The Stick Puppets involved in this project are inspired by Asian puppets like the rod puppets from Indonesia. We have modified the Rod Puppets and presented them in a simpler way so that it could be done by young children in Kindergarten or Primary/Elementary school students. This project is ideal to learn about other cultures and ancient theatre practices, and it is a lot of fun for the students to create a character.
Puppetry is an ancient art & craft practice in Asian countries. It goes back to thousands of years in China and in India where puppets were used not only to present a play but also for religious purposes like to invocate their gods and ancestors. In modern days Asian puppetry is used to convey ideas on social issues, political issues and to entertain the old and young with wonderful stories. Link to find out more, this link contains information on puppets from different cultures, and it could be very useful for older students.
This puppet project, like others, can be done using recycled materials. The fabrics and needles supply will depend on the age group of the students. Colourful yarns, big buttons, and recycled textiles are ideal. The picture on the left shows a selection of open weave materials. There are bits of old knitted scarves and old jumpers found at the local Op Shop.
For younger children, it is important to provide them with open-weave fabrics such as Hessian/Burlap for the base, and bits of cut-up knitted scarves and jumpers and plastic needles threaded with colourful yarns. This is an ideal way to introduce sewing to young children. Working in a Kindergarten or Prep Class: In my experience, I sit down in a central place in the classroom and ask the young children to come to me to get their needles threaded with the colour of their choice and to show them how to sew the basic stitches. It is also very nice to invite parents and grandparents to the classroom to help young children to learn how to sew.
Older students like grade 4 to grade 7 students, love to express lots of ideas about their characters. They will spend more time creating the costumes, using a variety of fabrics in different colours and patterns. They love to cut fabrics such as felts, wool fabrics, cushion fabrics and sew with Tapestry needles or Chenille needles # 18.
Head and Rod: I have a separate section for the head and rod. The rod could be a 30 cm ( 12”) wooden ruler or a paint mixer stick that is about the same length. Any flat stick that is about 30 cm (12”) long or longer, and about 1” wide will be fine to use.
The circle used for the head in our project is felt discs that we were lucky to find at a Recycle for teachers and artists centre. Cardboard is a good alternative and the size will depend on the length of the stick. The shorter the stick, the smaller the head. The features, nose, eyes, and mouth could be made of bits of felt glued with white glue. The picture shows the back of the head and the way the cardboard circle has been joint to the stick, using a small strip of paper painted with white glue. Note: this is a very useful way to join bits, and young children will learn this joint technique very quickly.
Paper Puppets: A good alternative, if there are no fabrics available, is paper. Old discarded paintings are ideal as the paper has been already painted with bright colours. This picture shows a puppet made with paper by a young child, the body is a triangular shape, and the face has been drawn on.
Link to a recycled materials list to send home for parents to contribute with bits and bobs.
Batik can be a fun project to do in the classroom if cold wax is used instead of the traditional method of using warm wax. Cold wax can be found at craft shops, school art suppliers or find it online, see links at the end. It is important to find a shop that sells big quantities for the classroom like 2 lt. bottles for example.
There are aspects that are important to consider like fabrics and paint. It is not necessary to use dyes, good quality fluid paint mixed with textile medium and unsized fabrics like bleached calico or cotton drill is the best.
This batik activity is designed for elementary/primary students. Young children who can draw big shapes and paint will be able to do it as well.
The first thing to do is to decide what the theme would be, the ocean, a magic garden, a picture or anything that students would like to do. The pictures illustrated here represent, the ocean by a year one student, an image inspired on the painting “The Guernica” by Picasso by a middle school student, and a view of the garden by a year one student.
What you need:
Cold wax enough for a class of 25, a 2 Lt bottle will be enough, probably, for two classes.
A piece of bleached white calico or white cotton drill per student. A3 size (30 x 42cm or 12 x 17”) is a good size, but if older students would like a larger piece it will depend on room space and budget.
1 medium paintbrush, or one small paintbrush, depending on fabric size.
Pencils 2B or 4B, to draw the design.
