Friday, June 11, 2010

Junk Art

At the beginning of the year we had a school wide project that focused on the concept of sustainability. For 6th grade I came up with this junk art lesson. This lesson could easily be adapted for elementary, all middle schools grades or high school by adding or taking away from the lesson. This lesson will take typically ten days (based on 45 minute classes, 5 days a week) but time may be adjusted to meet the needs of the students.

Projects were in the form of relief sculptures – assembled by cutting strips of cardboard and bases and assembling them as a class. See pictures for references. The finished boxes were 5×5 inches with 1 inch walls.

Materials: I collected various materials over the summer and I also had students bring in materials to share and use for the project over the course of a few days.

  • Cardboard
  • Xacto knife or sharp scissors
  • Cutting mats
  • Glue (hot glue, elmer’s, stick glue)
  • Pencils, markers, crayons
  • Paper/Magazines/Newspapers
  • Bottles/Cans/Tins
  • Fabric
  • Paint (acrylic or tempera)
  • Lids or caps, small containers
  • Stickers, beads, etc.
  • Any other ‘found’ or ‘junk’ material

Definition of Sustainability (in the context of 3D Art):

The ability of a material to be used and reused continuously in the form of art over a significant period of time of which is produced for the wider impact of the world and its reception in relation to its environment.

Day One Introduction:

Objective: Students will explore the concept of ‘one man’s trash is another man’s treasure’ by choosing recyclable objects to be a treasure and a trash.

Essential Questions: Is one man’s trash another man’s treasure? In what ways can we reuse objects we’d normally throw away to create something else?

Enduring Understanding: I am teaching the concept of one man’s trash is another man’s treasure so that kids come to understand that recycled objects can be used to create art.

** Have random “junk” objects on each table when the students walk into the classroom.**

  • “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure” (Identity)
    • To introduce myself to the students I will choose one object that I consider a “treasure” and another that I consider “trash.” Explain to class why I chose these particular objects.
    • Instruct students to look through the objects on each table and to choose for themselves one treasure and one trash. Students will write a written reflection on why they chose each object. Have them include the following:
      • How choosing these particular objects relates to them as a person and who they are.
      • Taking a second look at each object what could you possibly do with them besides throw them away or recycle them?
      • While they are choosing their objects share the following quote and have them write down what they think it means.
        • “Eliminate the concept of waste — not reduce, minimize, or avoid waste…. but eliminate the very concept: by design.” – William McDonough & Michael Braungart (quote will also be posted in the classroom)
    • After students are finished writing their reflections have a class discussion about the activity.
      • Ask for volunteers to share their reflections with the class.
  • Have a discussion with the class about what kinds of recyclable objects they save and reuse for something else.
  • Talk briefly about the importance of recycling and how many everyday items contain recycled materials. Ask if anyone has an example, show personal example: chap stick tube
  • Homework: Instruct students to bring in as many recyclable objects as they can over the next two days. Give them examples: milk cartons, plastic, cans, cardboard boxes, paper towel rolls, etc.

Day Two:

Objective: Students will explore various contemporary arts, including “junk art.” Students will compare and contrast various works of art and learn some of the basic art language. Students will discuss sustainability in relation to art and other subjects.

Essential Questions: Is “junk art” a sustainable form of art? Why or why not?

Enduring Understanding: I am teaching critical thinking in art so that kids come to understand that they can choose for themselves whether they believe something to be art or not.

  • Introduce various works of art (including junk art, Heidelberg project* etc.)
    • What do you see?
    • Is this art? Why or why not?
    • What makes something art?
    • What is sustainability? Is this a form of sustainable art? What makes something sustainable?
  • Introduce sustainability project (handout/checklist)
  • Remind students that they will need to bring in recyclable objects to use for their project tomorrow

Resources: The Heidelberg Project Videos

Day Three:

Objective: Students will plan, design and develop a concept and physically execute it in the form of 3D art.

Essential Questions: How does an artist come up with an idea? Where does an artist get inspiration from? How does an artist go from idea to the actual piece of art?

Enduring Understanding: I am teaching how artists come up with ideas so that kids come to understand the process of concept (paper) to production (physical artwork).

