Anansi Spider Weavings

Possible Classroom Concepts: Social Studies – Other Cultures (Ghana,Africa )[Crafts- Weaving]

Language Arts- Folk Tales (Anansi The Spider)

Mathematics – Pattern, Fractions

Possible Art Concepts: Other Cultures – Africa (Ghana)

Lines, Pattern, Crafts – Weaving (Warp, Weft), Fine Motor Skills

In my last post, I talked about the nurturing characteristics of spiders. Today, I’ll talk about the spider as viewed by other cultures, specifically the people of Ghana. Here in the USA, spiders have kind of a negative reputation of being creatures that are scary biters that lurk. In Africa, the Carribean, Central and South America the spider has a more positive reputation. The people of Ghana see the spider as a god and character in many of their folk tales. Read more about Anansi here:

You are probably most familiar with the picture book, Anansi the Spider: A Tale from the Ashanti, by Gerald McDermott. A video of this story can be found here:

The Spider Weaver by Margaret Musgrove tells the story of Anansi inspiring the Ashanti people to weave their famous Kente cloth. Find a video of this book here:

Find a primary level Kente weaving project next. I think I would teach it with two colored papers. Ask student to create two line pattern designs (one a vertical format and the other a horizontal format) Cut the vertical design into a loom and the horizontal design into 1″ strips and weave.

Find a nice video and step by step loom directions by Cassie Stephens below. Use the Kente cloth lesson above as the motivation instead of the Goat in the Rug.

I adapted a felt pot holder project (found on Pinterest) into a paper weaving spider web project for older students.


So, at this time of year when spiders are laying their eggs and dying off, I hope you can incorporate something from my last two posts in your curriculum.

See you soon!

Eek, A Spider?

Possible Classroom Concepts: Science – Arachnids

Language Arts – Literature – Charlotte’s Web, Symbols, Writing, Adjectives

Possible Art Concepts: Art History – Louise Bourgeois, Odilon Redon

Sculpture, Painting, Drawing, SymbolismFullSizeRender

Louise Bourgeois’ “Spider”

In conjunction with an art history class on sculpture, I recently visited The National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden in Washington D.C. Take your own virtual tour of the sculpture garden through this interactive story:

One of the works we viewed was the spider sculpture pictured above. Before studying this work, I would have passed this baby right by. I find spiders a little creepy. Bourgeois, on the other hand, views spiders as protectors, a lot like Charlotte is portrayed in the novel, Charlotte’s Web. Actually, this spider sculpture is a portrait of the artist’s mother. “What?”, you may say. Well, let me explain. Her mother used to repair tapestries, so she was a weaver just like a spider. The other reasons may best be explained by the artist herself in the following quote.

“The spider—why the spider? Because

my best friend was my mother and she

was deliberate, clever, patient, soothing,

reasonable, dainty, subtle, indispensable,

neat, and as useful as a spider.”

—Louise Bourgeois

Bourgeois made many spider works in different mediums and sizes. Read more about them here.

Did you note that one sculpture version, “Maman”, is thirty feet tall? Measure out thirty feet with your students, so that they can see just how tall it is.

Find some spider projects here:


Another caring spider can be found in the picture book, Sophie’s Masterpiece by Eileen Spinelli. You can view a reading of this wonderful book here:’s%20Masterpiece

Find a different interpretation of a spider in this painting by Odilon Redon:

Talk with your students about symbolism. Brainstorm some adjectives which could best describe a loved one. Next think of animals that might come to mind. Here are some examples:

Speed – cheetah, hare

Industrious, hard working – ants

Loyal, unconditional love – dog

Busy, protective – bees, beaver

Wise – owl, elephant

Beautiful, graceful – swan

Proud, beauty – peacock 

Shy – sheep

Slow and steady wins the race – tortoise

Graceful – gazelle

Stubborn – donkey

Peace – Dove

Eagle eyed, sharp vision – eagle

Sly – fox

Courage – lion

Like to monkey around, mischievous – monkey

Put something away for a winter’s day – squirrel

 Can you think of more? Bourgeois chose a spider to symbolize her mother. Ask students to choose an animal/animals that best symbolize their mom or some other important person in their lives. Have them draw the animal/hybrid animal (like suggested in the Redon Lesson) and write an adjective filled explanation similar to Bourgeois’.

Students could also compare and contrast Bourgeois’, Redon’s and real spiders.

So, whether you are teaching a science or literature unit, how about adding Louise Bourgeois, Odilon Redon or both and enrich your lesson.

