The month of February is African American history month. I observed first hand when I was teaching inner city schools the pride my students experienced when their heritage and history was recognized and honored. I developed several art lesson plans that I would teach during this time frame. One lesson plan that the students enjoyed creating was African masks. I would show them a Power Point with photos of African masks.
The process of creating the masks can offer variations and be changed from year to year by either using colored construction paper and the students draw with markers or craypas or using white paper and the students painting the designs. A pattern for the masks is provided so that the size and placement of the eyes will be correct. After the masks have been cutout and decorated with surface designs, other materials can be added by gluing. Assorted materials can include but are not limited to, cut construction paper in different colors, twine, yarn, moss, etc. The art work was then displayed and many times the students asked when they would be able to take their finished artwork home so they could proudly show their parents. This art project is adaptable for all ages of students. My students never tired of this project from year to year and looked forward to it because each mask was different. They especially enjoyed adding materials for hair which can be yarn or moss, but also can be folded strips of construction paper cut in thin strips or for curly hair show them how to wrap it around a pencil and pull tight.
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In a suburb of Atlanta, Ga. not far from where I live there is a beautiful structure that transports your mind to India with a first glance. The BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir Temple sets back on the large property which also includes a restaurant, activity buildings, and gift shops. A large pond with a waterfall sets the landscape in front of the temple reminding me of the scenery I have seen in photographs of the Taj Mahal, considered one of the seven wonders of the world. What is a mandir? Described as a haven for spirituality and a place of paramount peace, a mandir is also a Hindu place of worship. The architecture of the building is lavishly detailed carvings in Italian marble, Turkish limestone, and Indian pink sandstone. The BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir opened in August, 2007 after 17 months of construction and 1.3 million volunteer hours. The delicately carved individual pieces (over 34,000) of the temple were carved by hand in India, shipped to the USA and then assembled in Lilburn, Ga. It is the largest Hindu temple in the world outside of India. Serving approximately 500 families in its congregation, it also serves as a haven for spirituality and a place of paramount peace for adults and children.
According to their website,” the BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha (BAPS), a worldwide socio-spiritual organization in Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations, is dedicated to community service, peace and harmony. Motivated by Hindu principles, BAPS strives to care for the world by caring for societies, families and individuals. Through a number of social and spiritual activities, BAPS endeavors to produce better citizens of tomorrow who have a high esteem for their roots – their rich Hindu culture. Its 3,300 international centers support these activities of character-building. Under the guidance and leadership of His Divine Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj, BAPS aspires to build a community that is morally, ethically and spiritually pure.”
The mandir is open daily and free for visitors. The beauty and serenity of the temple will touch your soul and spirit and leave you in awe of this amazing architecture.
Everyone is familiar with the traditional system of education and the familiarity of public or private school. In the last few years, charter school have started to spring up, but what is a charter school and how could it be defined. Charter schools are primary or secondary schools that receive public money and like other schools can also receive private donations. The difference is that they have more flexibility than traditional public schools. They are expected to produce certain results set forth in the school’s charter. Instead of being assigned to a specific school, are attended by choice. In exchange for the flexibility, they receive less funding than public schools which usually is a certain amount per student, referred to as head funds. They do not receive facilities funds which typically pays for a public schools maintenance. Charter school are considered a part of the public educational systems and are not allowed to charge tuition. Often the enrollment is subject to a lottery system, if it is oversubscribed, but it is open to all students. Charter school students are required to take state mandated exams and are a positive option for those seeking an option to public school.
Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday is celebrated on January 15 and a wonderful classroom project to commemorate the event is to have the students create famous African American collages. When I was teaching art in inner city school, I would always try to start the art projects early enough in January to commemorate Dr. King’s birthday, but to also begin a display that would commemorate African American History month which is recognized each year during the month of February. I found that all children love to learn about any holiday or event that is recognized, but especially if represents their race or heritage. Although I introduced these activities in art class, they would be suitable in any classroom situation. I wrote the lesson plan for African American History collages for elementary school aged students, preferably for third through fifth grade but this could also be used for middle or high school aged students. I came up with the idea after observing that the children were very frustrated when trying to draw portraits of famous people because they rarely resembled or recognized the person. I had an idea about creating collages with printed images that I found on the internet. I would search on Google and then save the images and combine as many images as I could on one page and the print the images in black and white.
The students were instructed to create a background for their collage first. If time is not a factor and there is plenty of time, a background can be painted using watercolor or tempera paints. Time should be allowed for the background to dry if choosing this method. The other method of creating a background can be using scraps of colored paper that the students cut and glue to a heavier piece of paper or tag board. Each student is then given a choice of five printed images of their favorite African-American heroes which have been previously cut loose, but not in detail. Next they should be instructed to cut very carefully around the figure so it will show up well and with good detail on their collage. Markers can be used to add lines of contrast if desired. The students have always been very proud of their creations and also learn to identify African-American heroes.