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Embassy Benches

Engage students in real life problem solving by inviting them to play the role of artists commissioned to create works of art for US embassies.

  • Grade 5
    Grade 6
    Grades 7 and 8
  • 60 to 90 Minutes
  • Directions

    1. Discuss how artists get work through commissions. What is a commission? Why do individuals and organizations commission art?
    2. Introduce students to the Foundation for Art and Preservation in Embassies (FAPE). Show examples of the various types of art that have been created for this program such as murals, gardens, etc. Discuss the attributes of benches, how they serve to bring people together and encourage conversation.
    3. Challenge students to design benches for installation in US embassies around the world. Suggest that they create basic bench structures from small, recycled cardboard boxes covered with construction paper. (A box that contained a tube of toothpaste works well.) Some students may wish to work independently; others may benefit from working with a partner so they can discuss various ideas for the project.
    4. Invite students to decorate their benches with visual symbols that reflect the cultures of the countries where the benches will be installed. How might such benches encourage conversation and international understanding? Encourage students to reflect on recent social studies units and/or do some original research to learn more about the cultures of the countries where their benches will be installed.
    5. Provide time for them to create and decorate their benches using various materials. Some may wish to create images on scraps of white drawing paper using Crayola® Ultra-Clean Washable Markers and then cut these images out and glue them onto the benches using Crayola Glue Sticks. Such designs show up especially well in contrast to dark colored backgrounds. Crayola Metallic Markers and Crayola Glitter Markers are also effective on dark backgrounds.
    6. Create a display of all the benches. Invite students to create text panels to accompany their art work. Gather the students together to view the benches and to discuss the variety of interpretations of this assignment. In what ways are the benches similar and in what ways are they different? Examine the variety of cultural symbols.
  • Standards

    LA: Write informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas, concepts, and information through the selection, organization, and analysis of relevant content.

    LA: Analyze the purpose of information presented in diverse media and formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively, orally) and evaluate the motives (e.g., social, commercial, political) behind its presentation.

    SS: Give examples and describe the importance of cultural unity and diversity within and across groups.

    SS: Describe how people create places that reflect ideas, personality, culture, and wants and needs as they design homes, playgrounds, classrooms, and the like.

    VA: Select media, techniques, and processes; analyze what makes them effective or not effective in communicating ideas; and reflect upon the effectiveness of their choices.

    VA: use subjects, themes, and symbols that demonstrate knowledge of contexts, values, and aesthetics that communicate intended meaning in artworks.

  • Adaptations

    Encourage older students to consider a wide variety of art projects for embassy installations, not just benches. Ask: “If you were commissioned to create a work of art for installation in a US Embassy for the purpose of promoting international understanding, what would you create?" Ask students to consider both the form (mural, playground, sculpture, garden, etc.) and its actual design.

    Give students an opportunity to practice writing dialog by inviting them to write imaginary conversations that reflect an effort to achieve understanding between two people sitting on the benches they created.

    Invite someone with experience in the foreign service to speak to the students about the work of ambassadors.

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