Anticipatory Set: Have assignment written on the blackboard: In your sketchbook write down three ways you use to come up with new ideas. Now write down three things that inspire you. (5-7 minutes)

  • After students are finished ask for some volunteers to share how they come up with new ideas.
  • Prompt the students with questions:
    • How do you think artists come up with new ideas?
    • What kinds of things do you think usually inspire artists?
    • How does this relate to what you wrote down in your sketchbook?
    • After an artist comes up with an idea what do you think they do next?
  • Review project hand out with students and remind them that they will be using the functional objects they brought in and changing their function in some way to create something new.
  • Thinking Process: How artists organize their concepts (hand out check list)
    • Generate a concept by brainstorming or researching (students may do this however it works best for them: bullet list, sketching, idea web, etc.)
    • 3-5 thumbnails
      • You have an idea so how are you going to execute it?
      • Look at the concept from all possible angles, which fits best?
      • Which ones work? Which ones don’t? (Working out the details)
    • Evaluate your materials – what do you have that will work? What do you need?
    • Revising and polishing – come up with a final, more detailed sketch of what you want to do and how you will do it. Be sure to include your materials and where they will go.
    • From concept (paper) to production (creating actual artwork)
      • Is there something you thought would work but it didn’t?
      • It’s okay to change or rearrange – it’s all a part of the thinking process of an artist
    • Evaluating finished product – do you need to rework it? How has it changed from your original design and/or concept?
  • Give students time to go through the thinking process (check sheet) and work out their ideas. Circulate room and assist students as needed.
  • Closure: Remind students to bring in any extra objects they may want to use for their project and make a list of materials needed in their sketchbooks.

Day Four:

Objective: Students will finish the planning process and begin creating their project.

Essential Questions: How is creating art out of junk sustainable? Is this process always desirable? When is it/isn’t it?

Enduring Understanding: I am teaching how to create “junk art” so that kids come to understand there are many different uses for materials we’d normally throw away.

  • Work Day

Day Five:

Objective: Students will create artwork out of recyclable materials and/or junk. Students will also learn the process of artist critiques and go through one with those at their table.

Essential Questions: How can you use critiques as a form of feedback in other subjects besides art?

Enduring Understanding: I am teaching artist critiques so that kids come to understand that artists use them as a form of feedback and a tool for growth and improvement.

  • Work Day
  • Critique (unfinished)
    • Explain that artists use critiques as a form of feedback from other artists.
    • Have each table work as a group; students will take turns telling the other students in their group about their project. Have students share:
      • One thing that is going really well.
      • One thing they would like their classmates to give them a suggestion with.
  • Independent Work
    • After the midpoint critique allow students to being working on their projects
    • Circulate and assist students as needed
  • Closure: Raise your hand if you felt like the critique was helpful. Ask for a few volunteers to share why critiques are important for artists to participate in.

Day Six:

Objective: Students will create artwork out of recyclable materials and/or junk.

Essential Questions: How can creating junk art be beneficial to our environment and world?

Enduring Understanding: I am teaching how to create “junk art” so that kids come to understand that it is a sustainable form of art produced with the consideration of the world and our relationship to our environment.

  • Work Day

Day Seven:

Objective: Students will create artwork out of recyclable materials and/or junk.

Essential Questions: How can creating junk art be beneficial to our environment and world?

Enduring Understanding: I am teaching how to create “junk art” so that kids come to understand that it is a sustainable form of art produced with the consideration of the world and our relationship to our environment.

  • Work Day

Day Eight:

Objective: Students will finish their projects and reflect by filling out a self grade sheet and completing a written reflection.

Essential Questions: How can creating junk art be beneficial to us as individuals and as a part of the community? Is this always a desirable goal?

Enduring Understanding: I am teaching that junk art is sustainable so that kids come to understand that as a goal it is an idea of a world where people care for and nurture the environment and each other.

  • Final Work Day – Students may use this day to finish up their projects in class, along with self-grading sheet and written reflection.
    • Anything not finished in class will be homework.
  • Written Reflection

Day Nine & Day Ten

  • Finish up with a critique and assessment on the project and the concept of sustainability.

Multicultural Masks


Students will successfully come up with their own idea for a multicultural mask based on the inspiration from ONE of the following continents/countries: Africa, Egypt, North America, Japan, or India. They will create a mask and use various materials to execute their idea. Students will learn the various purposes of masks throughout the world while gaining an appreciation for masks around the world.


