My best mask making experiences with high schoolers was after
Thanksgiving. Actually, before. About a week before I showed them
pictures on African Masks, and American Indian Masks, as well as Mardi
Gras Masks. Our discussions were centered on the variety of reasons
masks are made, and used. With all my art assignments, students come up
with a thesis statement on intent, and then do rough sketches. I always
encourage mixed media, although the base of the mask was paper mache.
The specific requirements included size (at least 24" in one direction),
materials (at least 3 different types, including one organic, one man
made), and that it had to be able to be a wall piece. Then we talked
about where they would gather the materials necessary. Three students
actually brought in boiled bones from their Thanksgiving turkeys which
they incorporated into their masks. Others worked with feathers they
found in the school parking lot (ok folks, some of you are bird
squeemish--not me) Still others used soda can plastic holders, etc.
They were painted in acrylic and looked terrific. I have found if I do
not give odd specific requirements, then they are afraid to let their
imaginations get that large, or they all use the same materials.