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March 26, 2015 Handy Art Projects and Bulletin Board Ideas By Alycia Zimmerman
Grades 1–2, 3–5, 6–8

    These simple, low-cost art projects are handy for rainy days, (or the day after parent conferences when my brain is so fried that I can’t begin to think about what to teach). You just need basic classroom materials to help your students create eye-popping, bulletin board worthy artwork. Pair these projects with poetry writing for even more impact!


    Op Art Hand Prints

    Op art — short for optical art — is artwork that uses optical illusions for abstract, visual effects. Children love optical illusions of all sorts, and they are always excited to create their own two-dimensional 3-D art effects with this project. This project relies on patterns of lines, much like the artwork of famous op art painter Bridget Riley. You may want to share some of Riley’s paintings and have students discuss the dizzying 3-D effects she creates with her use of lines.

    For this project, students trace their hand and forearm onto thick white paper or cardstock. Then they use a colorful pattern to draw straight parallel lines in the background. A ruler may make this task simpler, although it’s not necessary for the lines to be perfectly straight. Point out that the lines should continue on either side of the hand and arm. Then students connect the two halves of background lines with evenly spaced curved lines to fill in their handprint.


    Drawing such an extensive series of patterned lines is therapeutic for some students, but sorely tries the patience of others. As they see their “3-D” hand emerge, they’ll be more likely to stick with the project.


    Draw a “Hand-some” Henna Garden

    Henna, a russet dye made from the henna plant, has been used for cosmetic “temporary tattoos” in Asia and Northern Africa for thousands of years. This ancient art form spanned cultures and religions, and was (and is) often used for celebrations. Students can look at images of henna art and compare motifs from different cultures. Patterns, suns, and natural images are the typical henna designs.

    For this project, students trace their hands and forearms on paper and then design “henna hands” using crayons and watercolor paints to decorate their designs. You may want to limit their motifs to a common theme for the whole class: paisley patterns, radial stars and suns, or floral designs. Students trace their designs in permanent marker and then fill in details with oil pastels of regular wax crayons. Finally, they paint in the larger areas with bright watercolor paint.


    Hand-Themed Bulletin Board Ideas

    Children’s handprints and hand artwork lend themselves to metaphor-rich bulletin boards about helping hands, “hands down the best _____,” and themes about friendship and kindness. Even basic hand cutouts create a child friendly border around other student work. Do you have any “handy” art projects that you do with your students? Please share! (And huge thanks to our art teacher Michelle for the inspiration and photos.)

    Rather than a handshake to seal an agreement, signed hand cut-outs work well for an entire class.

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    One year ago: “Test Prep With Pizzazz: Part 1”

    Two years ago: “Beyond the Publishing Party: Ten Ways to Celebrate Learning”

    Three years ago: “Ukrainian Painted Eggs and Patricia Polacco — A Perfect Pairing”


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Susan Cheyney