Equity Posters! 4th & 5th Grade

Starting through research

In April, I received a grant from the Grinnell College Alumni Association to do an equity screen printing poster project about issues of racial justice.  This grant is in honor of Lori Ann Schwab, a classmate who passed away while studying abroad in London.  I’m grateful for being able to work with the kids on this!

I showed them slides on artists who work with screen prints, such as Black Panther poster maker, Emory Douglas, and this great video on Chicana printmaker, Favianna Rodriguez, as well as emphasizing how strong art can be in creating social change.

They started by doing research online, looking at posters, sketching and figuring out what subject area they wanted to focus on. They could do these choices or others: racism, BLM, gender inequality, healthcare inequality, police brutality, protecting people with disabilities, LGBTQI+. I had them work in groups  as screen printing needs many hands and it’s a great way to practice equity in itself!

Lesson PLan and Rubric

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Test Prints

This team worked on using the trans flag in their work!

They cut out shapes from construction paper for this step and placed them under their screens. They had the choice of this negative space technique and one where they do a positive shape print using screen filler paint to block ink. This was a challenge for them but they persisted!

A few final prints

The kids are still working on this project and some finished but many will pick up again next rotation when they return in a month.  The Still I Rise poster below is about a Maya Angelou poem.

Above is my example poster.

Clay Creature Jars! 4th & 5th Grade

Here Comes the clay

Fourth and fifth graders LOVED the Northern Clay Company’s Teaching Artist and project.  Thanks to a grant for our school, they sent a wonderful artist, Abigail Cooper, to work with the kids. Abby and I worked together to come up with a fun and challenging activity. They provided their own supplies and even fired all of it off-site in their huge kilns! Awesome!

starting to work

The only requirements for this project were to have a lid, bottom and make it into some kind of creature of choice.

Process and final pieces





Winter Sunset Watercolors – 3rd Grade

Playing with Watercolor

Third graders created a winter sunset in watercolor after learning some basic techniques. They also studied silhouettes, landscapes, background and foreground through looking at the landscape work of John Singer Sargent. I had them practice using warm and colors. This was action packed with art vocabulary nuggets!

practicing techniques

The kids learned about basic wet on wet and dry techniques as well as brushwork. They did blooms, flat wash, gradient and lines in warm and cool colors.

The final sunsets

They could put anything they wanted in the silhouette, such as a animals, buildings and trees/nature. Their sky could be whatever type of winter sky they wanted.


Mexican Sugar Skulls – 3rd Grade

Paper mache sugar skulls

Kids in third grade made a painted, paper mache sugar skull after we learned about Dias de los Muertos in early November. Some told me about their personal experiences with this holiday and what that means to them.  We watched a video about the rituals and practices in Mexico and the purpose for the skulls by remembering loved ones who have passed.  This was a challenging process for them and we talked about learning from mistakes and how to work with 3-D materials.

They started off by doing a worksheet on symmetry where they could decorate their skulls with the designs provided or come up with their own. They drew a couple more ideas in their sketchbooks.

We talked about symmetrical vs. asymmetrical balance.

They they dove into the hands-on process of working with celluclay, a type of paper mache. After that, they painted it.




The skulls


Sun and Moon Collaborative Drawing – 2nd Grade

Warm and cool colors

Second graders learned about working together, which was a theme we started at the beginning of the school year.  They made a collaborative sun and moon drawing with materials of choice in groups of four and learned about warm and cool colors.  Each had a quarter of the sun or moon. They did a warm and cool color worksheet to scaffold them into the final project.

Weaving Mania! 2nd Grade

Starting to Weave

Second graders started to work on weaving this fall, which was new to many of them. We did a simple clock weaving to start off around a cardboard circle made from cereal boxes. This proved to be a challenge but I tried to make it as simple as possible. They made a small bracelet or keychain.

The second weaving was a painted circular loom and we learned about warp and weft as well as American Indian artists such as Maggie Thompson, working in a contemporary vein, as well as traditional Minnesota Ojibwe weavers and weaving.

A Community of Bees

2nd Grade is abuzz

Second grade has been working on learning about community collaboration in an installed group of bees and honeycomb drawings! They created a drawing that represented something about themselves, cut it out and I put them next to each other on the bulletin board.  I showed them how to draw a bee using simple shapes while looking at pictures of real life bees!

Identity Collage – 3rd through 5th Grade

Identity Collage with magazines!

Students looked at images in my presentation on many Black artists including Wangechi Mutu and others who are doing exciting work in contemporary collage. I also showed them Hannah Hoch, a Dada collage artist. These inspired them to create a choice of a free form layout identity collage or one in the shape of the shadow tracing of their head.  We talked about composition and selecting images that represent themselves and their identities.

Installation shot


Sketchbooks – 2nd through 5th Grade


To start the year, I had kids do some introduction community building art games then had them make sketchbooks by hand to house their sketches for the year, like warm ups that we do at the beginning of class, and as a place to develop their art ideas. These were made out of paste paper,  which is a type of glue from methyl-cellulose, a papermaking biproduct. After they made a pattern with a secondary color mixed into the paste (2nd and 3rd grades) or a tertiary color (4-5th grades), they let these dry and turned them into a book cover!

Examples of paste papers


INside the books!

The kids worked in teams to brainstorm sketchbook ideas after I showed them a presentation on various artist’s sketchbooks and discussed why sketchbooks are important and how artists get their ideas and use them.  They then drew from a myriad of choices including shading, eyes, animals and a long list of drawing prompts! I showed them how to draw things by looking at the main shapes first.

This was an activity I did where they had to complete the shapes and turn them into a thing.








Kids did a warm up for George Floyd on his birthday by drawing him a cake to remember him.

2nd grader’s work

Various 6/7th Grade Projects

eye Drawings

Students researched eyes on the internet or in magazines during distance learning. Then they took a photo of their own eye and made sketches of theirs or the ones they found.  Finally, they completed a final drawing with shading, after practicing value with pencils.








Poster for a cause project

The kids began by researching French protest art from the 1960s and used this resource as well: Center for the Study of Political Graphics. They selected images and filled out a GDoc on a few works with images. They then reflected on what they liked about these pieces and used the information to create their own poster for any cause they wished, real or imaginary, as long as it did not harass or cause harm to anyone.








color wheel project

Students created a color wheel using the primary, secondary and tertiary colors (12 colors) and including a theme of their own devising.










Some kids at this age really love math so I thought I would introduce them to M.C. Escher and perceptions of space through art.