During the ‘95-’96 school year, the flexibility I usually enjoy in my K-5 Visual Art classes was somewhat diminished by administrative dictates. I did, however, incorporate as much Environmental History into my lessons as possible and, as usual, I found that most of my students were interested in learning more. The plans I developed last summer at the EHI were tried and proved to be successful.
I used “Polluted Patterns” with Kindergarten and Third Grade, and all students were successful. The discussion about water was on a higher level with the older children, but even the youngest of the kindergartners understood the lesson. This activity is actually simple but I believe students on the secondary level could enjoy it too.
“Urban Environments” was presented to Fifth Graders. Most of my students really enjoyed this activity. I began with a presentation on architecture and then led into environmental history and urban housing. The students worked individually or in groups, and the finished products were great.
For “Wild Styles” the students worked individually. Some of the fashions they created were wild indeed. This lesson was done in Second and Fourth grades and was successful on both levels. Our Second Graders were fortunate to see a presentation of African dance and after the show, I was told that several students questioned the dancers about their costumes. They remembered “Wild Styles” and wondered if the dancers couldn’t make their costume out of fabric instead of skins!
The plans I have included can be adapted for differing grade levels. They can be springboards for, or enhancements to, other lessons you might have. I, like others of my profession, seize opportunity when it knocks--which is what happened when I was talking with one of my classes about black and white photography. I tempted them with one photo by Ansel Adams and one by Dorothea Lange and proceeded from there to a discussion of the Dust Bowl. The next week I took what photos I had on hand from that era and they wanted more. Unfortunately those students may experience first hand another Dust Bowl if we don’t get some rain!
I selected one class to work on Frances Cortez-Stokes’s lesson “Rag Rugs.” We made big messes, small rugs, a few coasters and a “Rag Hat” (don’t forget to add those stitches!). The kids had fun, learned a craft while learning history, and impacted the environment in a positive way. One of my Special Education classes finally talked me into letting them make rugs too. They were not too successful with the rugs, but they had a good time trying, and they enjoyed the history lesson to boot.
All the information on Environmental History that I shared with my students was well received. I will continue to try new ideas and incorporate as much as I can of what I learned at the Environmental History Institute. It has been a positive experience all the way around.
Lesson Plans developed for Environmental History Institute, funded and sponsored by National Endowment for the Humanities and Kansas State University, Summer, 1995.
Overview: These lessons will explore our world from both artistic and environmental historical perspectives.
Cognitive Goals: These lessons will increase the child’s awareness of self and the earth.
Behavioral Objective: The students will:
Connection to the Curriculum: In my district, character development is integrated into the curriculum at the elementary level. These lessons tie into that by increasing/improving the students’ self-esteem as well as teaching them to be better citizens by making responsible choices. In addition, these lessons tie into social studies (environmental history and American history) and fine art.
The activities will increase the students’ knowledge of art history, composition/ design, process, and social studies, improve critical thinking and decision making, and they will be fun!
Assessments: As you see fit. (In my fine arts classes, grades are generally for participation. If a child attempts the activity, credit is given.)
Environmental Focus: water
Materials, Resources, Equipment:
Time Required: 30-45 minutes/15 students
Environmental Focus: urban housing
Materials, Resources, Equipment:
Time Required: a lot (8-10 hours)
Environmental Focus: environmental impact of fashions
Time Required: minimum 1 hour, probably closer to 2