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Looking Up

What messages do students see throughout their days? What power do they have to contribute to the messages in a positive way? During this lesson students will design, create, curate, and install positive messages in selected locations in the school.

  • Grade 4
    Grade 5
    Grade 6
  • Multiple Lesson Periods
  • Directions

    1. Conduct research: Ask students to brainstorm messages they see posted around the school in both indoor and outdoor spaces. Student create lists in groups or create a list as a class. Discuss the purposes of the messages and the reactions that occur as a result. Discussion questions might include: "Are the messages informative, directive, or encouraging?", "What impact do the messages have on the students in the school?". For this project, students focus on creating messages that are encouraging or informative. Students can also research the work of various modern and contemporary artists who incorporate text in different ways in their work. Students may take notes including the artist's name, a thumbnail sketch of work and important information for each artist in the presentation.
    2. Brainstorm solutions: Direct students in a divergent thinking activity to create a list of several possibilities of messages they would like to post in and around the school. Students consider different messages for different locations. Students then create a proposal sketch of their selected message and location. Encourage students to consider the size of the work, whether the message will be posted indoors or outdoors, color, font, and shape of paper when creating their plans.
    3. Design and color: Next, have students create a final draft of their work in pencil on the size of paper that most closely matches their design. It may be helpful to have three or four sizes of paper for students to choose from. Students may wish to ask themselves the following questions as they are working: "Is my writing large enough to read?", "What styles of writing or fonts should I use?", and/or "Does the style of writing I used match the message I want to communicate?". It may be helpful to provide sample sheets of fonts or writing styles for reference as students create their designs. Students can add color to their designs using a variety of media including collaged colored paper and Crayola Washable No-Run School Glue, Crayola Washable Markers, Crayola Metallic Markers, Crayola Color Sticks, Crayola Crayons, and Crayola Watercolor Paint.
    4. Evaluate and install; Students need to work as a class to make a plan for installing the art. Lead students through a curating exercise to help students work collaboratively to select which art is installed in each location. Since there may not be physical space to install all the signs at one point in time, it may be necessary to create a plan for taking turns or not install all the art that was created. Students may wish to address the following questions as they are deciding where to install the art: "How will the art be protected from people touching it, from water getting on it, or from falling into the floor?", "How often is it necessary to check the art once it is installed to make sure it is still displayed according to the design?", "How long should the art be displayed?" and/or "What are some ways we can see how people respond to the art as they view it?". Students work as a class to install the art in the selected locations around the school building under the supervision of the teacher.
  • Standards

    SCI: Define a simple design problem reflecting a need or a want that includes specified criteria for success and constraints on materials, time, or cost.

    SCI: Generate and compare multiple possible solutions to a problem based on how well each is likely to meet the criteria and constraints of the problem.

    SCI: Plan and carry out fair tests in which variables are controlled and failure points are considered to identify aspects of a model or prototype that can be improved.

    VA: Combine ideas to generate an innovative idea for art-making.

    VA: Identify how art is used to inform or change beliefs, values, or behaviors of an individual or society.

  • Adaptations

    Before the project, students can take photos of messages in the building or the community if they have access to digital cameras. Their photos could be displayed in an online gallery and used for class discussions.

    Students can interview other students or faculty and staff in the building about the impact of the art to gather data about how the model could be improved.


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