Making Mosaics

Time required: approximately one week (one period a day)

Age level: grades 3-8

Students make a mosaic, and in the process consider the ways in which art communicates.

The Petra: Lost City of Stone Exhibition contains mosaic fragments from a Byzantine church. You can visit the exhibition Web site at http://www.amnh.org/exhibitions/petra. In this activity, students plan and construct colorful mosaics out of cut paper. Mosaics first appeared in Greece in the 5th century B.C. They were used to cover surfaces in public buildings, churches, and tombs, as well as in private mansions.

Materials

  • paper for sketching
  • pencils
  • colored pencils (including white ones)
  • black 12" x 18"matte poster board, one sheet per student
  • glue sticks
  • construction paper in many colors
  • scissors
  • envelopes

Procedure
Show the class some examples of mosaics from a museum visit, books or the internet (for example, http://www.classicalmosaics.com/photo_album.htm).

Discuss possible subjects for the students' mosaics, tying them to the Petra site or to another ancient culture you are studying. Discuss where their mosaics might be placed, and how nature of the public or private space would affect the mosaic's subject. Talk about how mosaics are made and what materials are involved. Look at the way artists use color to make a mosaic image appear three-dimensional.

Have the students make preliminary sketches on paper. When they come up with a final design, they should enlarge and transfer it to the black poster board, using the white colored pencils. Suggest that the kids draw lightly on the poster board, because these lines will be erased when the work is done.

Next, students should select construction paper in the colors they will need for their mosaics, and cut their "tiles" out of these sheets. Encourage them to cut small, uniform pieces, since these will yield finer images. Students should place all the pieces they think they'll need in an envelope.

Ask students to place the paper "tiles" in position on their boards. Next, use glue sticks to fix them in place.

Allow mosaics to dry overnight, at which point students should erase any white pencil lines still showing.

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