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Magical Oaxacan Animals

Bright colors! Intricate patterns! Fantasy creatures! Discover the delights of unique Oaxacan wood carvings. Decorate an imaginary animal.

  • Grade 4
    Grade 5
    Grade 6
  • 30 Minutes or Less
  • Directions

    1. Invite students to investigate the Zapotec people of Oaxaca (Wa-HAH-ka), Mexico, who craft intricate animals from copal wood. They paint their carvings with multicolored, intricate patterns. Some of these animals look real, while others are pure fantasy. Find out more about this unique art form that is practiced by just 200 families whose work is famous worldwide.
    2. Provide students with the opportunity to discuss their research findings. Then, invite children to draw a similar animal, using a black Crayola® Fine Line Marker to outline a fantasy creature on Crayola Marker and Watercolor Pad paper. They can create it by combining several different animals into one or use imaginations to invent a new one.
    3. Encourage students to add important details, such as eyes and a mouth. Fill the animal shape with small drawings. Use natural motifs, such as flowers or vines, as well as other patterns. Fill the whole animal with color!
    4. Once artwork is complete, ask students to write a short paragraph describing how they determined the look of their imaginative creature. How does this artwork reflect new knowledge of the Oaxacan people?
  • Standards

    LA: Read and comprehend informational texts, including history/social studies, science, and technical texts, at the high end of grade level text's complexity band independently and proficiently.

    LA: Conduct short research projects that use several sources to build knowledge through investigation of different aspects of a topic.

    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.

    LA: Report on a topic or text, tell a story, or recount an experience with appropriate facts and relevant, descriptive details, speaking clearly at an understandable pace.

    SS: Compare ways in which people from different cultures think about and deal with their physical environment and social conditions.

    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.

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

    SS: Explore factors that contribute to one's personal identity such as interests, capabilities, and perceptions.

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

    VA: Describe and place a variety of art objects in historical and cultural contexts.

  • Adaptations

    Possible classroom resource includes: LA Boda: A Mexican Wedding Celebration by Nancy Van Laan

    Students research the history of families that produce Oaxacan art and the impact this craft had on the economy of this Mexican town. Become familiar with some of the myths and legends upon which their work is based.

    Collaborate with a classmate to create a 3-D sculpture based upon an Oaxacan carving.


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