Newspaper to set up the fabric.
Fluid paint of different colours. We recommend Chromcryl Fluid Concentrate, which can be diluted with a bit of water.
Chromacryl Textile Medium
The formula for the paint/medium mix is 1 part of the paint, 2 parts of water, and 1 part medium.
Dispense just a few colours per group, as Batik could be done using two or three colours.
Draw design on fabric using 2B or 4B pencils.
Apply wax to the design using a paintbrush, use enough wax to wet the fabric with it.
Let dry for about an hour and apply colours. The batiks should be allowed to dry for at least 24 hours before ironing and fixing.
When dry, iron the batiks between pieces of newspaper to fix the colours and to soak up the wax.
Note: soak the paintbrushes in hot water and laundry detergent for at least 20 mins. and wash.
This picture shows the design drawn on white paper with black pens, in such a way that the white cotton is placed on top of the design and the cold wax painted on as it is possible to see through the black lines.
Older students like to learn about some different culture’s textile designs, like African, Papua New Guinea, Indonesian, Mexican, etc. This blue batik is inspired by some designs from Papua New Guinea and by painting it just blue, it looks like a Shibori design. This design is drawn with a pencil but with a very loose application of wax.
Note: the batik activity could be extended to a sewing project, like windsocks, cushion covers, small bags and more.
Links to cold wax suppliers in Australia and the USA.
Fun painting project, all you need is some pastries real or plastic ones to set up a still life composition. This project is open to student’s interpretation but there should be some instructions on aspects like overlapping and paint application. We chose pastries of different sizes, shapes and colours for variety.
To create the composition, choose a piece of colourful fabric to set up the pastries and display on a small table in the middle of the room or in the centre of a big table so everybody can see.
If you have a long session, students could finish the painting in one session, but if your sessions are short a second session will be a good option. If going into a second session take some photos of the composition for later display on a big screen or as colour copies.
What you need:
1 piece of Kraft paper or Cartridge paper per student, ideally 30 x 30 cm. (12 x 12″)
Paintings illustrated here were done on a 50 x 50 cm. (19 x 19″)
The size will depend on the space available, but ideally should be a square format.
1 medium-size paintbrush, # 6 to paint the big areas
1 small paintbrush to paint details
Rags to clean paintbrushes and tables
Good quality paint see notes. *
Natural charcoal or chalk to draw the composition *
What to do:
Draw a big composition using charcoal or one colour chalk Paint big areas of colour first, mixing as many colours as possible. On a different session paint all details using small paint brushes
For best results, it is important to use good quality Tempera paint like VersaTemp or Chroma2 for younger students. For older students, we recommend Chromacryl acrylic paint. It is important that students draw with natural charcoal or chalk to encourage drawing big shapes that would fill the paper/space. I would never give students pencils to draw if they will paint over. Natural charcoal and chalk are easy to erase with a rag.
I find that sewing is a great way to engage and “calm” the students when they become a bit rambunctious. Working with easy to sew textiles like open weave fabrics such as hessian/burlap, old sweaters, bits and pieces found in the classroom or brought from home is ideal.
This project is very economical and offers lots of possibilities, students can create hens and owls and any other animals or characters they would like to invent. They will experiment by creating patterns cut out from newspaper sheets.
Primary/elementary students will be able to draw and cut simple shapes to be used as patterns.
Print the list of recyclable materials, tick the materials you need and send it home with the students for parents to contribute.
Needles: depending on the age group, needles can be plastic or made of aluminium with blunt points, for the very young. For older students the best needles to use, in our experience, are the Chenille needles # 18, they are relatively big and sharp enough to sew through fabrics like felt and fake fur, for example.
Yarns and cottons: We normally use colourful yarns brought from home or found at op shops/charity shops and crochet cottons for the Chenille needles. The best way to dispense yarns is a shoe box with holes on the lid to pass the yarn. We also dispense yarns and cottons using small quantities wrapped up on small pieces of cardboard.
