Shannon Sweny Stephens
Elliot Eisner said, “The arts
teach children to think
through and within a material. All art forms employ
some means through which images
become real.” Working with simple
materials like paper, scissors, and
glue forces children to seek inventive solutions and makes this project
available to everyone. Dioramas
provide students with infinite possibilities to create whole worlds in
were challenged to create their own
dioramas. Students eagerly began to
design, build, and arrange.
Students first selected a color for
their walls. The walls and floor of
the dioramas were constructed by
folding a 9" ( 23 cm) square of paper
in half vertically and horizontally.
After unfolding the paper, students cut carefully along one of the
creases to the center of the paper.
The squares on either side of the cut
Discussion were overlapped and glued together
To introduce the lesson, I displayed to make the floor.
paintings of interior spaces. Vincent Flooring was added first. Precut
van Gogh’s The Bedroom and Henri fabric scraps were available to stu-
Matisse’s The Red Studio served dents who wished to install car-
as spring- pet. As an boards for I shared a diorama that reconstructed alternative,
discus- van Gogh’s The Bedroom painting. wooden
sion about Students were challenged to create craft sticks
personal their own room dioramas. offered a
spaces. stylish and
Students enjoyed carefully inspect- convincing hardwood floor (nine
ing and identifying objects located sticks fit exactly in a 4. 5" [ 11 cm]
within both works of art. They square floor).
compared and contrasted their own Students then learned how to
bedrooms at home with The Bed- construct furniture out of paper.
room and the artroom with The Red Paper straws (available from art sup-
Studio. ply catalogs) provided a wonderful
solution for bed, chair, and table
legs; however, some students sought
faster and simpler solutions. Some
students made pieces appear three-
dimensional by simple folding and
attaching to the wall or floor. Mirror
paper was distributed for mirrors
and television screens, although foil
worked just as well. Magazines provided miniature posters, pictures,
and windows for the walls. Wallpaper scraps, cotton balls, and beads
were ingeniously put to use. Using
materials frome around the artroom
students decorated their walls, made
pillows for couches and beds, and
added finishing touches. They were
encouraged to add as many details
as they wished. Some brought materials from home.
These seemingly small, personal
spaces generated big ideas. From
start to finish, students were fully
engaged in designing and constructing the tiny rooms. They took
charge of their learning, becoming
young inventors, engineers, interior
designers, and artists. Moreover,
students were eager to share their
ideas and learn from each other. The
experience was invaluable.
Shannon Sweny Stephens was a student
teacher at W.S. Ryan Elementary in Denton, Texas, when she taught this lesson.
After students were familiar with
The Bedroom, I shared a diorama
that reconstructed the famous
painting in three dimensions. Following the oohs and ahhs, students
Students select and use subject matter, symbols, and ideas to communicate meaning.
More dioramas online!