SchoolArts Magazine

October 2016

SchoolArts is a national art education magazine committed to promoting excellence, advocacy, and professional support for educators in the visual arts since 1901.

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38 OCTOBER 2016 SchoolArts O ne of the focuses in seventh- grade life science is for students to increase their understanding of the world around them, including the cycles, changes, and relationships that are abundant in our ecosystems. Though there are many art lessons that can be correlated with this curriculum, the lesson my students jump at starts with a clay tadpole and slowly meta- morphoses into a full-grown frog. The theme of this lesson concen- trates on the Chesapeake Bay, since we are located in its watershed. A very active discussion revolves around the amphibians that live in areas where there is runoff from factories and cities. Ideas are listed as to what we can do to reduce the amount of nutrient and sediment runoff to keep the amphibian population alive. Developing Ideas Through discussion and visuals, we study a frog's anatomy and its growth cycle, a process called metamorpho- sis, in which a tadpole turns into a frog. I try to do this project after stu- dents have studied the frog in science class, as they are proud to teach me their newly learned information. Before we begin working in clay, students brainstorm ideas to help M I D D L E S C H O O L Naomi Swyers The lesson m tudents jump at starts with a cla adpole and slowl metamorphoses into a full-grown frog. them design their own frogs and sketch ideas in their journals. I have seen bodybuilder frogs, queens, cheerleaders, you name it—just about anything a middle-school student can think of! Pinch Pot Tadpoles My demonstrations are divided into sections. First is the tadpole turning into a frog. I show students how to form a ball of clay and roll the end to a point to create the tail-bud shape. I take another piece and roll a small ball of clay, showing how to form a pinch pot. I gently tap the tail bud on the table to flatten the face area. On the flat area, I score, slip, seal, and smooth the pinch pot. The pinch pot mouth is sliced open using a wire clay cutter. The tail is cut off like a real tadpole when it loses its tail. Clay Metamorphosis We discuss eye sockets and where frog eyes are located. I show students how to make the eyes by pressing where I want the sockets into the frog. Then I roll a new ball and cut it in half, one for each eye. These are scored and slipped into the sockets. Lastly, I roll out a tiny pancake and cut it in half. I press and smooth half on one eye and half on the other to form the eyelids. Students are amazed at how the front of the lids look moveable and realistic. My final demonstration involves creating legs. Students can choose which method they want to use. Many students roll out clay and bend it for the legs. I tell them if they try to bend the clay without adding water, it can crack. (I bend and my knees crack; students never forget that.) Some students like to form the larger thigh and add the calf by scor- ing and slipping. The frog's feet and toepads can be created with triangles or made separately. If the frogs are large enough, students can add room in the stomach to place a clay bar across for hanging; they could be dis- played like they are climbing up a wall. Finished Frogs As students complete their own frogs, I give them two choices for an accompanying art statement. They can either explain how they made their frog step-by-step, or write a story about their frog. These are done on our class website. Some of the stories are hysterical and they really make the frogs come to life. We have a cri- tique as a class and share the stories. This lesson is a favorite of my seventh-graders, so it is a staple in my artroom. You can use this same struc- ture to create many different animals and leave it even more open-ended. Last year, we donated the frogs to Noah's Coalition, a hospice program, for their fundraiser auction. At this point, the frogs are leaping all over Virginia and beyond, and I hope our watershed is a safe environment for them all. Naomi Swyers is an art teacher at Eliza- beth Davis Middle School in Chester, Virginia. Naomi_ Swyers@ H i p p i t y H o p p i t y

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