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Folk-Art Weathervanes

Step back in time to create a modern version of Americana! Use your knowledge about types of lines, too.

  • Grade 5
    Grade 6
    Grades 7 and 8
  • Multiple Lesson Periods
  • Directions

    1. Investigate examples of traditional American Folk Art, especially pictures and the history of weathervanes and whirligigs. Whirligigs were created primarily for amusement, but weathervanes were placed on top of most buildings in the late 1880s to show wind direction. That information helped farmers decide what to do on a particular day. Symbols such as roosters and horses are often found on weathervanes. Have students find the stories behind these symbols.
    2. Draw a weathervane on Crayola Color Explosion™ paper with the color-reveal markers. Outline the symbol and wind-direction arrows on the top half of the paper. The base of the weathervane goes below it, and contains the four wind-direction letters. Let the drawing dry before continuing.
    3. To decorate the design, try different value techniques that are especially striking with Color Explosion. Stipple for example is when an artist creates lots of separate little dots. Change the effects of stippling by changing the size of the dots (press harder or lighter with the marker) and by spacing the dots close together or far apart. Experiment!
    4. Another neat design technique is called crosshatch. Draw parallel straight lines. Make diagonal lines going across. Draw some close together and others farther apart. Make different values by adding parallel lines that are perpendicular to these lines (overlapping them). Try different effects.
    5. Students compare their American Folk Art with traditional examples. Display the art and explain what the symbol means.
  • Standards

    LA: Read with sufficient accuracy and fluency to support comprehension.

    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: Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling when writing.

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

    SCI: Ask questions about the natural and human-built worlds.

    SS: Describe ways in which language, stories, folktales, music, and artistic creations serve as expressions of culture and influence behavior of people living in a particular culture.

    VA: Intentionally take advantage of the qualities and characteristics of art media, techniques, and processes to enhance communication of experiences and ideas.

    VA: Select and use the qualities of structures and functions of art to improve communication of ideas.

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

  • Adaptations

    Possible classroom resources include: Folk Art Weather Vanes by John A. Nelson; American Antique Weather Vanes: The Complete Illustrated Westervelt Catalog of 1883 by A.B. & W.T. Westervelt

    Students research how and why weathervanes became a popular addition to households in the latter half of the 19th century by farmers, fishermen, construction workers, and other outdoor workers.

    If the concept of weathervanes were to be re-developed for contemporary use, what would they look like? What symbols would be used today? What materials would they be made of in order to be affordable for the average person? Students investigate these questions and organize their findings in an electronic format for sharing with classmates.


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  • Creativity.
  • Capacity.
  • Collaboration.
  • Change.
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