Project-based learning pedagogy
Method 6: From near to far
It is only a matter of scale. One may observe an element from close up, in all its details, and then from farther until seeing the whole. It may also work inversely and as result, it seems that time has stopped.
Example 1. Leafs and flowers // Project done with grade 4 students
By observing nature, students learnt to draw a plant's leafs on close-up. Then, they had to draw the whole plant with its background from further away. At the same time, students could appreciate and comment famous artworks where plants and flowers are depicted.
Example 2. From closer to farther // Project done with grade 5 students
By studying for the first time different movie shots, students worked in groups to represent two portraits and two still lives art works, well-known in art history, from closer to farther drawings according to the original painting. For near shots, students had to enlarge an area of the artwork, while for far shots students had to imagine the space in which it could have taken place. Each sequence of images thus told a different story.
Method 7: From concept to poster
Some ideas are worth being presented on a poster. In this process, students learn about visual communication by including textual and graphic elements to make their results eye-catching and informative. Posters may be used for many purposes: to promote invented objects, an event, a movie, to do activism, or to communicate a complex message.
Example 1. My favourite animal // Project done with grade 6 students
Students had to choose an endangered animal and draw it with a pencil, a black marker and a charcoal. Thus, they learnt how to make a poster by adding the WWF logo and a slogan to make people aware of the loss of biodiversity that has increased dramatically in the last decades. Students finally had to present their work in front of the class.
Example 2. I invent an object // Project done with grade 5 students
Students had to first choose a lamp, a shoe or a trash bin to work on, to then draw the chosen object with different shapes. Later, they had to choose their best invention and do its technical drawing, by writing its measures and explaining its uses. Finally, this whole process allowed students to make a poster of their object as if they were going to sell it.
Method 8: From mess to order
It is fascinating to look at the world and to find messy information that can be classified and structured in groups through objective parameters. Topics have their own subtopics, which may be studied very differently by each person. As such, results are varied in their approach.
Example 1. My material // Project done with grade 4 students
As it was students' first art project in the french program, they had to learn how to draw, say and write the material they were going to use in class. In the first week, students learnt how to draw their own pencil case by paying attention to its lines, details and shadows. Then, they had to draw four tools with four different techniques. In the third week, students were asked to work in groups of four and to combine their drawings to expose them on a single paper, which was carefully decorated to finally be presented in front of the class.
Example 2. Shapes, colours and letters // Project done with grade 4 students
In this project, students' imagination was triggered in associating real-life objects to shapes, colours and letters. They were first asked to draw several objects with the shape of a circle, a square, a rectangle and a triangle. Then, they had to draw objects that are red, blue, yellow, orange, purple and green. At last, they had to bring letters to life.
Example 3. Information design // Project done with grade 7 students
Students chose a question related to their daily student life to create, as a group, a data graph that could allow other classmates to interact and answer the question using post-its.
Method 9: From reality to fantasy
Inspired by Bruno Munari’s book, “Fantasy” (1977), there may be real situations considered normal that go through different forms of changes to then become surrealist scenes that are new to everyone.
Example 1. Between reality and fiction // Workshop done with grade 7 students
How to imagine an unreal situation in a photo that represents reality? Students had to choose an image of their school or Guanzhuang street, on which they placed a piece of paper to draw the surreal scene that they had imagined.
Example 2. Workshops: Changes
1. Change of scale. Students had to enlarge and shrink people, animals or objects in a real world scene. Then, they had to compare their two drawings.
2. Change of function. Students had to choose an object to then imagine and draw five different functions that it may have, from the most common to the most innovative.
3. Change of shape. While discovering the world of collections, students had to choose an object to then draw it several times with different shapes.
4. Change of material. Students had to draw different objects and change their materials through a collage. Then, they could imagine new possibilities in 3D by using cotton.
Example 3. What does it look like? // Project done with grade 5 students
While studying Archimboldo's portraits and reflecting on visual affinities, students had to imagine a face composed by different elements, then the body, and the house of that invented character. In this project, they could vary their techniques by drawing and making collages to present their ideas.
Example 4. Workshops: Imagine a story
1. Imagine a living object. Students imagined an everyday object that comes to life by drawing a story of its day. Some have used paper clips or chalk to continue their work in 3D. Interestingly, objects can speak and are drawn as if they were humans, with hands and feet.
2. How to make a pencil? Students had to imagine how a pencil is made by drawing the production steps of the lead, the wooden part and the eraser. They were free to imagine what they wanted knowing that they would see, at the end of the lesson, a video that shows them the real phases of pencil production in a factory.
3. The world upside down. Students had to imagine a world where there is an upside down situation. Cats have human pets, pencils write with humans, etc. They also had to think how the entrance of that world would look like. This project is part of a series of projects on "changes".
Method 10: From problem to solution
There are plenty of small daily life problems that can be resolved by inventive students. Once the need is defined and analysed, solutions may be presented through drawings or prototypes.
Example 1. An everyday object // Project done with grade 6 students
How to improve an object you have at home? Students had to analyse an object and write down its technical attributes while explaining its uses. Then, they had to think and draw how it could be improved in the future.
Example 2. Workshops: Problems and Solutions
1. The blackboard and the table. Students had to resolve two problems that they often find in their classroom: (a) the upper part of the blackboard is hard to clean and (b) tables are often tilted. They had to think and draw two inventive solutions. Most of them had ideas that matched with the real solutions taken in pictures one year earlier.
2. Egg Packaging. Students had to make a first structure that could safely contain an egg and a second one to cover and transport it easily. They had to measure the egg's dimensions, cut and paste pieces of paper to finally achieve a successful result after half an hour of arduous effort.
3. A trash bin in Mars. When the first recycle bins appeared at their school, students were taught how to recycle during many weeks. For this exercise, they were asked to invent the appearance of a trash bin to use in Mars, far from their daily reality.
4. I'm using LEGO. After seeing the diverse possibilities to work with LEGO, students received a bag with different pieces and a card indicating the object to build. They were able to present robots, chairs, bridges and towers meeting practical and aesthetic needs.
Example 3. Orienteering workshop: Animals of the Forbidden city (October 2019)
While visiting the Forbidden City of the emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties, students of all levels had to search, observe and represent different animals hidden along the site. By using a map and images, they could find lions, dragons and other fantastic creatures on roofs, doors, or courts from all corners of the imperial palace.
How did all this started? My first lessons in 2018
1. How to make paint? While understanding how the first shapes of art appeared in the caves, students had to reproduce ancestral processes similar to those of prehistoric men, by painting with natural pigments crushed in a mortar. They had to use their hands, sticks and tree leaves as painting tools to represent bulls, horses or more abstract shapes.
2. The clay sphinx. Students had to design a pencil pot with clay, shaping the head and body of the Egyptian sphinx.
3. Geometrical and natural shapes. Students had to choose one geometrical shape to then reflect about what does this shape make them think about.
4. Exhibition June 2018: A drop of colour. Chaoyang's Art teachers had to present their students proposal for the exhibition "from 2D to 3D". Our students experimented with the marbling technique to make a large amount of abstract compositions. From the results, they had to make three geometric patterns that gave a colourful 3D illusion.