The Water Project Overview (4th Grade)

Schallenberger Elementary School – San Jose – 4th grade
Montalvo Arts Center Arts Integration Program

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The Water Project

3 classes of 4th graders students from Schallenberger Elementary School in San Jose worked on this project. Through 5 exercises, this 10 session project encourages the students to learn more about water, from the watershed to the ocean. The theme is vast and rich, connected to all areas of learning in 4th grade. The students are using an array of techniques: observation drawing, sketching ideas and mock ups, collage, watercolor, and poster making. for each exercise, each student gets a different subject to study so that all the exercises create several series that can be shown at once without the same image represented twice. These hands-on exercises are an occasion for the students to start thinking about water in a different way, and to pay attention to it more. All the exercises encourage decision making, perseverance and independent thinking. Although the exercises are challenging, there is an opportunity for all the students to fully participate and succeed.

The exercises

1. Drawing water with lines
Art: Drawing

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This first exercise is about drawing lines and thinking about what is taking place. The directions are simple, yet concentration is a key part in the process. When I talk about the “quality of the line” I want the students to experience what it is to decide the path of a line, to feel the tool they are using and the pressure on the paper, to make variations and see the differences. This exercise is about discovering the power of a simple black (or blue!) line when we are in command. With simple means a lot can be done.


2. Designing a symbol about water
Art: Graphic Design basics

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By essence, a symbol is simple and yet with this simplicity, a deep concept needs to be revealed. The student has to concentrate on what to represent, and how to represent it. This is a design process, with several steps. The first one is documentation. Listing the different ways water is around us: rivers, lakes, ocean, faucet, ponds, in a glass, etc…
Then the student sketches ideas, as many as possible. From those ideas the student is going to pick one – the most interesting. How does he know which is the most interesting one: the one that says “water” in a simple, understandable way. Then the idea is to create a two tone image – the symbol on a background. If there is time the student can pick another of his/her designs and make another two-tones creation. I am thinking that the students will showcase their work at the end of the project and so I am interested in finding ways for them to make “collections” of images. I found a very nice multi blue tone paper that makes the collection of each class very vibrant.
We did this exercise in one session. I explained to the students that this design process can take days for designers.

3. Waterscape of our Region
Art: drawing, Watercolor

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This exercise is specifically integrated to “California Regions”.
This is an important exercise for the students to better understand the geography of their region, the diversity of the waterscapes, and to realize the importance of water, fresh and salted. It is excellent for observation skills and perseverance.
Each student receives a printed photo of one of the amazing waterscape of our region from photos I have taken, and draw the main lines of that waterscape: line of a mountain, beach, pond, shape of a wetland, horizon, cliff. They first draw with a pencil, then with an oil pastel in preparation for watercolor painting. The photo has four quadrants and so has the paper. It helps to understand where a line starts and where it ends, how it is slanted and how it is curved. This is an observation drawing, where the students have to draw what they sees, not what they think it looks like.
Great exercise for concentration and independent work – although this set of classes I am working with has 33 students per class, so it is quite of a challenge!

4. Endangered Marine Species
Art: observation drawing, collage

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Each student gets a photo and some information about a marine endangered species, including the specific threats that species faces. The idea is that each student learns and makes a collage about a different endangered species, and at the end of the exercise the class can share the whole series. The exercise consists in a collage, an observation drawing with a white pencil on black paper, drawing and cutting the letters, writing the threats separately, and gluing nicely all the elements once all the elements are done and placed.

5. Water Facts
Art: Poster

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Art: poster (graphic design basics, drawing, collage)
Water facts are numerous and very interesting to share with the class. Here are a few:
– The existence of water is essential for life on Earth.
– Water covers around 70% of the Earth’s surface.
– Electricity can be created from hydropower, a process that uses water to drive water turbines connected to generators.
– Roughly 70 percent of an adult’s body is made up of water.
– 750 million people in the world do not have access to clean safe water every day.
At the beginning of the first session, each student gets a water fact, writes a short message from that fact in order to create a poster. The student also has to think about an image that goes with the message. The student draws a mockup of her/his poster before starting creating each element and placing them on a board. This exercise uses techniques learned in the previous exercises, including the making of a symbol. All the elements are glued only at the very end, when their placement is decided. Until that moment, everything can be modified, things can be re-done. Once all the posters are finished, the series is the occasion for the students to share information with the whole class and beyond.