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A Case of Ge-OWL-metry

In Greek mythology, Athena is the goddess of wisdom, her emblem is the owl. Long considered the “wise old owl”, this lesson will give greater wisdom into the geometry of nature as students construct their own geometrically inspired owl!

  • Grade 5
    Grade 6
  • 60 to 90 Minutes
  • Directions

    1. This is a collaborative lesson for art, math and language arts teachers. Students learn vocabulary from all disciplines as they create an owl image using the geometry of the circle. Working with shapes, textures, color and pattern makes each of the geometrical designs unique through artistic choices. Reading the book, “Sir Cumference and the First Round Table” by Cindy Neuschwander and Wane Geehan. Students write a personal poem about the owl that brings together this interdisciplinary experience for everyone.
    2. Review or introduce the following vocabulary terms: circle, chord, diameter, radius, arc, circumference, and compass. Students will write the term and definition in their journals or notebooks.
    3. Begin the first part of the lesson by leading a discussion about circles. Students may list what they know and learn in their notebooks or journals along with their vocabulary words and definitions. Using the white board, draw the elements of the circle as they are discussed and encourage students to use both numbers and words in their notes as well as the drawings of each.
    4. The book “Sir Cumference and the First Round Table” is a great resource for students to hear as a read aloud. As they listen students will hear many of the geometry terms in the story. Have students discuss what they have heard and how geometry terms were used at the close of the read aloud.
    5. Provide each student a compass and a ruler. Demonstrate how the point on the compass is the center of the circle being drawn. Also, allow time for students to practice reading the measurement guide on the compass. Monitor as students familiarize themselves with the spinning of the compass from the top. When familiarized, encourage students to practice several different sizes of circles; for example: Make one circle 1 inch (3cm), another circle 2.5 inches (6cm), etc.
    6. Using images of owls, both photographs and graphics created by visual artists, ask for feedback from the class as they share what they see. Evaluate the shape, symmetry, details, and setting, list and draw. Google Images is a good resource for this part of the lesson. This could be done as a class or individually as computer time.
    7. Give each student a 9” X 12” piece of white drawing paper (22.86 cm x 30.48 cm). The paper should be oriented in the portrait (vertical) position for this drawing. Using a ruler, students will begin by measuring down from the top 2” (5.1cm) on both sides of the paper; connect these two measurements with a horizontal line. Find the center of the line, which will be 4¼” (11 cm). Two 2” (5.1 cm) circumference circles will be drawn side by side, next to the exact center of the line. The two circles are the eyes. Encourage students to draw two more circles inside, concentrically. These will be the bright centers of eyes of the nocturnal owl measuring approximately ¾” and ½” in circumference. Allow students to make choices in how large they would like the centers of the eyes to be as this will give more individuality in the final art work.
    8. Draw a 2” (5.1cm) vertical line straight down from the center of the horizontal line. Finding the center of each circle, draw a diagonal line down to the end of the 2” (5.1cm) vertical line. This will form the beak of the owl. From this point in the lesson, students may experiment with using the compass to draw much larger arcs to create the top of the owl’s head, the body, wings, even feathers. Students outline this first drawing (blue-print) with permanent marker.
    9. Use a photocopier to create multiples of the “blue-print” owls. Not all of the copies need to be the same size. Students might want to create a family of owls, large, medium, and small. Return the photocopies and the original drawings for students to complete using art materials. Final artwork can be collaged onto a dark background. Provide construction paper that is 12” x 18” (30.48 cm x 45.72 cm). If too large, this can be trimmed later. Giving students the large sized paper allows more freedom to imagine the environment they want to create for their owls. Suggest using a variety of paper and techniques in the final collage piece. For example; tree limbs can be created by tearing a long strip of dark paper for the owl to “perch” upon, the owl’s feet could be cut from bright yellow cardstock and overlapped on the branch for depth.
    10. Use Crayola Construction Paper Crayons for this art piece so students can create a night scene with stars and the moon in the background. Use Crayola Metallic Markers and Crayola Erasable Colored Pencils to add details such as glowing eyes, feathers and beaks. Glue all pieces of the collage with Crayola Washable No-Run Glue.
    11. Read the “Wise Old Owl” poem aloud to students. Suggest that students create their own owl poem using free verse, diamante or haiku format. Share the poetry aloud in class; display the written poetry with the final artwork.
  • Standards

    LA: Use knowledge of language and its conventions when writing, speaking, reading, or listening.

    LA: Expand, combine, and reduce sentences for meaning, reader/listener interest, and style.

    LA: Compare and contrast the varieties of English (e.g., dialects, registers) used in stories, dramas, or poems.

    LA: Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade level topics and texts, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly.

    MATH: Recognize and draw shapes having specified attributes, such as a given number of angles or a given number of equal faces.1 Identify triangles, quadrilaterals, pentagons, hexagons, and cubes.

    SCI: Develop models to describe that organisms have unique and diverse life cycles but all have in common birth, growth, reproduction, and death.

    VA: Use observation and investigation in preparation for making a work of art.

    VA: Experiment with various materials and tools to explore personal interests in a work of art or design.

    VA: Discuss and reflect with peers about choices made in creating artwork.

  • Adaptations

    Students draw only the eyes and beak using the compass then collage the rest of the geometric owl piece. Provide cardboard or poster board for the outer shape of the owl body. When students have colored the compass portion of the art work, glue onto the cut out shape of the owl’s body. Glue feathers, wings, feet onto the background creating bilateral symmetry in a relief sculpture!

    Instead of owls as the subject matter, follow the same steps to create a panda bear, the head of a cat or dog, dragon or fish. Instead of collage, use only dry media for a more traditional 2D project.

    Create owl puppets by assembling all of the collage materials onto brown paper lunch bags, design both front and back of the bag so the owl can be seen in the round.

    Write a class song about owls, video a production of the entire class singing the owl song using their puppets as the performers!


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