Sixth grade students recently helped design the school yearbook cover. Rather than highlight just one individual, each student's artwork is featured on the cover.
I designed this project to not only complete the cover, but also add a learning experience to our existing curriculum. Our units of study are: Baroque, Impressionism, Post-Impressionism, Cubism, The Harlem Renaissance, Collage/Assemblage, and Pop Art. Last year's sixth grade students created a Pop Art-inspired cover (see Individuals Create Unity)
This year, I decided to design the lesson around artist, Jacob Lawrence. Students will learn more about Lawrence this spring when they research about the many different musicians, writers and visual artists of The Harlem Renaissance.
I recently discovered Events in the Life of Harold Washington, a mosaic Lawrence made in 1991 for the Harold Washington Library in Chicago. I visited the library to see the work in person this summer. Below are photographs of the mosaic in full, and also in closer detail. Like many of Lawrence's great paintings, the environment and figures have been abstracted into bold shapes of color.
This year, the sixth grade students created mosaics inspired by this style. Using a limited color palette of primary and neutral colors (similar to Lawrence), students designed their own unique mosaic using construction paper.
Each student personalized their design using pattern and symbols to reflect their own interests. I photographed and digitally assembled the artwork to complete the cover with text and our Oregon Hawk mascot.
The mosaics are works of art individually, but are even more successful as a collaborative design. Community is a prevalent theme in much of Lawrence's artwork. I hope this project is a strong metaphor for students to understand the value of working together.
Below are examples of student work:
Last fall, I volunteered to join our school's yearbook committee. I hoped that my interests and experience in art and graphic design could be of some service.
The first task was to agree on a design for the yearbook cover. The committee had the option to choose an existing cover, or submit our own original. One of the school secretaries proposed the idea of having students design a cover during art class.
I was excited for this opportunity, but dreaded the thought of choosing just one design. I decided to assign a project that, when pieced together, would incorporate every sixth grade student's work.
Because the design needed to be completed during art class, I wanted to choose an assignment related to our existing curriculum. I knew sixth graders would eventually be studying Pop Art, so I presented Andy Warhol as a preview to the unit we will study this spring.
Each class looked at a variety of Warhol's prints. Students identified the repetition of image and his use of bold colors. Many of the students had previously seen the work on television, in magazines or on t-shirts. As we begin our full unit on Pop Art later this year, we will explore these observations further.
I asked students to create a composition in the style of Warhol. They were instructed to use our mascot, the hawk, to show their pride for our school. Some students painted, while others used markers, crayons, or colored pencils to complete the assignment. I encouraged them to incorporate colors, text and symbols to communicate their unique personalities. I knew the yearbook cover would be a collection of each student's work, but I still wanted to see each their individuality.
When I look at the finished cover, I see a snapshot of our sixth grade community. The design resembles a quilt, made up of different squares. I think this is a fitting metaphor for students to learn, that as individuals we can work together as a unified group to accomplish any task. All of the designs consist of four hawks, but each is unique to the individual student.
I knew I wanted this cover to be exclusively sixth grade artwork. This will be their last yearbook before beginning junior high. I hope the design will be a fun parting gift to these students, and one of many great memories they had at Oregon Elementary School.
Mr. DeWilde's Blog
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