New school year plans mean new supplies, new calendar planners, new outfits, and new curriculum. Most people like all the new shiny things, but for me, the best part is the curriculum planning. I love pouring over a new book to see what we will study and how to make it our own. To be honest, when I chose ARTistic Pursuits Volume 2, I wasn’t particularly excited about ancient art. Wasn’t it really all clay and paper and primitive sketches? How could these Ancient Near Eastern cultures be relevant to our elementary students? But as I flipped through the pages and began to lay out a plan, I could see we are going to have a fun year together.
For a quick refresher, we used ARTistic Pursuits Volume 1 last year as an introduction to art skills. We focused on seeing shapes and forms and using new materials like chalk pastels and watercolor pencils. The other volumes in their series follow historical periods while teaching art skills and appreciation. Because there are eighteen lessons in twenty-four weeks, I sprinkled in some music appreciation and handicraft lessons as well as a couple of holiday themed projects. But as we know, the wheels came off the bus in March so the last quarter was mostly skipped. There were four lessons we didn’t complete in Vol. 1, so we are picking up there this fall. The skills taught in the final lessons would be helpful as they move forward.
So what’s so exciting about ancient art? How can it cultivate a deeper love for beauty in our students? I was impressed to find that the curriculum had much more variety than pinch pots and homemade paper. It spans a variety of Ancient Near Eastern cultures – Mesopotamia, Egypt, Minoans, Greek, Etruscan, and Romans. I was pleasantly surprised to see several group projects and role playing. Students will imagine themselves as Egyptian mural artists and create a wall together. They will make pillars and combine them to form a Greek temple. Also, I’m finding ways to tie in ancient stories into our projects like Gilgamesh, Pompeii, and Cadmus. (Stay tuned for a book list this week!)
I’m looking forward to diving into ancient history with my art students as we discover the shared human experiences across centuries and their influence on our society today. What are you learning and enjoying with your students? What has surprised you in your planning process?