Monday, May 14, 2012

6th Grade (Bubble Wrap) Dot Painting

If you want a sure way to motivate 6th graders, try using bubble wrap! This project started as an attempt to speed up the Aboriginal-inspired Art lesson I'd taught to my 6th graders the last 2 years. After learning about (Australian) Aboriginal artwork and culture, I'd always had the students draw a favorite animal in a sort of x-ray style and fill in the negative space with symbols and dots. The animals would turn out great, but the students would lose interest during the dot phase and we'd get some half-hearted attempts. This year, we tried using bubble wrap to create the dots! There's something funny about using a material as plastic as bubble wrap to learn about such an old Art form.
I've always been a fan of bubble wrap- it's super fun to print it for texture in mixed media artwork. I made myself a note after last year's lesson to try printing bubble wrap to create the dots in the background. I found some of the most beautiful dot paintings I'd ever seen on this website (seriously, go look NOW!) I think the students were just as impressed by the artwork as I am! With the addition of the new reference images, the rest of the lesson introduction was the same. My original plan was to spend one class printing bubble wrap backgrounds, and the next two adding animals and/or symbols. You'll see if you read on that the lesson evolved as the students' needs and interests came into play.

I have no trouble painting and printing the bubble wrap fast enough. The average student, however, does. We discovered that using a damp sponge to moisten the paper prior to printing yielded better results. Most students were much more intrigued by the dots than by the animals so in the second class period, I gave them a choice. The students could either try the dot painting again, or they could go ahead and add an animal and symbols to their first painting. I had intended for the students to draw, cut, and glue their animals and symbols, but after one student tried painting them directly on top of the dots, everybody really liked that technique!
 I stressed that there was to be ABSOLUTELY NO POPPING OF THE BUBBLE WRAP! And we really didn't have a problem with it. I had purchased a roll of bubble wrap that could be torn into sheets. Recycled would have been great, but this way I was sure to have sheets big enough. The same bubble wrap sheets were washed and reused in each class. By the end of the 2nd class period, after being used about 10 times, the bubble wrap is still in good enough shape to use.
 Here's a 6th grade student showing how to wash the bubble wrap. We gently rubbed the sheet together then laid it bubble side down on sections of newspaper to dry. If there were a way to hang the sheets, they would probably dry faster.
White Rabbit
This student is a cancer survivor and wanted to make a ribbon
This student traced her hand with paint after we learned that Aboriginal artists sometimes used their arms and hands as stencils.
This was made by a student who finished early.


  1. I saw some of these displayed in the hall. Thought they were really cool looking! RW

  2. These are wonderful! What a great idea! I like hearing how the lesson evolved.I've got to try this sometime.

  3. Love this! Great idea to tie it with your Aboriginal lesson!

  4. Katie, Thanks for sharing. I found a solar blue pool cover in the neighbors trash and cut it up 9x12 and 12x18. I knew I wanted to use it for printing but how? Thanks again. Did you use tempra or acrylic?

    1. We used tempera at school but I've fine it with acrylics at home.

  5. Who knew that you could make an awesome work of art using bubble wrap! I think it is an ingenious idea! It goes to show that you can use anything to create masterpieces. Note to self: use bubble wrap for my next project!