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Arts & Activities - Page 26

classroom COLLABORATION by Sarah Lawrence W inters can be long in Illinois and students often feel trapped inside during dreary days. As a teacher, it can be a challenge this time of year to keep them motivated, engaged and on-task during art class. Sculptures have always been an interest of mine, so I decided to share my enthusiasm about this art form with my fifth-graders. To begin the project, I shared pictures and videos of some sculptures by Alexander Calder, Edgar Degas and Henry Moore. Then, using 20-gauge wire and simple wire-cutting tools, I demonstrated how wire could be bent and twisted into simple armatures of people and animals, then posed to represent a dancer or running dog. Students then began forming their sculptures, challenged and excited by this new art experience. Next, the addition of water-soaked plaster gauze gave the figures new form. As they worked, students were referring to the sculptures of Henri Moore as they proceeded. I felt I had achieved my goal of engaging them in a positive way during the long winter. BiG iDea: a GiraFFe Soon, a small group of students came to me with the idea of making a sculpture for an upcoming curriculum fair. They wanted it to be BIG, and because they were studying Africa and its wildlife at the time, they wanted it to be a giraffe. After group discussions, trips to the library and internet searches, the students concluded that a 20-foot-tall adult giraffe would be much too large for our halls, but a baby giraffe would be perfect. Thus, Riddle the giraffe (named after our school) was “conceived.” Students used their recesses and time after school sketching, discussing and designing. A donated sawhorse and a length of wood became the giraffe’s armature. After reading about the construction in the town paper, a local businessman donated his time to help students construct Riddle’s head. A visit to the local hardware store resulted in additional supply purchases of chicken wire, duct tape and nails, all to add bulk to the armature. riDDLe taKes shaPe Once the form of the giraffe was molded on the armature in chicken wire, it was time to add plaster-soaked gauze. While it’s a wonderful medium to work with, you must be sure to lay down plenty of newspaper to absorb any splatters. As they carefully smoothed each piece of gauze in place, 26 “riddle” students discovered warm water made the giraffe. the gauze harden quicker than cold water. After a few days, the plaster had set and was thoroughly dry. It was time to paint the giraffe! Over the months, the giraffe became the talk of the school. As the chilly temperatures continued to drop, the level of enthusiasm in the art room soared. Teachers and administrators frequently checked on the giraffe’s progress. Fathers and mothers visited the art room to see Riddle and comment on their children’s excitement about the project. Even my younger students were thrilled with the new addition to the art room, and they began drawing giraffes and horses. A glaze of tempera gloss varnish gave Riddle a durable waterproof finish. The giraffe’s ossicones or “horns” were covered in fun fur to simulate a real giraffe. After adding a rope tail, our baby giraffe was ready for display. Our project was a success. Riddle the giraffe now stands proudly in our school’s entr y welcoming teachers, students, parents and other visitors. After months of planning and construction, the project was complete. We were all pleased with our new 8-foot-tall baby giraffe. I could finally relax. That is, until one of my fourth-grade students asked, “What animal are we going to make as fifth-graders next year?” Five winters have quickly passed since then. Riddle the giraffe now has companions throughout the school. He is joined by Alli the gator (with baby Junior), Ella the elephant, Wilbur the pig, Charlotte the spider and America the eagle, a tribute to our troops overseas. Winters are no longer so dreary around Riddle School. n Sarah Lawrence is an art instructor at Riddle Elementary School in Mattoon, Ill. Photographs by Ron Ghere. may 2013 • 80 years x

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