Fourth grade students have been studying art from various non-Western civilizations this year. We started the year learning about art from India. Over the last few months students have been discovering art, traditions and celebrations from China and Japan. Leading up to the Chinese New Year, students created various art projects.
Prior to beginning our unit, I visited the Chinese-American Museum of Chicago and collected resources and photographs to share with students. Last year, I attended the Chinese New Year parade and took pictures and videos of the dancing lions.
Our first project was creating a paper vase inspired by porcelain of the Ming Dynasty. Each student began by creating their own symmetrical design and painted patterns on the vase using the traditional blue and white.
Later students learned about Chinese brush painting. Each student painted cherry blossoms to fill their paper vases.
Our next project introduced students to the story of the dragon, Nian, and the history of Chinese New Year celebrations. Each student then wrote their own dragon story. The stories were written on brightly colored construction paper to create the body of a dragon. Students added heads, tails, scales, fire and creative details to their dragons.
The creative dragons continued as students began making large dragon masks. Students were asked to follow a color scheme, using warm, cool, monochromatic, primary or secondary colors to create their masks.
Students also made paper lanterns inspired by the story of Nian. Each student created a dragon drawing for the interior "light" of their lantern, and cut slits to create the red exterior.
The sixth grade art club also contributed to celebrating the Chinese New Year by meeting for a week during lunch and recess time to create dragons, Origmai, lanterns, paper fans and more.
Chinese New Year began this year on February 19. A few days before the holiday, fourth grade classes decorated a zodiac calendar and worked together to create a large dragon on our class bulletin board. Students used construction paper to assemble a winding body with creative details and embellishments.
Fourth graders continued their study of cultures from around the world with this unit on Japanese art. Students watched an animated video introduction to the history of gyotaku prints. We practiced painting the rubber fish molds with tempera paint and printing on narrow sheets of newsprint paper. Students worked together to share paint, brushes and various fish molds.
On the next day of class, each student printed two to three fish in the color scheme of their choice, warm or cool. To create a lifelike representation, students added white paint to tint the fish's belly. Once each student had printed their fish, the paper was hung up to dry and students helped one another with printing and clean-up.
After students had printed their fish, they were encouraged to complete their composition by creating an underwater environment. Each class used chalk pastels and green tissue paper to depict water and seaweed. We talked about the use of space and balance, and how to create depth and overlap using the tissue paper.
When the compositions were complete, students finished the assignment by adding a red chop print with the Japanese character of their choice. Students carved the character in reverse into a small sheet of Styrofoam, and printed with red ink.
Below are examples of the finished artwork.
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