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Then and Now

The inspiration for the “Then and Now” project explores how we decide what is desirable or beautiful and how that aesthetic changes over time. Students will examine how the style and design of common, everyday objects that we take for granted change over time. These objects will be rendered in a series or timeline that create a visual illustration comparing how style changes depending on the values of that period in history. Graphics and product illustration combined will create a visually compelling composition.

  • Grades 7 and 8
  • 60 to 90 Minutes
  • Directions

    1. Begin by collecting three examples of a common object from three different time periods. For example students might borrow one shoe from a grandmother, one shoe from the mother and one shoe from a younger sister or cousin.
    2. Do a simple contour drawing of each of the items, first in pencil, then either in colored pencil or marker. Draw in the center of the page, leaving a generous margin on all sides. Draw only the outside shape and simple details. Do not color in or add shading.
    3. Students do a brief internet search for the history of their objects over time. Most internet sites will provide a short informational text that will describe the historical context of the items. Compose a brief caption for each object including the historical era and any interesting social, political or economic trends reflected in the style (shape, size, materials, and details or decoration) of the object.
    4. The handwriting and drawing will become part of line composition considered as graphic art. On a larger piece of paper, arrange the objects in order according to age. Consider trimming and centering the objects horizontally, similar to a timeline.
  • Standards

    LA: Analyze the interactions between individuals, events, and ideas in a text (e.g., how ideas influence individuals or events, or how individuals influence ideas or events).

    LA: Use precise language and domain-specific vocabulary to inform about or explain the topic.

    LA: Write routinely over extended time frames (time for research, reflection, and revision) and shorter time frames (a single sitting or a day or two) for a range of discipline-specific tasks, purposes, and audiences.

    LA: Integrate quantitative or technical information expressed in words in a text with a version of that information expressed visually (e.g., in a flowchart, diagram, model, graph, or table).

    LA: Compare and contrast the information gained from experiments, simulations, video, or multimedia sources with that gained from reading a text on the same topic.

    LA: Integrate visual information (e.g., in charts, graphs, photographs, videos, or maps) with other information in print and digital texts.

    LA: Analyze the relationship between a primary and secondary source on the same topic.

    VA: Choosing and evaluating a range of subject matter, symbols, and ideas.

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

    VA: Understanding the visual arts in relation to history and culture.

  • Adaptations

    Invite students to show how the evolution of product design can be an engaging exploration of how much we are influenced by the time in which we live. Broaden the scope of the timeline by drawing examples of your product from its earliest inception, and then extend the timeline into the future by inventing the next development phase of your subject. Imagine your subject in 100 years. What would it look like, what material would it be made from and how will technology in the year 2115 impact its form and function?

    For some children the art form maybe more engaging than the literary and historical exploration. Allow these children to fully engage in the form, color and texture of their subject. Encourage children to use a variety of color palettes, painting techniques, expressive line and shape to artfully express their subjects.

    Many artists learn to draw by copying or even tracing before they draw on their own. Providing photographic resources that can be traced is one way to help some students be successful with the drawing and hand/eye coordination. These children may then fully focus on the design and research aspects of the project.


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