The first picture on the right shows yarns and fabrics on a plastic tray. We do use trays a lot, it is easy to prepare the trays before the class starts. Provide one tray for a group of 5 students. The content of the trays could be needles, yarns, fabrics, scissors, buttons, feathers, lace and any other materials involved in the project. At the end of the class, students will return all the left over materials to the trays and leave them ready for the teacher to replenish for the following class.
To learn more about these procedures, view the videos below.
Hens video lesson
Arpilleras video lesson
Hessian dolls video lesson
Street Art started as slogans for political and social commentary that was normally written on public walls. Modern street art developed in New York City in the 1960’s and 1970’s and became popular in the 1980’s. For our project we chose artists Jean-Michele Basquiat and Banksy, as both artists are well known for evolving from painting graffiti on public walls to be at the helm of what today is called street art style. The work of these artists makes an interesting research as their work normally contains political and social commentaries.
I wanted to present a project based on the work of these artists within the constrictions of the class room. My task was to find a way to help students to produce art works that reflected the work and influence of Basquiat and Banksy, without merely copying or scribbling graffiti on their paper.
The project involves construction, painting and printmaking, therefore students will spend at least, two sessions per artist.
Basquiat – Construction
How the project developed
To get inspiration and to engage the students we started by creating sculptures/construction of what we called “techno people”.
In producing these sculptures, we used a variety of materials such as timber blocks, aluminium wire, some computer parts, nails, kitchen scrubbing wool, aluminium foil and lots of imagination. Students had the freedom to create a character using the construction materials and tools like small hammers, pliers and glue guns.
Notes: – Sourcing and resourcing for this project should start a couple of months ahead. Students could bring some of the recycled materials above mentioned from home.
If wooden blocks are difficult to find, cardboard, plastic cutlery, rope and other plastic bibs and bobs are a good alternative. This way you don’t need hammers if you don’t like the idea of hammers in the classroom. Scissors, cardboard knives and glue guns will be recommended for older students. For Primary/elementary students scissors and masking tape will be enough if using cardboard and plastic. Find more on construction with cardboard
After the “techno people” were finished, on another session, students set up the constructions on their tables and share them so they could use them as models to create paintings in a similar style of Basquiat. We used brown paper and Chromacryl acrylic paint for the painting part of this project. Students used charcoal to draw from the models on the table and to create a composition, and then, they proceeded to paint. Words and outline were added at the end. Students were very pleased that they have created their unique interpretation of Basquiat’s paintings.
Banksy’s style is less colourful than Basquiat’s and he uses the stencilling technique. To connect with his work and to create the feeling of stencilling/painting on a street wall we used a mixed media of printmaking and bright colours.
First we did experimental printing to create the background. We printed pieces of textiles and other materials with different textures such as Hessian/burlap, bubble wrap and thick pieces of textiles with textures.
After the background was printed we cut shapes of people, birds, trees and other symbols created by the students and printed with black paint on the top of the background.
Note: to print with pieces of fabric roll the paint directly onto the piece of fabric, apply to the white paper and place a piece of newspaper on top and print using a rubber roller, (see picture). While the background is drying, draw and cut shapes representing people, animals, trees and other symbols in preparation to print. Use thin cardboard like manila folders or greeting card stock to create the figures. There is no need to cut many shapes, just a few will be enough to create repetitions and movement.
Brown Kraft paper is the best, it can be primed with white paint or Gesso
Chromacryl Acrylic paint is best but if not available, a good quality Tempera paint is good too.
Chromacryl Gesso is an option to prime paper
A medium size and a small paint brush per student
A piece of rag to clean per student
Construction: timber, cardboard, plastic bits, corrugated cardboard, jute, rope, some computer parts, aluminium foil, aluminium wire, nails, screws, metal washers, any small metal bits. Plastic cutlery, plastic plates to cut shapes from, any small plastic pieces that can be used creatively.
Note: these materials are suggested materials and can be replaced with other materials already in the classroom storage closet or whatever students can bring from home.