The Learner Will:

  • Identify their chosen country on the map of the world.
  • Describe characteristics of masks in their chosen country.
  • Formulate ideas for their mask based on inspiration of their chosen country.
  • Compare and contrast their mask with masks of their chosen country.
  • Evaluate the success of their own mask.


MI.A.K-6.02.17.VA* Apply knowledge of materials, techniques, and processes to create artwork.
MI.A.K-6.03.23.VA* Understand there are different responses to specific artworks.
MI.A.K-6.03.24.VA* Describe and compare the characteristics of personal artwork.
MI.A.K-6.03.25.VA* Understand how personal experiences can influence the development of artwork.
MI.A.K-6.04.01.VA* Know that the visual arts have a history and specific relationships to various cultures.
MI.A.K-6.04.03.VA* Demonstrate how history, culture, and the visual arts can influence each other in making and studying works of art.
MI.A.K-6.05.12.VA* Explain how visual arts have inherent relationships to everyday life.


K-5 Grade

Time Allotment

Two class periods, 60 minutes each week.


Multicultural Masks
Information on purpose of masks and links to multicultural mask pictures & info.
Power point
Power point showing different examples of multicultural masks.


1. Art Supplies

  • Cardstock
  • Construction paper
  • Beads, feathers, hemp or string
  • Scissors
  • Glue
  • Markers
  • Crayons
  • Tempera paints
  • Paint brushes
  • Paint pallets
  • Cups for water

2. Technology/Other

  • Examples of masks
  • Power point
  • Projector
  • Computer/lap top

Week One

1. Anticipatory Set

  • Have examples of masks in the front of the room. Ask, “Does anybody know what these and what might they be used for?”

2. Power point

  • Tell students for the end of the “Exploring the World” unit they are going to choose a country that we’ve studied and design a mask based on that country.
  • Show map of the world and have volunteers point out: Japan, North America, Africa, Egypt (within Africa), India, and Australia.
  • Show masks of the various countries. (Verbal/Linguistic learners will be able to participate in discussion here, intrapersonal learners will be able to participate in group learning, and visual/spatial learners will see examples of artwork, a power point, and then be able to create their own mask.)
    • Japan
      • What are some characteristics of the mask?
      • What colors are used? Why?
      • What facial expressions? Why?
      • What designs or symbols are on the mask? Why?
    • Egypt
      • What materials are used in these masks?
      • What facial expressions do they have? Why?
      • What kinds of designs and symbols do they use? Why?
      • What colors are used? Why?
    • Africa
      • What materials are used?
      • What colors are used? Why?
      • What kind of facial expressions do the masks have? Why?
      • What designs are used? Why?
    • India
      • What materials are used in these masks?
      • What facial expressions do they have? Why?
      • What kinds of designs and symbols do they use? Why?
      • What colors are used? Why?
    • Australia
      • What are some characteristics of the mask?
      • What colors are used? Why?
      • What facial expressions? Why?
      • What designs or symbols are on the mask? Why?
    • North America
      • What materials are used in these masks?
      • What facial expressions do they have? Why?
      • What kinds of designs and symbols do they use? Why?
      • What colors are used? Why?
  • Explain the purpose of masks.
    • A mask is anything used to hide, protect, or cover part or all of the face. Masks are worn as a part of a costume or a disguise.
    • Can be an animal or another person.
    • Religious or ritual based.
    • Dramatic portraits of spirit beings, departed ancestors, and invisible powers of social control.
  • Show own example of mask.
    • What country did I choose to base my mask on? How can you tell?

3. Semi-Guided Demonstration & Production

  • Allow students time to think of a country they’d like to use for inspiration.
  • Give them time to sketch ideas.
  • Have a table with supplies ready for them to use, explain which supplies are available. (see materials list.)
  • Show students the basics of cutting out a face shape, making eye and mouth holes.
  • Give students time to begin making masks. (Bodily/kinesthetic learners will be able to move as they create their mask, interpersonal learners will be able to work alone as they make their masks, and logical/mathematical students will be able to explore patterns in making their masks.)
  • Assist students as needed, making time for questions on how to do things.

4. Closure

  • Review the purpose of masks.
  • Remind students to think about the masks from the various countries.
    • How can you make the viewer know where your mask is from?

Week Two

1. Anticipatory Set

  • Have examples of masks in the front of the room. Ask students if they remembered what they did the previous week. Ask students to raise hand if they remember the country they chose as inspiration for their mask.

