Musings about the importance and impact of art and art education in the 21st century.

5th Grade Pioneer Wagons

♠ Posted by ArtMuse in at 5:24 PM

When a fifth grade teacher in my building asked me to do a lesson on westward expansion I was a bit stumped as to what to do....I'm not that familiar with the unit and what exactly the students learn.  The teachers in my building are so strapped for time that unless we plan to do something collaboratively months in advance, I usually get what I call the "hit and run" which is basically when a teacher pops into my room and asks me either to teach a project on a specific topic or if I know of any lessons they could do on a specific topic in their classroom.  For instance, "hey, I was thinking of doing a lesson on Abe Lincoln, can you think of any projects you could do with the kids on it?"  Now don't get me wrong, I don't mind coming up with topics and projects, I like the challenge, I'm always happy to help, and I'm always glad that other teachers see me as a resource for them,  but it takes time to come up with resources and it's frustrating to "collaborate" on a topic when I have no idea what the classroom teachers are doing in their classrooms related to it.  Does this happen to you in your art room?? 

Nonetheless, I usually can rise to the occasion and this is just such an instance. After the request, I though of a lesson I saw on the blog Cassie Stephens that she had done with viking ships and thought it might be a good jumping off point for my wagons. So thank you Cassie for providing me with some inspiration!

Here's how the lesson wend down:
On the first day of the project I had the students sponge paint the top half of a 12x18" piece of blue construction paper and then had them dry brush and stipple paint two strips of 9 x 18" green papers, one light, one dark.  (FYI this is a crazy period in the art room!)  The second day I had the students paint a 12x18" piece of brown paper in two ways, To begin, they folded 1/3 of the paper to create a large shape and a small shape  and then painted it using brown, white, and beige paints with a brushes and paint scrapers.  The larger part was painted a different shade than the smaller part which would act as highlights for the wagon body later on during its assembly.  On the fourth day, students assembled their wagons, complete with hitch, buckets/barrels, and wagon wheels with spokes and axles.  To give the wagon cover an aged look the students used a 9x12" piece of white paper torn on three sides glued down and then painted over with coffee water. The wagon top pops out but after spending a week in the class folders, they got a bit squished (oops)...
 On the whole the lesson is a hectic one, with all the cutting, gluing, painting and such but I think it's worth it.