Ethiopian Baskets

This year for Black History Month I wanted to represent our school community with our art project. I have a large Ethiopian student population at my school. I investigated what types of crafts and art they have in their culture. I found several examples of incredibly bright and beautiful baskets in photographs online. I had done basket weaving before with students during a Native American unit. So I tweaked my project to include more bright colors, geometric patterns, and raffia.

We used a Styrofoam bowl from the grocery store as our loom. The students cut nine slits into the styrofoam bowl and then tied on yarn. You have to have an odd number of slits so when students are weaving in and out they don’t need to skip any slits. Students would just tie on a new color and continue going around and around the bowl until they reached the top. When they reached the top then they would begin experimenting with raffia.

I told the students to try tying knots, making bows, creating bundles and tying those on, even incorporating some of the yarn and raffia into pom-poms.

Some things to keep in mind with this project is that Ethiopian baskets are extremely bright and colorful. Many of them incorporate both tan and bright colors. So I had pulled out my brightest colors of yarn along with some tan yarns for the students to create patterns with as they wove.

Also, most Ethiopian baskets have a geometric pattern inside. I had the students use colored Sharpie markers to draw a radial design in the bottom of the bowl. When we hung them up I would just staple the bottoms of the bowls to the bulletin boards.

during this project some of my students who are Ethiopian volunteered to share with the class some aspects of their culture in a written report. The students presented the written report to the class -highlighting the different types of food, holidays, and languages they have in Ethiopia. I learned a lot through this part of the project as I am not familiar with Ethiopian culture. The children taught me how the baskets are used in every day life in Ethiopia. They explained that the larger baskets with lids are used to hold bread and keep it warm, while the flatter baskets have different dishes of food set out.

What projects do you have lined up for February? Please share below in the comments.

Van Gogh Sunflowers

For the beginning of the school year I like to choose a project that is communal, and small for each child to participate in. This leaves a lot of time for them to learn all of my procedures and rules during the class period. any good teacher and as of the first two weeks of school it’s all about rules and procedures so that the rest of the school year can run smoothly. This year I created a new lesson based on Van Gogh’s Sunflowers. Each child was responsible for creating a sunflower in two class periods. Also, during these two class periods we would go over all of my procedures, safety, and rules for the art room. We also reviewed the fire drill.

To start the project I presented the students the Sunflowers painting. We talked about what they saw. They told me about circles, I taught them by geometric shapes. They told me about cylinders and the shape of the vase. We talked about warm colors, analogous colors, I showed them the color wheel. I asked them What the subject of the paining wise: self portrait, portrait, landscape, or still life? I was actually pleasantly surprised to find that all of my kids knew that it was a still life! This is one of my school districts objectives: to teach the subjects in art. Kids should learn the four subjects in art upfront, so that way they are familiar with them throughout the school year.

The students also mentioned to me that there was blue in the background of the painting, this was a cool color. This also gave me a moment to explain to them that I expect to always see a background in their artwork. I don’t want them just to draw the main idea of their project and leave a lot of empty white space.

I passed out 6″ x 6″ white sheets of paper to each student and a pencil on the first day. Each student to their sunflower. On the second day we read Camille and the Sunflowers, to get a better idea about the artist life, and his intent and painting this work of art. This is a really great book to introduce students to life and art of Vincent van Gogh, however it keeps out some of the darker parts of his life. At the very end of the book if your students are older there is a very straightforward biography about him. However with my students being kindergarten through fifth grade I want to keep it a little bit lighter.

On the second day of class we also colored in and cut out our sunflowers. Kindergarten needed some assistance, however I was pleasantly surprised most of them could cut out your sunflowers relatively well. I did remind students of the work of art is a pretty realistic work of art, therefore I expected them to use the warm colors we talked about in class. Afterwards, I used butcher paper to create the background and vases for each of my five murals in the hallway of our school. All together there are 800 sunflowers in these murals. I spent one prep every day for a week stapling up my sunflowers. Luckily they were up in time for open house!

My other lucky little bit during all of this was that our school’s brand new community garden had two large blooming sunflowers while we were creating our works of art! They definitely inspired my students!