2. Production

  • Remind students they are working on their masks and review examples of masks in the front of the room.
    • Holding up my example of the mask, ask students: Who remembers what country I chose to base my mask on? How can you tell?
  • Tell students after they complete their mask they will need to write a paragraph describing their mask and how they used their chosen country as inspiration.
  • Allow students to begin working, have supplies ready (see materials list) and volunteers to pass out masks.
  • Assist students as needed.
  • As students begin finishing, help them punch holes and tie elastic to fit the mask to their face.
  • Give students 10 minutes to write paragraph. Have them include:
    • Country chosen, why?
    • What characteristics from that country have you included?
    • What is similar? What is different?
    • One thing they remember from the unit.

3. Critique & Closure

  • Allow students to try on and wear masks.
  • Arrange desks in a circle.
  • Pick a few volunteers to read their paragraph.
  • Allow students time to ask each other questions about their masks.
  • Ask questions:
    • What did you learn from this unit? Favorite thing? Least favorite? Why?
    • What was your favorite country? Why?
    • Give one reason of why someone might wear a mask.

Target (3 pts)Acceptable (2 pts)Unacceptable (1 pt)
Craftsmanship(1, 33%)Mask is stable and well put together, no noticeable glue marks and/or tape marks. Paint and other materials are applied correctly and evenly. Mask is very neat.Mask is fairly stable and put together. A few noticeable glue marks and/or tape marks. Paint is somewhat blotchy, materials applied somewhat even. Mask is somewhat neat.Mask is falling apart, not well put together. Many noticeable glue and/or tape marks. Paint and other materials not distributed evenly, mask looks messy.
Participation(1, 33%)Students will participate in discussion by answering questions or contributing thoughts. They are able to explain what they see in their own mask and masks of the country they selected.Students attempt to answer questions, with a correct or incorrect answer.Students make no attempt to participate in discussion.
Use of Materials(1, 33%)Students will clearly come up with an idea for a mask from a country learned about in class. Materials used will clearly demonstrate the country shown. The entire mask will be covered.Student’s idea for their mask is semi-clear and based somewhat off a country studied in class. At least 75% of the mask will be covered and demonstrate the country shown.Student’s idea for their mask doesn’t pertain to any of the countries studied in class. Less than half of the mask is covered. Poor use of materials.

Paper Puppets


  • Thick cardstock, cardboard or other paper (water color paper works well)
  • Pencils, erasers
  • Watercolor or other paint
  • Color pencils, markers, etc.
  • Long skewer sticks or Popsicle sticks
  • Round pins (if puppet is to move – see images above)

This project was designed to accompany a art history/art appreciation course. Students drew, at random, artist’s names from the Renaissance period (any period may be used). In turn the students researched and looked up information on their artists and were to present a short puppet show of their artist being interviewed by another person of their choice (themselves, a celebrity, another artist, etc.). Both characters were to be made as puppets.

Students should include important information about the artist (dates are not so important), clues to remember their work by or interesting details about their personality. As a general rule of thumb 2-3 minutes was plenty of time to say what needed to be said, but giving student’s a time restriction isn’t as important.

There's a Monster in my Closet!

Submitted By: Anna Bitzinger

Grade Level: 1st grade (can be adapted for up to 3rd grade)

Sessions: 3-4 days, 50 minute sessions.


-To introduce students to the elements of texture and tactile media.

-To further develop student’s manipulative and expressive skills through the creation of a textured monster collage.

-To allow the students the freedom to explore their very own imaginations.


Students will be read “There’s a Nightmare in my Closet” (Mercer Mayer) from the teacher. Afterwards, the class will watch a select scene from film. “Monster’s Inc”. Students will receive a brief demonstration on texture. Students will use a compilation of shapes and varied textures to create their very own monster. They will place their monster in the environment of their closet.

Michigan Art Education Curriculum Standards:

  • VA.1.3: Use Visual characteristics and organize principals of art to communicate ideas.
  • VA.2.1. Apply knowledge of materials, techniques, and process to create artwork.
  • VA.3.4: Describe and compare the characteristics of personal artwork.


Teacher Materials

  • “What is Texture?” poster, Book: “There’s a Nightmare in my Closet” by Mercer Mayer, Movie: Monsters Inc. other visual aids such as pictures of different textures, monster figurines, pictures of monsters and of closet doors.

