I taught this unit during the spring of 2016 at G.H. Reid Elementary School, my elementary student teaching placement. This unit was taught over the course of 40 minute art classes once a week for four weeks.
Artists play many different roles in society - collecting, documenting, experimenting, and creating among them. In this unit, students will be artist-scientists. They will engage their curiosities, experiment with materials, "discover" new plant species, connect prior scientific knowledge to current making, and explore the history of museums.
The play and exploration throughout this unit will engage the students to work beyond everyday expectations and awaken their imaginations. Students will practice their fine motor skills by cutting, gluing, painting, and stamping. Students will practice classifying and will incorporate science into art by identifying and depicting different parts of plants. Students will be introduced to the role of museums in societies.
Artists as Explorers
Why do we have museums? How do we use them?
What does it mean to be curious? How can we be curious in our everyday lives and as artists?
How do we compare and identify objects?
Target Student Group
Kindergarten class; urban; school (G.H. Reid Elementary School)
Specific Unit Objectives
Lesson 1 - Artists as Experimenters
Reference - Leonardo da Vinci
Objective - Students will discuss the complex idea of curiosity and identify ways in which they are curious in school and in their everyday lives. They will find similarities between scientific experiments and artistic experiments. Students will then complete an experiment of their own, filling their paper with watercolor and sprinkling salt onto the wet paint, observing the reaction between the materials.
Lesson 2 - Wondering about Wunderkammer
Reference - Animated Cabinet of Curiosity, Tate's History of Wunderkammer
Objective - Students share their experiences with museums and work together to understand what purpose museums serve. Students are introduced to the history of Cabinets of Curiosities, or Wunderkammers. They then practice fine motor skills by turning their watercolored papers into "jars" that will go into a class Wunderkammer.
Lesson 3 - Creating our Curiosities Pt. I
Reference - The Cabinet of Natural Curiosities of Albertus Seba (1665–1736)
Objective - Students pair and share what sort of things they had been curious about or noticed in the past week using their artist-scientist observation skills. Students observe examples of strange plants from around the world and participate in imaginitive play to brainstorm what their curious plant might look like. Students identify different kinds of lines and recreate these lines using yarn and glue inside their "jars" to become the stems of their plants.
Lesson 4 - Creating our Curiosities Pt. II
Objective - Students work together to create a catalog of information they already know about plants, including their different parts. They identify these different parts in real and artistic representations of plants. Students then experiment with different recycled materials to add stamped flowers, leaves, buds, and/or thorns to onto their stems. Students then name this new species of plant they have "discovered."
National Art Standards
Anchor Standard 1. Generate and conceptualize artistic ideas and work.
Anchor Standard 2. Organize and develop artistic ideas and work.
Anchor Standard 6. Convey meaning through the presentation of artistic work.
Anchor Standard 8. Interpret intent and meaning in artistic work.
Virginia Visual Art SOLs
K.1 Students will create works of art that represent personal responses to art-making problems.
K.3 Students will follow a sequence of steps used in creating works of art.
K.11 Students will use motor skills to create two-dimensional works of art.
K.13 The student will identify pruposes for creating works of art.
K.16 The student will classify objects in the environment by their visual qualities.
Virginia Core Subject SOLs
Math K.10 The student will compare two objects or events, using direct comparisons or nonstandard units of measure, according to one or more of the following attributes: length (shorter, longer), height (taller, shorter), weight (heavier, lighter), temperature (hotter, colder).
Science K.7 The student will investigate and understand basic needs and life processes of plants and animals.