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For Third Grade Parents, this will be a long blog post! However, it will help you to understand the content and depth of our current art unit. The next and final Third Grade art blog for this year, will contain a gallery only, of the student’s final products.

In the past three weeks, students have been introduced to a Transdisciplinary Unit. This means that we address the same Central Idea and Concepts as their classroom Unit of Inquiry ‘Sharing the Planet’, but from an artist’s perspective.

Central Idea: Consumption of resources has an impact on the environment.

Key Concepts: Responsibility & Connection

Related Concepts: Consumption, Impact, Consequences

Tuning into the art form studied: The focused art form, this time, is Printmaking. Therefore, before delving into to questions regards how artists respond to the central idea, it was important that students understood the basic process of printmaking (collagraphy in particular). To start, students had two lessons to explore the process of making prints with textured plates, and in evaluating. Ie. What makes a good print and why? What specific criteria are we looking for? What strategies do we need to apply in order to create a clear print? What are the names of the tools and materials, and how can we use them safely, and apply correct procedure?

Tuning In to the Central Idea: The timing of our third art rotation was perfect, as this meant students were already ‘tuned in’ to the ideas and concepts. They arrived with prior knowledge and therefore were able to quickly connect. It took approximately thirty seconds of viewing the following video, for curious student comments to evolve from “Ooohhhh! Scuba Diving! Oooh! I’ve been there on holiday! Wow look all all the jellyfish! Wait, what IS that? Oh no, that’s plastic! Ooh that’s bad! Oh, that’s disgusting! Where’s all the fish?!” The connection to their class Unit of Inquiry ‘Sharing the Planet’ was made immediately.

Researching & Finding Out

Thanks to their class inquiry, content regards the consequences of consumption, does not need to be discussed in great detail. Rather, in art, Research & Finding Out, involves one artist’s perspective and response to the issue. Students have been exposed in particular to a UK artist named Jo Atherton. Links to her websites can be found by clicking here, and here.

In brief, Jo’s work involves, weaving and printmaking in particular with use of flotsam or general plastics found washed up, or left on the beach. She not only finds fascination in their narrative, a but also considers the visual resemblance in her print designs, to that of microscopic marine life.

“Like the pottery archaeologists use to define human cultures of the past, a layer of plastic will signify our own throwaway society. What will these discarded fragments say about us?” (Jo Atherton), and “Millions of years ago, fuelled by sunlight, marine plankton flourished and then settled on the ocean floor, slowly transforming into oil. This same oil is used to quickly produce the endless plastic objects that dominate the everyday. When inked and printed, plastic flotsam fragments bear a stark resemblance to the rich diversity of microscopic marine life – a worrying and ironic connection to a beautiful natural process” (Jo Atherton)

Such content may well go over the head of a Third Grader, but they can make the connection at their own level. As one commented “wow, that’s deep!”

From an art and design perspective, students have investigated Jo’s application of the elements of art and principles of design when creating compositions for prints.

Whilst working on these observational drawings of Jo’s work, and to assist in the connection with the artwork versus the beauty of microscopic marine life, students were provided short clips (not all) from The Secret Life of Plankton‘ If you have a spare five minutes, you will most likely enjoy this mesmerising video, and beautiful accompanying music, composed by J. Ralph & Anohni. The song was released as the lead soundtrack to the 2015 documentary “The Race to Extinction’ and nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Song at the 88th Academy Awards.  

So where are we now? We have two weeks left to create, reflect and evaluate. With this prior knowledge of content and some understanding of the printmaking process and composition design, students are currently creating their own printmaking plates, with spare ‘junk’. Composition is now the key in creation. Students are required to carefully consider composition by using their knowledge of the elements or art and principles of design. The junk pieces are applied with shape, line, and space in particular, arranged through repetition, variety, contrast, and movement and balance.

Please watch this space in a few weeks time, for our final print products.