The Temperature of Colour – Cool and Warm Colours
Colour theory can be a difficult concept for young students to understand. The idea for example of cool colours and warm colours and, that in art, warm colours advance towards the viewer and cool colours recede to the background, would be complex.
A good way to teach young children about warm colours and cool colours is to engage them in a hands on project that involves cool colours and warm colours.
We started by looking and talking about Franz Marc’s paintings of horses.
Franz Marc painted a series of colourful horses and other animals going about on colourful meadows. As we talked about the horses the students commented that they were “Happy Horses”. With that idea in mind we started to prepare our drawings of happy horses.
How we did it
Samples of drawings showing different styles.
Draw a square on the centre of a piece of white paper, cartridge paper of about 120 gm./4.23 ounces. or equivalent would be ideal
Draw horses and trees, mountains and meadows across the paper from side to side and from top to bottom.
Apply warm colours using soft oil crayons in such a way that every shape and area within the square is painted with yellows, reds, pinks, oranges browns and so on.
Apply the cool colours outside the square, blues, purples, greens, using a variation of tones.
Notes: if using A3 (11.69” x 16.53”) size paper, make the square at least 20 x 20 cm (7.8” x 7.8”)
The square area can be hand drawn or, use a square piece of cardboard as a template. This will depend on the number of students involved. It will be easy if the students just draw a square or a rectangle or a circle in the middle. What is important is to create two different areas.
We chose to draw horses because of the connection with Franz Marc paintings but the theme could be open, it will depend on the age of the students.
Older students can draw tools which require a more accurate depiction and observation.
Another suggestion is to draw random intercepting lines from corner to corner and from side to side to create abstract shapes to represent the idea that cool colours recede while warm colours appear to advance.
A fun activity involving T-shirts, paint and lots of imagination. The inspiration for the design can be an imaginary character, like a super hero, a picture from a magazine, a cartoon like character, a flower or a plant or a pet dog, cat, bird or horse. There are lots of possibilities in creating a suitable design for a T-Shirt.
This activity is intended for primary school students and middle school students, but also it could be adjusted for young children. The paint used in this project is permanent, it doesn’t come off garments, therefore, aprons or painting shirts are essential.
Students should prepare a small number of preliminary sketches, two or three, and choose one for their final design. After deciding which design will be used, students will draw the chosen design on the T-Shirt using a 6B pencil. Before drawing the design on the fabric, it is important to insert a piece of card or thick paper in the shirt to facilitate the drawing and later on, when painting, to stop the paint going to the back of the T-Shirt.
Ideally, T-Shirts should be white and made of 100% cotton.
We find that the best paint for fabric painting for school students would be a Flow Acrylic Paint like Chromacryl Fluid Concentrated acrylic paint for example. Any acrylic paint can be made into a fabric paint by adding Textile Medium, so if flow paint is not available, classroom acrylic paint would be fine. For this project we have used Chromacryl Textile Medium which is a school quality medium. We found that by adding the medium to the flow paint, it makes painting easier specially when painting small details and lines.
Flow paint comes in small and medium size bottles, a set of three primary colours plus black and white of 250 ml/8.45 oz. bottles should be enough for a class of 30 students.
The best way to dispense flow paint is to use small plastic containers with lids.
Mix ratio: 2 parts of paint and 1part Textile Medium. Place paint in containers, add the Medium and mix well.
To paint very fine lines, use soft squeezable small plastic bottles. To set the paint, place a piece of cotton or paper on top of the design and press with a hot iron.
Note: this method will work with other textile painting projects, like painting on Calico bags or puppets costumes, for example. What is important is to use the right mix of acrylic paint and Textile Medium.
List of Materials
1 100% cotton T-Shirt per student
Flow acrylic paint or classroom acrylic paint in three primary colours, plus black and white
1 medium paint brush per student
1 small paint brush per student
small squeezable plastic bottles (optional)
6B pencils for drawing
A4 (8.27 x 11.69in) size paper for sketching
We use a wide range of art materials in our lessons with a view on utilising recycled resources to be economical and sustainable.
1 ream A3 size 120 gsm cartridge paper or drawing paper of about 80 lbs.
