October 29, 2014

African Inspired Found Object Masks

Let me say...I thought this project was going to be the death of me after yesterdays attempt.  First, we were short a special area teacher...so all our classes the whole day were about 6 students larger(yes..all our classes are setting between 20 & 25 students).  This was the first time I used found objects in such a way to create a mask armature.  This was the first time I had used plaster strips in a full class size setting.  This was the first time I though...the men with the white coats are coming to get me!!!!  Let me share the idealized version of this project with you!  However, please know...it wasn't a pretty picture yesterday!?!?!?! ha ha

This nine weeks 4th grade has a "found object" sculpture.  I thought that this would be a perfect time for an African inspired mask!  We watched a YouTube video about African masks the first week.  We then discussed the purpose & functions of masks.  Students had to decide on a "purpose/theme" for their mask.  They then drew a sketch to prepare themselves for creating it the following week.  I also had them write at least three sentences telling me about their masks meaning and purpose.  

For the next class time, I had students bring in supplies/found objects for the project.  That went so-so....lucky I had a bunch stored up in an empty room next to mine!!  I made a "BUFFET" of supplies they could select from.

Before students were allowed up to the "BUFFET"...they had to look at their mask sketch and think about the shapes to forms aspect...and decide what would be best for creating that. 
They had scissors & tape to work with back at their tables.  With it being plaster wrapped...securing the pieces onto the cereal box board was important, but did not have to be "overdone".  The first day's group really struggled with building up and out with their mask.  They were still thinking 2-D/Flat.  I had not used the plaster strips in this setting....so when I cut them...I cut them too small.  This caused the students to struggle.  They had a difficult time covering their forms completely.  The plaster wrap would get smooshed up and they weren't able to flatten it out again.  There was plaster EVERYWHERE!  Floor, tables, students...and some on their masks.  After they left...I had a planning period..so I tried to cover the spots they did not....and I cleaned and cleaned and cleaned. UGH!  I really questioned if I would be able to carry on with this project the rest of the week.

These are pretty sweet...right?!?!!!  This was today's group(the second class to try them).  The whole class time went amazingly well!!!!  I had to do nothing else to ANYONE'S mask!!  The students did all the clean up.  It was a totally different experience.  I'm now excited about this project....though...we'll see how tomorrow goes?!!?!? ha ha  Can't wait to paint them and add embellishments.  Will post more pictures as this project progresses.  


  1. I totally understand how extra kids can throw a whole lesson off kilter. We usually only have 17-21 fifth graders per class, this year however we have 26 and 27 because they only had 2 fifth grade teachers. I used to love teaching fifth grade but this year has been a nightmare. When I plan lessons that get them excited it ends up with chaos and giant messes, other lessons fall flat and they aren't engaged enough.

    I love the masks! I bet they will be awesome when they are finished!

  2. Great project. I have lived in Africa as a child and I have an imprint of that period of my life in me. I painted my studio in warm colours and have different masks, drums, fabric and even a scepter. I can't wait to see the final result!

  3. These look great! We are just beginning our African unit.

  4. Which youtube clip did you use (fellow art teacher question)?