Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Group Art Project: Life-Size Fairy Collage

My daughter's birthday is in December in the middle of Advent. Despite being so close to Christmas, she has never seen this as a disadvantage and loves that a celebration is going on the whole month. Though I try to work with the natural seasons and rhythms in almost every aspect of our lives, I make exceptions with her birthday. So if she wants a fairy-garden-themed party in the middle of December, then why not? Which was the inspiration for this group art project . . .

a life-size fairy collage!

Group or collaborative art projects are one aspect of art education that fascinates me. It is also one of the least-written about topics on the internet. (That's probably why my first post on collaborative projects is one of my most popular.) Probably because there aren't as many art teachers out there doing them. It takes time and effort to think them up and pull them off. But the pedagogical benefits for the children are more than worth it!

The original idea for this project came from a website about fairy-themed birthday parties that you can find here. I then adapted the project for our needs and art supplies that I already had on hand.

Here's what to do:

roll of butcher paper (or some other large format art paper)
water dishes for rinsing
sponges for blotting brushes
jewels, feathers, buttons or other interesting objects to use for collage pieces

1. Roll out the paper and trace the outline of your child's body.

2. Have the children brainstorm what they can add to the picture to transform the the outline into a fairy (i.e. wings, crown, wand, etc.), or what they could paint as a background.

3. Provide the children with paints, sponges and rinsing dishes, and ask them to paint the fairy.

4. After the paint has dried, give them the collage pieces and glue.

And now for the pedagogical benefits . . . 

Group projects like this allow children to be in situations where they must work as a team. They have to agree on ideas and delegate who will paint or glue what. They have to communicate, problem-solve, and make compromises - all skills that children must learn to make it in the real world.

Watching this process again at my daughter's party was beautiful. The birthday girl had very specific ideas of what she wanted, but had to make compromises. There was also one big "mistake" where some paint dripped where the girls had to figure out how to make it look nice again. (I'm sure you can hear me quoting Mona Brookes at this point, "There are no mistakes in art - only changes to be made.") The idea to paint a background came about spontaneously, because a couple of girls didn't have anything to do. 

If your child isn't into fairies, you could easily do the same project with another theme (knight, sports figure, profession, etc.) For a children's worship service, the kids could paint a biblical figure as well.

Do you have any experience with group art projects? If so, I'd love to hear about them!