This paper will be good for painting, drawing, printmaking and collage. If budget is small, any kind of brown paper, copy paper, wrapping paper would be good.
Elementary/Primary: Good quality Heavy Body Tempera:
Best results Sax VersaTemp and Chroma2 Heavy Body Tempera in the following colours: 1 x 2lt. – 0.5 gallon – Cool Blue, Cool Red, Cool Yellow, Warm Blue, Warm Red, Warm Yellow, Black and 2 x 2 lt. White.
With these colours many other colours can be mixed.
This tempera paint is versatile as it paints well on different surfaces like paper, cardboard, dried clay and most importantly; it is ideal for printmaking, card printing, foam printing and lino cut printing as long as it is applied on the printing block with a sponge roller.
Water colours: good quality dry or liquid water colour will be fine.
Middle school and high school our best results have been Chromacryl acrylic paint.
Glue should be purchased according to the age group of students. It is important to get a versatile glue especially for the primary years. For construction, collage, textiles, or as a general sealer we use Chromacryl Impasto Gel Medium, a thick non running glue like acrylic gel. For projects that require thinner glue or to seal collages cards for print making, it can be thinned down with water. This item is an OPTION instead of PVA or Mod Podge glue.
Chromacryl Waterproof Drawing Ink, ideal for pen and ink and paint brush drawing, can be thinned down to create grey washes. The best way to dispense ink to students is to pour a bit into clean Jam jars with lids.Ink already dispensed must never be returned to the original bottle as bacteria will spoil the entire content of the bottle. Also, ink diluted with water will develop bacteria very rapidly.
According to the age group: felt pens, black pens are essential for drawing. For young children the felt pens should washable. For older students Sharpies or any other water proof pens are fine. Bamboo pens for young students it is recommended to cut the tips by 1mm for easier handling, very economic pens for ink drawing.
Natural charcoal, willow charcoal, medium size 2 cans of fixative spray or strong hair spray, Derwent pencils ranging from F to B 8 are our favourite range. Black permanent felt pens, medium size tips. This item is presented as an OPTION as pens are expensive. They are effective when applying washes of colour, (water colours, thin down paint) over the drawings as they don’t run.
We use hog hair paint brushes, # 4 and # 6 , cheap round pointed brushes for water colour. For glue we buy cheap short handle brushes.
Cardboard of different sizes and quality, will depend on the project.
For printmaking, 1 x A5 size piece per student, of cardboard about 1 to 2mm thick (straw board). Cardboard can be recycled from students home, see list of recycled materials.
Two and a half year old enjoying clay pressing with her fingers to create patterns.
Simple clay models made with terracotta clay.
Clay modelling is very popular with young children. Terracotta clay is perfect for children to start clay modelling. Experimenting with clay is an important introduction to art in three dimensions.
Type of clay
A big clay block cut up in small cubes
Terracotta clay is the best clay for young children to experiment and to make. Children will spend time finding out what they can do with clay.
As they progress in their experiments teachers can help them to advance step by step by showing technique.
Clay should be moist and soft before dispensing it to students. Small cubes/balls of clay are the best way to set up clay at the clay modelling centre. A medium size plastic container with a lid is best to keep the prepared clay. A clean wet rag on top will keep the clay moist and soft. Any leftover clay can be stored back in the plastic container for the next day. It is very important to check the state of the clay after a week as it could develop mould. Mouldy clay should be thrown away.
Tools should be simple and safe like paddle pop sticks, short garden sticks, small seed pods to create textures, plastic texture combs, plastic bottle tops and the traditional clay modelling tools made of plastic.
Additional equipment: A piece of thick cushion fabric or vinyl to set up a good working surface is important as clay won’t stick on these materials.
A wet cotton rag or a small piece of an old towel for each child to wipe their fingers.
Water should be used only after the students have learnt how to add small bits of water to the clay to join pieces.
When children first start manipulating clay they will discover many different things they can do with it.Pounding: it is a fun thing to do, by pounding a ball of clay children will discover that it will change into a flat piece similar to a pizza formation.
