 inch mark above. Then cut from the 7 1/4 inch mark diagonally to the 3 inch mark.
- Turn the paper so the uncut edge is now facing you. Fold up two inches of the paper towards the cuts to form the front of the bonnet.
- To finish the bonnet shape, bring the two 6 1/4 marks together so the middle piece between the cuts folds downwards. The bonnet will create a U-shape with the folded edge. Secure with staples or tape.
- Cut two lengths of ribbon or string long enough to tie the bonnet together under the wearer’s chin and attach them to the bonnet under the folded front of the bonnet.
- Your bonnet is complete!
- Black, yellow, and white construction paper
- Cut out a hat shape from black construction paper, a two inch stripe long enough to go around the wearer’s head, a strip of white paper as wide as the top of the hat shape, a square of yellow, and a smaller square of white.
- Glue the white strip of paper to the hat on the front just above the brim.
- Glue the yellow square in the middle of the white strip.
- Glue the white square in the middle of the yellow square.
- Make a ring with the black strip of paper using the tape.
- Tape the hat to the ring.
- Your hat is complete!
You can easily add a white yoke over your shoulders out of white paper for the complete Pilgrim ensemble. It’s perfect for reenactment activities, like our Voyage of the Mayflower lesson plan.
This new song and video from Trout Fishing in America is a perfect choice for Hallowe’en. Enjoy the video, learn the song, and then pick and choose from this list of activities:
- The song begins with a list of scary things: clowns, shadows, scratching noises at windows… Ask students to list things they find scary.
- The second verse describes telling someone about the scary things and not being believed. Have students write a story about this experience. Younger students could write about what it feels like to worry about monsters even though they don’t exist, but older students could imagine a case in which there really is something to fear and the narrator of the story can’t make anyone take action.
- This song is like the traditional “jump story” in which the teller of the tale tells a suspenseful story in a quiet voice and then shouts to make listeners jump. Another example is “The Teeny Tiny Woman.” Compare “Boo!” and “The Teeny Tiny Woman” — click through for more about it. For older students, form groups and have each group write a jump story and then tell it to the class.
- Have students list the visual elements of the video that make it scary.
- The video is made with shadow puppets. Click through to learn more about this art form, and to try it with your class.
- The scarecrow in the video literally loses his head. People who are scared sometimes are said to lose their heads. Have students interview people in their families to create as long a list as possible of expressions like this.
- There are other characters in the video, and some might be monsters. Click through to find ideas for lessons about monsters.
- The word “Boo!” is written in big, puffy letters in the video. Have students fill a sheet of paper with the word and then decorate it with scary things, either drawn or added in collage form. Create a bulletin board with the scary projects.
- Ask students what scary sounds are in the video. Have students identify the instruments they hear and discuss how the musicians make the sounds seem scary.
- Listen to other pieces of music that are often considered scary, such as “In the Hall of the Mountain King” by Grieg, “Danse Macabre” by Saint-Saens, or “Night on Bald Mountain” by Mussogorsky. Challenge students to identify characteristics that these pieces share with “Boo!”
- Being scared may not be fun, but feeling scared when you know you’re safe is fun. Create a class bar graph showing how many students enjoy scary movies, roller coasters, spooky books, or ghost stories.
There may not be many good local options for field trips when you’re studying Africa, but there are quite a few places you can go online. Check out our suggestions for virtual field trips.
Virtual Camera Tours
- Virtual South Africa
- Great Pyramids of Giza
- Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe (above — click for full screen option)
- The Castle of Good Hope in South Africa
- The National Museum of African Art has online exhibits to explore. There are also lots of interactive and printable resources in the Playtime section.
- African Voices at the National Museum of Natural History has an interactive timeline, exhibits, and more to explore.
- The Royal Museum for Central Africa in Belgium has a fun kids section and interesting exhibits and information primarily about the Congo.
- The Arts of Africa at the Brooklyn Museum
- National Geographic’s Crittercam game provides plenty of basic keyboard practice as players help film lions.
- PBS has an African Exploration with a challenging question and answer game, lots of information, and lesson plans. The “For Kids” section is no longer available, but older students will find many learning opportunities.
- The Brookfield Zoo has an animated game called “In Search of the Ways of Knowing Trail.” Kids make decisions to get through the story, encountering facts and challenges along the way.
