I teach pre-k through middle school art at the Toledo Museum of Art. I
started using the so-called "learning center" for two reasons. One,
there is always at least one child who finishes his work within the first
fifteen to twenty minutes and then says "I'm done, what do I do?"
Another reason is I always have more projects that I want to do, than I
have time to do them in. With the learning centers I can add some of
Ken listed some really great ideas for learning centers. Some of them I
have used, others I can't wait to try. Much of the time, the classes I
teach are thematic in nature. So, I plan my activity centers to be
thematic as well. For example, in one class we deal with art of the
ancient world. If the location is Egypt, then I have a center for
writing messages using hieroglyphics (for Greece, I use the Greek
alphabet). I have a handout that shows hieroglyphic symbols and the
equivalents in our alphabet. For older students, I let them draw
the symbols themselves. The younger students like to use hieroglyphic
stamps. I sometimes have them make "papyrus scrolls" using adding machine
tape and popsicle sticks. Or I have them do a message exchange, which
they love. They write a message using hieroglyphics which they
must deposit into the basket. In exchange, they pick one out of the
basket to "translate" and read. I have found that this activity is extremely
popular with all ages.
Other activity stations for ancient world are: make the food for
an egyptian feast out of plasticene clay. Or make magical amulets out
of plasticene clay. Draw yourself in Egyptian style, make an egyptian
headress, give yourself egyptian eyes, etc. I have a sand table in
which I have staged archaelogical digs. The students "find" the
artifacts and then enter them into a field journal. They have to
describe the object, theorize as to what it was used for, and draw a
picture of it. Believe it or not , even the older kids like to do this.
You can create simple stations using just about any theme you want.
They don't have to be elaborate. My kids love the sand table, blocks,
architectural stamps, self portrait station with mirror, etc.
Sometimes at the self portrait station, I add costumes. I have
a friend who does the elements and principles at her stations. She makes
self-instructed lesson posters. She makes up cards with types of line, colors,
shapes, etc. about the size of three by five cards. Then her posters have
clear pockets made out of the ends of laminating machine rolls.
Often the instructions are as simple as "1. draw 2. draw 3.color."
Under each of the steps is a pocket, and inside each of the pockets she puts
one of the cards. She puts materials at the station with the poster. I have
done the same sort of thing with origami (simple) by placing a
sample of each of the steps next to the appropriate number. You could
the same thing with " how to draw" instructions as in the "how to draw"
Another thing that has worked really well for me is to have a
reading corner. I bring in a variety of books ( that I get from the
public library or our resource center) which relate to whatever I am
teaching about. Also ongoing group murals, paper sculptures, cut paper
mosaics, etc. work really well.
Hope this helps!
The Toledo Museum of Art
On Wed, 7 Aug 1996, Ticia Valentine wrote:
> I'm an elementary art teacher and my principle has suggested that I
> use "centers" as an activity to occupy students when they finish their work
> early. I have played around with this idea for two years and have found it
> very difficult to find learning center ideas that a) aren't so fun that
> students rush to complete their assignment to get to do them b) are self
> explanatory c) are easy enough for the kindergarteners and first graders
> but not boring for the older grades d) and can be done with little mess and
> in 5-10 minutes. I know this is asking a lot, but for these centers to work
> the way I want them to these are the basic requirements. Does anyone have
> some suggestions for me? HELP!