Collaborative Zentangle(R) for School Beautification

Timeframe: 4- 1 hour sessions for student work, plus 2-4 hours teacher preparation and assembly time
Grade Level: 2nd-5th
Materials: two 4 feet by 8 feet wood panels, exterior latex paint, paintbrushes, black permanent markers, drill, screws

My school hosted a Peace Event in January for all students who had kept the peace during the first semester of school by not receiving any discipline referrals. Each grade level participated in several fun activities that day, including the creation of this Zentangle for School Beautification.

Here's what we did:

I worked with several parents to secure supplies for the project. One parent's business sold us the wood at cost and then cut one of the panels into 6 wavy pieces. You can see that each of the pieces has the shape of a vase. I was able to load the smaller pieces into my SUV and carry them into the school myself. (Although, I did drop one on my foot which required medical attention! Don't let anyone ever tell you that being an art teacher is easy!) The largest piece (the uncut panel) had to be delivered. (Hindsight is 20/20, I should have had all of the pieces delivered! Ha!)

Two days before the event, I worked with students and several other teachers to draw the Zentangle patterns on the smaller pieces, and circles on the uncut panel. We drew them with a pencil first, then traced the lines with a black permanent marker to make them more easily visible. It might be helpful to know that my students had spent quite a lot of the first semester learning about patterns and Zentangles. This is what made the design of the panels a success.

After the patterns were drawn on the pieces, I put one dot of paint into each section so that students would easily be able to add the correct colors.

On the day of the event, several teachers and parent volunteers helped me to set up tables in our gym for working. We placed large black trash bags everywhere in hopes of minimizing the mess that this had the potential of making. (I was surprised that no paint was spilled or dropped in our gym! The students really took extra care with this project. I was quite proud!)

Here I have to admit that I was VERY nervous about beginning the painting part of this project. I was unsure about so many of the aspects of pulling this off. I had put a lot of planning into it, however, and it worked out beautifully. I have to thank my wonderful parent volunteers for this! They were a big help, and it couldn't have been successful without them.

Each grade level was divided into 4 groups. Each group worked on the project for about 15 minutes. So, this was a very fast paced activity! There were 16 groups of students, about 500 students total. Since the pieces were placed on tables, all students had to do when it was time to rotate to the next activity (after 15 minutes!!!) was place the paintbrush back in the container with the correct color of paint. We used old butter and sour cream containers for the paint. These worked well because they could support the weight of a few paintbrushes without tipping over.

The older students painted after the younger students. They were able to straighten out lines the younger students had painted as well as add extra coats of paint to cover spots missed. This was very helpful! The older students have better developed fine motor skills and were able to make this a truly collaborative project.

After the event, I let the pieces dry for about a week. Not that it took that long, I just didn't have time to check on them before a week had passed! One of our custodians and the security officer moved the pieces to my building where I stored them for about a month before the maintenance department came to hang them. Maintenance used a drill to hang the uncut panel on the wall first and then attached the smaller pieces on top. Notice that they overlap to create depth. In other words,the pieces were not reassembled to fit together like a puzzle. They were layered and mismatched so that some parts are closer to you and others are farther away. In some places, the boards are overlapped 3 times.

The piece was hung in the school's office. I had to climb on a ladder to paint the sides and edges of the piece after it was hung because it was so large I wasn't able to do so beforehand.

I want to mention that I wish all of our students had been able to work on this project. Even though the majority did, the small percentage of students who did not attend the Peace Event missed this opportunity. However, hopefully this provides some incentive for more positive behavior in the future!

I heard a lot of positive feedback from the faculty and administrators about this project after it was hung in our office. I have also heard a lot of positive feedback from parents. I think that the students are very proud of themselves for creating this work of art to make their school a more beautiful place. This endeavor turned out to have been very successful and worthwhile. It brought so many students, teachers, support staff, and parents together. We call collaborated on this school beautification project! We all truly have something in which to be proud!

Copyright 2013- There's a Party in the Art Room- Amanda E. Koonlaba

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