Taking a virtual field trip or two will enrich your study of Africa and help students get a more accurate mental picture.
Diamonds are the state gem in Arkansas, where we live, but students everywhere will enjoy learning more about them. Diamonds are made entirely of carbon — we humans are about 18% carbon ourselves, but diamonds are all carbon. They’re the hardest substance in the world, and they reflect light in a special way (basically, the light bounces around inside the diamond) that makes them super shiny.
How diamonds are formed
- Diamonds began with stardust. As far as we know, pretty much all the carbon in the world came to earth as dust from dying stars. The stardust that ended up deep within the earth was the starting point for diamonds.
- The carbon inside the earth’s layers, between the core and the crust, got cooked and squished — it takes a lot of heat and pressure to create diamonds.
- When magma comes up to the earth during volcanic action, diamonds can come along for the ride. The results is areas where diamonds can be mined, as in the book at the Volcano Lesson Plans link, and also diamonds moved around by erosion.
Have students conduct research on each of these steps and create an infographic showing how diamonds are formed.
Read about Crater of Diamonds State Park, where diamond hunters can keep any diamonds they find — and large diamonds have been found there, including the “Uncle Sam” diamond, which was over 40 carats. Crater of Diamonds is the only active diamond mine in the United States, but it is operated as a tourist attraction; it was found that it could not be operated profitably as a commercial diamond mine. Download the Teachers Guide for reproducibles (reading comprehension passage, maze, and word find).
Plan an imaginary class trip to the park, figure the costs, and determine what sort of diamond the class would have to find to make the trip pay for itself. This project will give practice with online research, math, and problem solving.
Share A Diamond’s Journey , an interactive digital presentation from NBC news, with older students. There they can follow the diamond from the mines in Africa through cutters in India to sales in Europe and the United States. Have students create a chart showing the cost of a diamond and how much of that price goes to the miners, traders, cutters, and dealers.
Compare the Crater of Diamonds park and the commercial diamond mines. Discuss why a diamond mine in the United States might be harder to pay for than a mine in Botswana. Will American workers accept jobs like those of the miners in the Congo or the cutters in India? Would it be legal to pay an American worker $65.oo per month, the wage diamond cutters earn in India, or to have them live in tents at a mine?
The value of diamonds
Gem-quality diamonds are the first ones we think of. Have students explore Blue Nile’s Diamond Education section to learn about diamond shapes and the “4 Cs” of diamond quality: color, clarity, cut, and carat weight.
Don’t miss the chance to work with ratios on the Diamond Shapes page and measurement on the Cut page!
Now learn about diamonds as they are used in jewelry:
- Read about the history of diamond cutting and add the times and places to your class timeline and map.
- Explore a Pinterest board on diamonds which shows many of the most famous examples of diamond jewelry in history.
- Have students design a piece of jewelry for diamonds, being sure to incorporate what they’ve learned about diamond quality and cutting.
Wait — diamonds aren’t just for pretty! Only a small percentage of diamonds are gem quality. Most are industrial quality, but they are still extremely useful. Diamonds have some special characteristics that have nothing to do with their beauty:
- Diamonds are the hardest substance known.
- They do not conduct electricity well (they are semiconductors), but they do conduct heat very well — in fact, diamonds are the best material for thermal conduction.
- They resist water, but accept oil.
Brainstorm with the class situations in which objects with these characteristics might be useful. Share with students (after brainstorming) that diamonds are mostly used for cutting and polishing. However, there are many other uses for diamonds. For example, diamonds are used in micro-electronics to carry heat away from delicate machinery. They are used as bearings (like a ball bearing) in watches, because they are so hard that they produce no friction in this use. They are used as semiconductors in electronics.
If the point has not yet come up in your discussion, point out that diamonds are small and rare. As long as industry needed big pieces, diamonds were not as useful as they might have been. Now that we make very small things for electronics, diamonds are very useful.
99% of the diamonds used in industrial applications are synthetic. See the links below to learn more about making diamonds.
- Nature has video clips and discussion questions about diamonds
- The Mystery of the Hope Diamond includes video clips.
- PBS lesson plan on conflict diamonds.
- Diamonds and Water is an economics lesson on value.
- Toads and Diamonds is a traditional story.