Pressing: children will first press with their fingers and then will use simple tools as sticks, paddle pop sticks and other things like plastic forks and seed pods for example.
Pinching: by pinching clay children will form small bits like leaves for a tree, details like a nose, ears, and hair for a head?
Rolling: by rolling a piece of clay children will make snakes, sausages, nests and whatever their imagination dictates.
It is important at some stage to provide children with visual references to help them to develop their more complex projects like for instance, making a standing figure.
Small figurines of people, animals, toys, things from nature like leaves, seed pods, short sticks, flowers, shells or pictures found on the IPad.
Post cards with interesting pictures of horses, cats, birds, trees, cars, dolls etc.
Cartoons in three dimensions
This video would be for students 5 years and over, but it can be adjusted to younger children. The procedure is an interesting visual experience for young children to follow.
Create different characters inspired on ancient Chinese figurines
This video is an interesting video for young children to watch. They can create many different characters, like animals, birds, people, tress and many more using the same process. For young children, this video can be presented step by step.
For very young children, printmaking is a source of fascination and challenge. Children love the idea of multiples, making not only one image but several.The first prints children make are normally hand prints. As they learn to cut paper they will be able to prepare a printing block/collage and they will be interested in telling stories with shapes.
Printing block preparation: Children will have a small piece of 1mm thick base onto which shapes will be glued. They will cut or tear different shapes of their choice. The base for the printing block should be a bit heavier than the card for the shapes. Manilla card is ideal to cut shapes from. Each student should have at least 2 or 3 shapes.
After the collage/printing blocks are finished, they should be left to dry overnight.
“A walk in the Park”
Older children who have collage experience will cut more shapes to add a narrative to their prints.
Preparing for a printmaking activity should be done in a simple way as a printing station.Follow the steps:
Cover the table with sheets of newspaper for easy cleaning. Provide small containers with wet rags to clean hands and messy equipment.
Set up 2 or three pairs of foam trays, fish and chips kind of trays, one to roll out the paint and the other to apply paint on the collage/block.
Using a foam roller roll out the paint before applying on the collage, see picture.
Place the inked collage/block facing up and then place the paper on top. Rub gently with flat hands, pull the print.
Other ways of making prints with young children
Felt Pen printing: Instead of using paint children will use water soluble felt pens/markers.Use felt pens to draw on a piece of rubbery material or a Gelli Pad*. Wet the paper with a damp clean sponge before printing, place the paper on top of the drawing and rub gently to print.
Monoprinting: is one the first printing experiences for children. It can be done in a very simple way. Roll out paint on a plastic sheet/tray and ask children to use their fingers to create patterns and textures. When the patterns are ready place the paper on top and gently rub it.
Leaf Printing: Find nice big flat leaves in the garden. Place leaf on tray and roll paint on it.
Carefully pick up the painted leaf and place it on the table or a clean tray.
Place paper facing down and rub gently.
1 piece of A5 size cardboard, this could be pieces of cereal boxes, or straw board for the base of the collage/printing block
1 piece of A4 size Manilla card, from old Manilla folders to cut the shapes from.
Sicssors according to age group
Coloured chalk or felt pens to draw big shapes on the Manilla card, Glue, ordinary classroom glue
2 or 4 foam trays, fish and chips kind of trays
2 foam rollers
4 pieces of paper to print on per student. Paper can be cartridge paper, copy paper, brown paper, coloured paper or pages of old books or magazines.
Rags to clean.
One clothes drying rack with pegs to hang up the prints to dry.
Note: * Gelli Pads are commercially available from school art materials suppliers.
Printmaking video lessons
A simple Printmaking Project to do at home or in the classroom, using leaves to create prints, repetition prints and greeting cards using basic equipment.
Printing on cards is a very creative way to have fun and let children create some really fun projects.
An economical way to do printmaking at home or in the classroom. Discover printmaking and the idea of multiple images using a food tray from your kitchen to create beautiful repetition prints, single prints and greeting cards.