The 4th graders are focusing on identifying symmetry and understanding what proportion is in art and nature. We look at several of his images and talk about how he simplifies the animals and plants he is inspired by into more geometric shapes. We then look at how, in many of these images, symmetry is present. It could be in one element or it could be the entire composition.
We then look at the focus image for the lesson. It's called "The Wrenters". In this piece 2 wrens have made a human skull their home and filled it with nesting materials.
I have students identify what parts show symmetry and what parts throw the symmetry off. I then introduce the concept of proportion and how it is essentially how things fit together into a larger whole. Proper proportion is when the parts look they are a good fit or size for the whole thing. I demonstrate this on the board by doing a quick skull drawing and making the eye sockets way to big for the skull. I make them too small. I do the same thing with the nose hole. I ask them to be aware of this when they are making these same shapes on their own skull images.
The image that we are making is collage and drawing. I have the students fold a piece of paper for the skull, identifying the fold as the line of symmetry. We mark the folded paper on the right side edge at 3 points- 1/4, 1/2, and 3/4, so we can refer to them as we draw the skull shape. The skull shape gets drawn and cut. We then fold a black piece of paper and do some eye measuring for the nose and eye sockets. I ask the kids to make the nose shape about a 1/3 of the skull from cheekbone to head top and the eye sockets about half that size. Before gluing the shapes on, I ask students to place them on the skull to see if they're a good fit. If not, they can try again with their leftover paper.
We add lines to the skull to add detail and more symmetry with colorsticks. Then we cut out the bird shapes, add detail to them, and then add the branches and leaves to the image.
At the end of the activity, students fill out an exit slip to reinforce the visual art, math, and ELA content of the lesson. Students must identify what parts of their image show symmetry and they need to look for contrast between their image and Charley's image.
Note- I do not think of this as a holiday image. Some of my students believed so. Also, a few students thought it was a little disturbing. I told each class how a doctor had a skull from medical school and had left it in his backyard, and that birds made it their home. I got this from the story from the Charley Harper studio website description of the image. I explained that it may be a little disturbing to us, but to the birds, that skull represents nothing but shelter from the elements.
I did have a student that was really upset by the image and I had them work from another image that Charley did, while still being able to work with symmetry and proportion.