Center activities are a great way for students to work cooperatively, experiment with new materials, and think creatively. I start by organizing groups consisting of 4-5 students. At this time it is also important to explain the center rules including how each station works and a one minute clean-up before rotation. One of the easiest ways to keep track of time is by using a count-down clock projected on the screen for everyone to see. Centers have been a life-saver for situations when a class is finished with a project way ahead of the rest of the grade level (due to assemblies, no school, etc.) or as a back-up sub plan.
If you’re looking to develop your own art center activities, or looking for new ideas, the following may inspire you:
Pictionary. This classic game can be played in only a few minutes. Create your own words for kids to draw or use the ones provided in Squint.
Sculptorades. Cranium created this twist on Pictionary where instead of drawing you sculpt objects out of Cranium clay. You can easily create your own version with play-dough, a sand timer, and playing cards you create. Just grab a digital camera and take pictures of different objects (i.e., celery, dog, car, hand, butterfly). You can even sneak in cards that make connections to what students are studying in the classroom. Print images on a heavy weight paper and laminate for durability. Taylor the game to students even more by creating numerous sets of playing cards for different ability levels and grades.
Pattern Play. Kids love this puzzle game! I use it with students as young as Kindergarten. Or build your own wood pattern puzzle by following directions found on Mer Mag.
Toobers and Zots. Thanks to a guest post by Jan Johnson (and eBay), these sculpture-making objects are a hit in my room.
In the Garden. These soft foam puzzle pieces have endless tessellation possibilities. Busy Beetles and Batty Lizards is another option shared with us by Susan Tiemstra. For older students who like more of a challenge try Squzzle Puzzles.
Art Print Puzzle. Read this post on how to create your own for free.
“How to draw” cartooning books. Just set these out with some copy paper. Among my students’ favorites are 101 Funny People and Spongebob Squarepants. I also encourage the students to create their own funny pictures by combining two objects.
Connectagons. This product is so simple, yet creates fantastic sculptural forms.
Squizzles. I inherited a set of these square puzzles when I first started teaching. Read a product review here.
Modeling Clay. Set out tooth picks, plastic knives, forks and let the creativity happen.
Color Sudoku. Based on the original, I developed this color logic game for my students. Download this color sudoku game for free.
Laptops. If you have access to a few laptops and the Internet, let your students explore online art games. I use this page set up for students to choose their online activity (resource page created by Hillary Andrlik).
Picasso Carnival. This idea was developed by Tricia Fuglestad consisting of centers focused around Gardner’s multiple intelligence theory.
The following is a guest post written by Samantha Melvin. She teaches elementary art and music integrating across the curriculum in Burnet, Texas.
Good Things Come in Small Packages. It is such fun to come across a book that our elementary-aged students can read that have ideas for visual arts lessons built right into the story. The Sixty-Eight Rooms by Marianne Malone does just that. It is a fantasy tale, perfect for 2nd-6th graders, about the Thorne Rooms at the Art Institute of Chicago.
In our story, Jack and Ruthie go on a field trip to the Art Institute of Chicago and see the Thorne Rooms for the first time. Jack discovers a key while on a separate special tour with one of the museum guards. The key leads Jack and Ruthie to discovering much more about the sixty-eight rooms! These exquisite rooms, whose design represents the style of a different era and place, were commissioned by Narcissa Niblack Thorne. The artists and master craftsmen created each using only the finest materials. They were built using 1 inch to 1 foot scale. Even the doorknobs turn, and the desk drawers open, truly representing design in miniature. Our characters discover that the key is really a magic key, which transforms the person holding it into a miniature version of him or herself. We live vicariously as they walk into these rooms and step back in time to pre-revolutionary France, or to late seventeenth century America. By connecting with artworks mentioned in the story including Washington Crossing the Delaware by Emanuel Leutze, we can demonstrate the link between history and art. In this case, Jack and Ruthie realize that they landed in France prior to its revolution, that had been partially inspired by the American’s fight for freedom from British rule.
Not all of us can travel to the Art Institute of Chicago to visit this wonderful collection. However there are other museums around the country that also have a connection to Thorne’s incredible legacy. The Knoxville Museum of Art, in Knoxville, TN, holds a collection of Thorne Rooms. These represent some of the earliest of her works. The Mini-Time Machine Museum of Miniatures in Tucson, AZ is a museum dedicated to miniatures. In its fantastic collection, one can find the Kupjack Georgian Dining Room, an example of work by one of Thorne’s primary artists, Eugene Kupjack. The Phoenix Art Museum also holds 20 examples of the Thorne Rooms.
Make curricular connections:
Drawing & Math
Connect this wonderful fantasy to the creativity of our students by asking them to design their own “Contemporary Interior” where they design a room, using 1 inch to 1 foot scale, representing their place and time. Either using one-point perspective in drawing, or photomontage from magazines, the design of their own space would be a fascinating view of our 21st Century world from a child’s point of view.
Sculptural Paper Folding & Math
Jack and Ruthie, our adventurous 6th grade characters, go to school together in a Chicago neighborhood. In the opening chapter, Jack shows a bento box that he brought for lunch to school. Ruthie had never seen anything like it, and your students may not have either! Integrate a wonderful paper folding lesson, that implements measurement and folding for creating the bento box, and using paper folding and sculpture for the food. There is a wonderful example in the Thorne Rooms collection of Japanese architecture and design known as the Japanese Traditional Interior that would connect wonderfully with this lesson.
The Sixty-Eight Rooms is a wonderful addition to any book or art club looking to connect literature with art. The magical tale would be a great read-aloud in the art classroom, leading to specific art projects that make children think about their enviroments and design.
Special Thanks to the Mini-Time Machine Museum of Miniatures in Tucson, AZ for permission to publish the photographs of works in their collection, both taken by Balfour Walker. The museum can be found on Twitter at @tucsonmuseum Thanks to Nancy Walker for sharing her Bento Box lesson as well. Photos of teacher samples are from the Center for Educator Development in Fine Arts Summit XI Elementary Sessions hosted by Samantha Melvin and Nancy Walkup.
Target is sponsoring free and reduced-price arts and cultural events all over the nation for July 17 & 18. Take your family and visit great institutions such as the National Museum of Mexican Art in Chicago, Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art or Mesa Arts Center in Phoenix. You can see what events and museums are participating in your area by visiting Targets website.