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"In sculpture, the finish and detail is just as important as the form"

As close as you'll get to a lesson plan around here

One of the first units I created, when beginning as an art teacher was 'SteamPunk Robots', which has evolved each year, to become 'Steampunk Starwars', and 'SteamPunk Superheroes'. The beauty of this unit, is that it takes the familiar, and twists it with creativity and individual expression. This helps students understand that you have to explore the features of an art movement or style in order to express yourself within that same style. It also teaches that form, and final detail are both important elements of a sculpture.

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I love to begin the Unit with an 'exploring media' session, which allows the students to investigate the process they will follow, in a quick 80 minute start to finish experience. This could easily be broken into two shorter lessons if you are restricted by a shorter time (making in session one and painting in session two). We planned this session to coincide with a 'Learning Share' so that parents could come in and work along side their kids; making their own piece.

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All materials for the unit are laid out and ready to go on day one, with examples, and step by step charts on display. The images below, show the 4 steps of the finishing process... building and glueing details/ painting dark brown (with a mix of brown acrylic and PVA glue/ dry brushing with a lighter colour/ finishing with a gold rub (I use gilding wax). There are hairdryers available around the room to assist with drying. Considering I had up to 50 people in the room making their samples during the learning share, the hairdryers got a good use. :) During this preliminary lesson, all students (and parents) had a small triangle to work on, which were joined together to make a wall mural (I use different interlocking shapes every year).

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The next step was to take a break from making and explore the themes of the unit... examining both superheroes and Steampunk. Students completed a range of observational, compare and contrast and design activities (seen below). We used graphic organisers such as Venn Diagrams as well as Visual Thinking Routines to investigate the features of the themes. These tool assisted students in identifying and creating a list of success criteria for their designs. The success criteria were then displayed in the room, for students to refer to; see below in the right hand image.

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Once all the research was done, students would begin designing and making. I started them on a collaborative whole class design, where the students were randomly assigned a part of the larger creation, and then worked together to design the final piece. In most of the examples seen on this page, students are working on superhero suits (one per class). Once the designs were complete, they either helped other students to finish, or started designing their own Suit, or part of a suit. The whole unit takes approximately 8 weeks to finish, and the end result, should leave the school with some large art pieces to display as well as individual pieces to take home.

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It is an absolute joy to be in a room where students are working at the edge of their capacity, but given enough support in the environment to be self led, and create completely different art pieces, whilst working within the perimeters of a theme. The Learning involved meant that we could discuss broader contexts (understanding that art movements contain definable features); the Elements of art and design (Form, texture, movement, etc); wider contexts (Steampunk, up-cycling, etc) and also transferable discussions and understandings. Resourcing for the unit can be very broad. I have access to a laser cutter, but in past years, have had students and staff bring in broken appliances; laser printers, coffee machines and vacuum cleaners are a personal favourite as they contain a multitude of pipes and gears (Just make sure you dispose of the toxic parts, glass and circuit boards appropriately).

give it a go

Im sure this unit can be taught a million different ways, and adapted to many different themes and styles, combining alternative art movements with pop culture. I would love to hear comments if you found this helpful, please share your learning and ideas with me as you explore :)