By Kari Sams
This month, at ES we have been exploring different cultures of the world. This might be new for the younger children, a lot are just discovering what the word “culture” means. I tell them quite simply that it is a group of people and the way that they live including food, country, language, traditions, religions, and clothes. These might be different in all cultures but there are also aspects of cultures that are the same and things that are universal. This is how Art ties in as Art can be a universal language. Cultural Art is an expression of the culture’s beliefs and values and in most cases the culture’s spirituality, as well. It is interesting to me that most cultures, even on different sides of the world, have masks, and each culture has its own designs and shapes unique to them.
This month, we have gotten inspiration from cultural art and used some of the culture’s ideas or techniques for our Art projects, however I encourage the children to use their own creativity and come up with their own idea for their art that is meaningful to them.
Join me now, for a Distance Learning tour around the world. We will start in KG in South America and in Africa. We collaborated with Miss Elsa’s Class and Mr. Kincaid’s class in looking at the beautiful beaded jewelry of the Zulu tribe and the Amazon people in Brazil. Both classes made masks and jewelry with paper plates and paper, as well as an Amazon head dress in Mr. Kincaid’s class.
Next, we travel to India in 1st grade with our celebration of Diwali. We traced our hand, drew henna designs, and then in the background, drew mandalas. We discovered similarities and differences between Thadingyut and Diwali, both are Festivals of Light in Myanmar and India.
Next, we travel to Europe to see the Art of the first humans, and then imagine what it would be like to be a Cave man or woman. We had such interesting discussions in class about the first humans and lots of curious questions. The students are learning to draw animals and this is a good practice for them as well as learning about Art history. First, they dyed paper with coffee or tea to make the paper ancient looking. Some of the students were really successful with this in creating a rock like texture that would resemble a cave wall. Our next couple of projects are connected to the Cinderella book series that 2nd graders are reading. In their class they read “The Rough Faced Girl,” a Native American Cinderella story. Travelling to North America in the Pacific Northwest, the students are making their own Totem Poles to connect with this cultural story.
The 3rd Grade is doing a unit on cultural identity, we also connected with this in Art by making traditional Myanmar puppets out of paper and recycled materials. We really did start from scratch to create these marionette puppets with materials we could find in our homes. They also did drawings about their own culture that they come from.
The 1st grade and 4th grade have explored Aboriginal Dot Painting in Australia. The first graders traced their hands and made patterns with dots. The fourth graders were able to dive deeper into the symbols and meaning of the culture as well as making aboriginal maps with symbols and animals of their choice using their own creativity. We just took the technique of dot painting to add variety, patterns, and symbols to our Art. I do like how each artwork turned out completely different for each student.
The last stop on our global tour is 5th grade. We looked at cultural masks for inspiration and once again, using recycled materials or things they had in their home, they made cultural masks of their own choosing. One reason I like traveling is learning about other cultures and meeting different types of people from each culture. There is beauty in the differences but it is also one way to see how we are all connected.