Student Materials:

  • Large brown paper
  • Plain white paper for the inside of their closets
  • white tag board for the decoration of the monster
  • black/white crayons
  • pencils
  • colored markers
  • newsprint paper
  • felt pieces, pre-cut colored burlap, foam, animal printed foam, yarn, popsicle sticks
  • scissors
  • glue
  • stapler
  • Stencils
  • Worksheet for students to write description about monster.
  • “Monster” word-search if students are done.


How many of you have thought you had a monster under your bed or in your closet? What did that monster look or feel like? We’re going to create our very own monster’s using different materials and textures!

Development & Procedure:

(Day 1)

As the students come into the classroom, I will ask them come sit on the blue carpet for story-time. I will then read “There’s a Nightmare in my Closet” to the students. We will discuss how we would feel if we were in the position of the main character. What would we do if we heard something in the closet? While they’re still sitting down, I will then show them a quick scene from “Monster’s Inc” on the television nearby. This will show them many sorts of different monsters and their closets. I will ask them what sort of shapes they see in these monsters. Students will then go back to their seats. I will simulate a discussion with the students on what sort of things they might find inside their closets by making a list on the board. What does the outside of your closet door look like? I will have pictures of doors to show them on the chalk board. Students use white/black crayons to decorate the outside of the door (folded brown construction paper.) I will have glued white paper with a pouch to hold their monster in to the inside of their closet so that they can immediately begin to decorate it as a closet. If they finish this early, they can begin to brainstorm what their monster might look like on newsprint.

(Day 2, 3 & 4)

On the second day, students will gather on the blue carpet for a demonstration and introduction of texture. Textures are all around us! We see them in nature, fur, whiskers, paw prints, the kitchen, and we see them in the playground. I will show the children pictures of certain textures and then ask them how they think each object might feel if they were to touch it. Then I’ll make a list of their answers on a piece of paper which will go on the board. I will also add my own textures to the list. After I go over textures, I’ll begin to go over different pictures of monsters and how they might feel. How does the monster look? Does the monster look silly because he’s so fuzzy? Is the monster scary because he has horns or sharp teeth? Students will finally go back to their seats and begin to sketch out their own monster on newsprint if they haven’t done so. They will construct their monster on the tag board inside of the folded brown paper by making an outline of their monster. Students are to make sure the monster is as tall as the sheet of paper and as wide, and they will use the “bean-shaped” stencil to confirm this. Once they are completed, I will call them up by table to come “shop” for different textures that are located in containers on the blue mat. I will have set up the boxes of different types of textures to work with such as burlap, foam, felt and yarn. I will tape off each section and label them by body parts if needed.

Students are invited to experiment with how their monster will look and what their monster might feel by mixing these textures. Students are to use Elmer’s glue to adhere the textures onto the tag board. The last five minutes of class will be clean-up. Each table is called up to return their materials to the boxes. Monsters will dry out in the hallway on the table inside of their closets. I will help them on the last day if they need to add any finishing touches, such as hot-gluing on eyes or arms/legs.

Once the student is finished with their textured monster, they are then to write about their monster on the made-up monster hand-out. What is their monster’s name? How does their monster feel? What does the monster look like or have? This will go on the inside of their monster’s closet. We will have class discussion at the very end. Students will state their monster’s name and describe three things about the monster, as well as what textures they used.

Accommodations & Adaptations:

Sometimes children have a tendency to draw things small, so there’d be a 3 inch monster. I will have stencils made up to make the monster large enough. If a student has finished early, they can put another monster in the closet! Once they’ve completed their write-up, they can decorate it with scary or silly borders. I also have a monster word puzzle on the back work table if they have any extra time left over.


  • Completed Monster projects are discussed. Have the students read their description aloud to the classroom.
  • Ask students what they felt was their favorite aspect of their piece, or what may’ve needed more work?

Assessment: Students are graded on class participation and behavior as well as on their final project. They should have completed everything on the below checklist.

Outside of door is finished and decorated
Inside of the closet is drawn/colored
Monster is size of stencil or bigger
Completed monster has at least three different textures
Monster description completed


Disney Pixar Monsters, Inc

Mayer, Mercer. There’s A Nightmare In My Closet. New York: Penguin Books, 1968.

Hand Outs & Student Examples:

Click on image to view larger.