Friday, November 4, 2011

South African Rock Art- K/1st

The inspiration for my Kindergarten and 1st grade African projects was Rock Art from South Africa.  I know we are all familiar with the cave paintings in Lascaux, but I had never thought much about cave paintings in other locations.  When I saw rock art that depicted giraffes, I knew I found my inspiration!  I knew the students would be interested in the animals, it was a great way to introduce/review texture, and how can you go wrong when learning about some of the world's oldest artwork? I started the first class off by projecting and discussing this image.  I asked the students first what they saw and then what they thought the animals were painted on.  They really had to look and think and eventually someone guessed rock.

I did a "follow the leader" drawing with Kindergarten- I tend to start them out pretty structured and gradually give them more freedom, plus, I think it is a good way to model how I look at drawing things and just fine in moderation- then in the 2nd class, the students crumbled their paper, rubbed with crayons on their side to show the texture, and added warm color with crayon.  You should have seen the looks on the students' faces when I asked them to wad their drawings into a ball!  I had to reassure them that it would be OK because some really didn't want to do it at first.  I planned to draw elands (I had to look to see if that was really the plural form!) because I read they are the most spiritual animal in the San/Bushmen culture but after one class, I switched to giraffes.  It must have been that the animal was unfamiliar but the students had a really bad case of the "I can't"s when we attempted elands.  The giraffes went more smoothly overall. At the end of the project, most students had time to add other animals or people to their drawings.

 First grade students had reference images of giraffes, elands, and horses.  I did a probably 5 second drawing of each on the chalkboard to show how to break it down into smaller shapes and make them less intimidating then let the students have at it.  They drew in pencil first, then colored their drawings with crayon.  We discussed which colors to use and listed red, orange, yellow, brown, white, and peach.* I really stressed pressing hard with crayon and at the end of the class, told the students we would be using a faux-batik technique.  I thought it would be a 2 class period project but needed to add an extra day to make sure they could all finish with crayon.  In the 3rd class, we used the following technique for crayon batik that I learned from A Faithful Attempt.  Most people suggest using copy paper but I actually used some 50# drawing paper that is not so good for drawing (gets fuzzy and tears when you try to erase).  It worked pretty well so I'm glad I have a use for it now.

*TANGENT! If you don't want to read about a "race" thing, skip down to the next photo.
Ok, discussing crayon colors led to a big discussion about SKIN color!  Not what I had in mind!  When I was listing colors, I said "peach".  A student asked what peach was and before I could hold up a crayon to show them, another student says "That's what color our skin is. Well, except for _______ and _________ and..." I jumped right in and said that nobody has skin exactly that color because it's just a crayon, we all look different and it's ok, it's part of what makes us unique, blah blah blah, now back to the project.  The student who pointed out the different skin colors is not a racist.  She was not trying to hurt anyone's feelings, it was like it just occurred to her that we don't all look the same.  As the students were working back at their tables, I hear little conversations breaking out about skin colors again.  Now, I think I work in a fairly diverse school but the majority of the students are white.  A little girl came up to me and said "_____ said that I'm black."  I waited and she added "but my mom says I'm 'dark brown'." I talked to her and the whole class AGAIN about the crayon/skin color thing and thought we were good.  I got an email from her mother the next day asking that the seating chart be adjusted so that she would not be next to the little boy who "made racist comments".  The mother was not being unreasonable or making demands, just concerned and said that she wanted to make sure her daughter continued to have the best experience possible.  I replied to the email and said that I would adjust my seating chart but I wanted to explain the situation.  I told her that the little boy who made the comment was not trying to e racist, just making observations without the maturity to realize that it could be insensitive.  The thing that I think is funny about the whole situation, is that when the little girl talked to me, she was more upset that he said the wrong color for her skin than that he said a color at all. Now I'm trying to be even more vigilant about correcting students when they refer to "peach" as "skin color".
I made a step by step visual for my bulletin board.


  1. I love your blog , its so inspiring!
    I hope you don't mind I made a link on my blog.

  2. I'm student teaching right now and the teacher I'm with starts every year with a self portrait and right off the bat goes into the skin color conversation. She has two giant bags of different "skin color" crayons. The picking of the skin color is a big step in the project and must be okayed by the teacher and she tells them because she wants to make sure it looks the most like you it possibly can. I commend her for this because when she asked me to do it I'll admit I was scared of something like this happening, but it didn't. I wonder if getting it out there right away helps at all? She calls the project "Beautiful me" and we played that Selena Gomez song while they worked. The school only goes to 4th grade, any higher and I could see it not going as well.

    These giraffes came out great though!!

  3. When I do self portrait projects, I help the students select their skin color for the same reason. I mainly just didn't want them pointing out specific students looking "different". Thanks!

  4. My first graders do portraits of each other, and I have them holding crayons or colored pencils (whichever we are using) up to their partner's skin to try to match colors together. Most of my students are Caucasian but definitely not all of them. I do not make judgments on the colors they choose together, and I've never had a problem. But sometimes they choose yellows and oranges and are SURE that is the right color and I do not correct them. I make a few limitations: no "silly" color choices - green ears, mustaches, etc. I also teach them to color lightly and mix colors, so that they can get lip colors that are not RED ("Nobody in here is wearing lipstick, are they?")

    About the lesson - it looks great - I just recently was given some old National Geographic magazines to pull pics from and found an article about these amazing cave paintings. I'm sorry that a year ago when my son spent the summer in South Africa this isn't something he saw, but... it's a HUGE country, and I guess seeing a real giraffe on safari was even better.

  5. A middle school teacher in my district talked to the art department during an in-service day about her trip to South Africa. She said it was a beautiful country but sounds like they didn't see much variety on their night time safari tour.

  6. Oh and last year I had a little girl in kindergarten draw her self portrait with blue lipstick!