Well the American Indian art unit is complete! We made birchbark boxes from cardstock paper with printed birchbark textures. I had students use beads, feathers, and leather scraps to decorate their boxes. Some students got a bit over-excited with the decorations, but some boxes turned out so cool!
We did a compare/contrast between the artist Bobby Wilson and traditional Ojibwe art. We also did a graffiti write on what they knew already about Ojibwe art.
In total, the unit took about 5 (50 min.) class periods in total for most students to finish. Some students really struggled with assembling their boxes, but most seemed to get it.
One thing I added to this lesson was a tooled metal lid. I had students do some beginner metal tooling in heavy duty aluminum foil. Students were asked to tool with a blunt pencil at least three Ojibwe symbols into their aluminum foil. We cut and glued the foil to the paper lid. We also talked about the differences between traditional and contemporary Native American art. This led to a great discussion on how stereotypes can hurt people and what kind of stereotypes we all experience on a daily basis. It was pretty powerful, and overall, a fun project!
I have struggled and struggled to find a great lesson to meet the MN visual art standard:
1. Compare and contrast the connections among
visual artworks, their purposes, and their
personal, social, cultural and historical contexts,
including the contributions of Minnesota
American Indian tribes and communities.
I think I've probably spent an entire week trying to figure out a lesson that wouldn't cost too much or wouldn't take a month to finish. I stumbled on a great instructable on how to construct a round box. I thought this would be a great activity for students to do out of birch bark and tie in with Ojibwe art and culture. Only downside, with 250 students, I'd need A LOT of birch bark. So that's when I came up with my faux birchbark. I used charcoal pencil on white paper and created my own birchbark texture. I added a little coffee stain and some smudging, and voila! "Birchbark" paper. I decided to make a template for the box in advance to prevent any issues with measuring or cutting....saving paper! The template isn't perfect, but it works pretty well. You can download my template below:
Download the Birchbark box template for $3.00 from TPT
I haven't taught this lesson, as I plan to do so next week. I am hoping to start off by having students do a graffiti write of all they know about Native American art and culture. This will give me an idea of what we should cover (what students already know and what needs clarification). I am going to show students some images of the Jeffers Petroglyphs located in Minnesota and we might even compare/contrast with Egyptian hieroglyphics.
Next I will have students create a design on the lid of their box using Ojibwe symbols. I might even have them do a glue resist-- so many choices! Once the design is done, we will construct the boxes. I am having my template printed on ivory cardstock paper to make it more sturdy, but printer paper seems like it works too.
I will be sure to make an update post about how this lesson goes. I think this will make a great end of semester project.
Examples of Ojibwe Birchbark Boxes
I am a 6th year high school art teacher in Rochester, MN. I have taught middle school for 2 years and high school for 4 years. I truly enjoy working with students on a daily basis. I also enjoy teaching real-world skills such as problem solving, using technology, and the power of teamwork and collaboration. My joy is sharing my passion for art with others!
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