Please stop by again real soon!

Autumn Nature Art

Possible Classroom Concepts: Science – Seasons (Fall or all), Weathering, Ecology (Repurposing)

Language Arts – Literature

Possible Art Concepts: Art History – Arcimboldo, Andy Goldsworthy, Patrick Dougherty

Portrait, Environmental Sculptor, Installations, Photography


Arcimboldo’s “Autumn”

In the 1500’s, an artist named Arcimboldo was a court painter in Vienna and Prague. He painted the riches of the realm. Instead of just painting these riches individually or in a landscape, he combined them into creative portraits. Above you will find “Autumn”, a portrait from his Four Seasons series. How many fall items can your students find? Read more about Arcimboldo and see a variety of his other portraits here:

Today, environmental sculptor, Andy Goldsworthy doesn’t paint nature items. He uses the outdoors as his medium and his canvas.  Using what is around outside at the moment, Goldsworthy assembles his art installations right where he finds them. Upon completion, he photographs them for posterity and leaves them to nature. Can your students identify the season Goldsworthy created the installations featured in the following post?

Patrick Dougherty is another contemporary environmental sculptor. He creates humongous architectural sculptures made from only sticks. Check out Dougherty’s web site. The Home Page has many examples of his work. Also, be sure to go to the News section of this site and check out the CBS Sunday Morning video and the Highlights Magazine article.

There are two books for primary students which might work well along with this unit. I love the picture book, Leaf Man, by Lois Ehlert. It includes illustrations of a man, animals, birds and fish all made out of leaves. A Stick is an Excellent Thing by Marilyn Singer is a poetry and outdoor activity book. 

After studying some of the above artists, wouldn’t it be GREAT to go out for an all things autumn scavenger hunt with your students. ( I always went out and accumulated some extra stuff beforehand.) Then ask students to create their own nature installation right out there in nature. Depending on what other units your class is studying , they can do images of pattern, portraits, leaf men, animals, or architectural structures. Have your camera ready! For older students, you could take photos over time to show weathering. ( Students may have to use rocks and sticks as skewers to hold their installations in place, so they don’t blow away on the first day.) As you can see, this general lesson can be tweaked for students of all ages.

Enjoy your time in nature and I hope to see again very soon!!!

Harvest Dolls!

Possible Classroom Concepts: Social Studies – Native American Crafts (History), Natural Resources, Colonial and Pioneer Crafts, Geography

Language Arts – Literature

Science – Ecology (Repurposing and Recycling)

Possible Art Concepts: Native American and Colonial Crafts – Origins, Apple Head Dolls, Corn Husk Dolls

In my last couple of posts, I’ve been talking a bit about apples and harvesting time. I talked about two fine artists who included apples in their paintings. Today, I’m going to talk a little about crafts made from harvested things and their history. I remembered from my teaching days that dried apple head dolls were made in colonial and pioneer days. Little did I know that the apple head dolls originated with the Native Americans. The history is a little fuzzy, but a few sources credit the Seneca Indians with making the first apple head dolls. They in turn taught the American colonists and pioneers to make them. Doll making is a tradition of many tribes around North America. The materials used to make these dolls depends on the natural resources that are available to each tribe. After all, the Native Americans were our first ecologists. With them nothing went to waste. The Senecas lived in the northeast. An excellent resource for Native American dolls past and present can be found in the following post from the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington DC. I like the colorful map included. It’s always nice to throw in a little geography.

Just as doll making skills were passed down through the generations in the above post, so did the mom in the story, The Apple Doll, by Elisa Kleven. This would also be a good story to go along with an All About Me unit. Find out more about the author and her book here:!the-apple-doll/cdyd

Check out this blog post to see ways to incorporate The Apple Doll into a lesson. I’d leave out the tree climbing part. Wouldn’t want any broken arms or legs.

The Apple Doll, “Oh, Sweet Susanna”

Find apple doll instructions here:

It might get a little pricey for each student to make an individual apple head doll. The teacher could demonstrate how to make a doll and make it class doll. Students could earn the privilege to have the doll at their desk for good behavior. However, If you do a field trip to a farm, students could all get an apple instead of a pumpkin. Then all the students could make a doll.

