Science in the Art Room

I had a brilliant flash the other day, a splendid idea for an art lesson. Check it out:

It’s the beginning of the art year and this is when we have to learn the basics, like drawing skills and the color wheel.

Dum-dum-de-dum, boring, you remember the lessons on the color wheel.

BUT..the whole point of learning the color wheel is what? Mixing! It’s so you can learn to mix colors with some knowledge and skill.

Why not (I thought) just start with a color mixing problem instead of a color wheel assignment? I broke pattern and printed out a color wheel for kids to tape in their sketchbooks, for a reference.

Then we went for a walk.

You must understand that we live in a safe rural community and it’s easy and fun to go for walks. Our school is perched on a hill above a lovely river walkway full of trees and plants. It’s a gentle fall day. We begin with a lesson on leaves, concentrating on the names of the edges of the leaves. Surprisingly, these 8th and 9th grades really liked knowing the names: “sinuate,” “serrate,” like that.

Then the assignment: “Let’s for a walk and each of you find three leaves all with different colors.”

We came back to the classroom and set up for watercolors. Then they tried to mix an exact match to each of the leaves.

If you have been an artist, you know that’s not at easy task. You’ve got to learn complementary and analogous colors right away. You may believe that everyone was deeply immersed in the color wheel right off the bat.

When someone actually matched the color, the leaf seemed to “disappear” as the colors absolutely matched, and I’d call in my best announcer’s voice, “Ladies and Gentlemen, we have a match!” Of course that spurred everyone else to try for it.

And I am hearing from parents how the kids just love going for “naturewalks,” as they call them, to learn art.

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