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Hidden Images

Hidden images magically appear from within a grid of geometric shapes when students use contrasting colors to define them.

  • Grade 4
    Grade 5
    Grade 6
  • 60 to 90 Minutes
  • Directions

    1. Show students examples of visual illusions created from geometric shapes. Many quilt patterns make especially good examples. Encourage observation and discussion of how color, line, shape, and contrast contribute to the effectiveness of illusions.
    2. Distribute white paper, rulers, and Crayola® Crayons, Markers, and/or Colored Pencils and invite students to create geometrically based illusions of their own.
    3. Suggest the use of a ruler and pencil to lightly grid their papers into squares approximately 1” x 1”. These can then be divided into triangles by drawing diagonal lines across the paper. Emphasize the use of the ruler to keep lines straight and squares perfect.
    4. Once students have completed the grids, ask if they can “see” images formed by the squares and triangles. Invite suggestions and ask a few students to demonstrate what they see. Can someone form a house, a fish, or some other image from a combination of adjacent geometric shapes? Ask each student to select one particular image and color it in on the gridded paper. Then invite them to create a pattern of such images across the entire paper leaving spaces between them.
    5. Discuss what colors might contrast with the color of their images. Those who used a light or bright color for their images might find that a dark background will create the best contrast and vice versa. Contrasting colors will make the images “pop” off the page. The use of complementary colors (purple and yellow, red and green, blue and orange) also enhances illusions.
    6. Some students may wish to add a few details to more clearly define their images, but suggest that they keep these to a minimum.
    7. Invite students to write a paragraph describing the process they used to create their art. How did they discover the images that they chose to color? Encourage students to work together to create a display of their art and writing.
  • 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: Present claims and findings, sequencing ideas logically and using pertinent descriptions, facts, and details to accentuate main ideas or themes; use appropriate eye contact, adequate volume, and clear pronunciation.

    MATH: Analyze patterns and relationships.

    MATH: Solve real-world and mathematical problems involving area, surface area, and volume.

    MATH: Draw, construct and describe geometrical figures and describe the relationships between them.

    VA: Students will initiate making works of art and design by experimenting, imagining and identifying content.

    VA: Students will investigate, plan and work through materials and ideas to make works of art and design.

  • Adaptations

    Invite students to grid a large, wall size piece of craft paper and mount it in the school cafeteria or library. Post samples of student art nearby with an explanation of how to find images within grids made of squares and triangles. Provide a few markers and invite passersby to look for and color their own “hidden” images.

    Adapt this activity to introduce or reinforce mathematical learning regarding the coordinate plane, its quadrants, and identifying ordered pairs. Invite students to create simple images (such as houses) or color patterns using just squares. Show them how to use contrasting colors to make their images “pop.”


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