Apples were not the only natural resource used to create Native American dolls. Corn husks were also utilized and the skill of making them was passed onto settlers and pioneers also. I found two websites that show directions for making cornhusk dolls. The first is more traditional and has very nice step by step photos. It also tells the story of why different tribes do not paint faces on their cornhusk dolls. The second lesson is more simplistic and uses less corn husks (Less costly to make and less time consuming). You can find these lessons here:

and here:

Corn Husk Doll

So, if you are teaching a unit on Native Americans, the Thirteen Original Colonies or Pioneers and wish to incorporate the crafts of the time, this post is for you.

See you soon!

Johnny Appleseed Day – September 26th

Possible Classroom Concepts: Social Studies – Seasons (Fall), Johnny Appleseed

Math – Geometry (3D Shapes), Number Sets, Graphing, Addition and Subtraction Facts

Possible Art Concepts: Art History – Paul Cezanne

Still Life, Forms, Ways to Create Interest (Arrangement)

I remember from my teaching days that classroom teachers often taught apple units in the fall. They made all things apple. Apples were printed and the seeds were counted. Older students also learned the legend of Johnny Appleseed. Seeing as how Johnny Appleseed Day is approaching, I thought it would be a good time to introduce the artist who made the apple important to the art world, Paul Cezanne.

When everyday objects, such as apples, are arranged and then drawn, sculpted or painted, this art work is called a still life. At the time Cezanne painted them, still lifes ( Yes, no typo here, it’s lifes not lives.) were the wall flowers of the art world . History paintings and portraits were most popular. The Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC has a wonderful interactive post about Cezanne’s apples. You can find it here:

The Cezanne’s Apples post has a great bio and talks about his use of 3D shapes (what we call forms in the art world). This makes his still life paintings a good math correlation. Students can search for 3D shapes in the paintings. These are good for elementary students of all ages.

The post also contains an excellent story which is good for primary students. It is an all encompassing look at the artist and his work with a fictional account of how he created his “Apples with Primroses” painting. So, in this story, Cezanne eats an apple from the still life nearly every day. Upon completion, all the apples are gone. At the very least, how many days did it take to complete the apples and primrose painting? Also, Cezanne arranges the fruits in groups (or sets) of one to five apples. How many sets of each number are there? The class could graph this information. How about  asking students to pick two sets and add or subtract their numbers. How many combinations can they make?

Cezanne’s “Still Life with Apples and Peaches” is discussed in the following video suitable for intermediate students:ézanne

A nice Cezanne intermediate art lesson can be found here:

A two session Kindergarten art lesson can be found here:


If students create their own still lifes, what kind of math problems can they make from their artwork?

From Garden to Harvest

Possible Classroom Concepts: Social Studies – Seasons ( Summer, Fall or All Seasons)

Possible Art Concepts: Art History – Pieter Breughel, Grandma Moses

Landscape, Perspective ( Foreground, Middle Ground, Background), Atmospheric Perspective, Moving People, Narrative Paintings


Pieter Bruegel’s “The Harvesters”

In my last post, I talked about flower gardens and how the blooms will soon be fading. Along with this also comes harvesting time. A great example of harvesting is Bruegel’s “The Harvesters”. A concise kid friendly explanation of the painting can be found here:

I found two informative biographies on Bruegel the Elder. The first talks about his paintings showing multiple people doing everyday things.

The second clues us in that there were wedding crashers as early as the 1500s, Ha Ha!,%20Krull.pdf

“The Harvester” not only shows wheat  harvesting, but also apple harvesting. “I Spy” the upper right hand corner of the painting and you will find an apple tree. One boy is hanging upside down from his knees up in the tree (my guess is picking the apples) and the two boys on the ground are collecting apples.

Years later, Grandma Moses also painted seasonal rural landscapes containing lots of people. One such painting is entitled “Apple Butter Making” You can find this painting and other examples of Grandma Moses’ work here:

Look here for information about “Apple Butter Making” on page nine of this post.

You can find a concise Moses Bio here:

Now, you can approach these two artists in one of two ways. Approach it from the late summer early fall aspect or use them in a four seasons unit, whatever works best for your unit of study.

You might want to compare and contrast Bruegel’s and Moses’ works. (painting styles, clothing worn, etc.)  Brainstorm what people of today do in late summer and early fall. ( play football, play soccer, rake leaves, go to corn mazes, hay rides, pick apples, etc.) How do we dress? Students can illustrate a person performing one of these tasks. Students can cut the figure out and put it into a class mural. With all those people, it will be just like a Bruegel painting. You might also try illustrating all the steps of a fall task like in Moses’ narrative paintings.

A moving people guide can be found here: