Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Ideas for Art Lessons about September 11th (K-12)

2014 marks the 13th anniversary of September 11th. With such an important date looming, this is the perfect time to discuss this historic event in the classroom.

Unfortunately, most K-12 students of today have little or no recollection of this day, unless they had personal connections. When you think about the age of the average kindergartener, 9/11 happened several years before they were even born.

So how can you develop art lessons that will help students make meaningful connections to this historic day? The following are five ideas for art lessons about September 11th that will encourage critical thinking, reflection and personal expression:

1. September 11th Illustrations

Suitable for younger elementary, instruct students to create illustrations as you read (or assign students to read) first-hand accounts of the events of 9/11. Drawings can then be organized into a book or exhibited as a hallway display, memorializing the anniversary.

2. Design a memorial

Designing permanent memorials to commemorate September 11th has been a long, arduous process. After investigating the creation of the 9/11 Memorial and Museum, students will select one of the locations - the Pentagon, World Trade Center or Shanksville, PA - and design their own memorial idea to honor those involved.
3. Expressive mixed-media collages

Art lessons about September 11th shouldn’t be dry, formulaic or detached; the teacher’s goal should be for their students to form an emotional attachment. Provide students with first-hand accounts, poetry, headlines, imagery, screenshots, portraits and photographs from that day (as well as art materials). Assign students to create an expressive collage, combining these elements to express a specific mood, emotion or reaction. Encourage them to write out their own feelings and responses to 9/11 on their artwork.

4. Community mural

The events of 9/11 brought Americans together, creating a sense of community  like no other event in recent history. Assign students to work in groups to create a mural, or go bigger and organize a class-wide, school-wide or community-wide mural commemorating 9/11. Be sure to show students how one community of artists in northeast Ohio is creating their own mural honoring the day.

5. Photo manipulation

This art lesson idea is perfect for older art students with access to technology (most suitably for a Graphic Design class). High school students can search for photos from the events of September 11th, and use Adobe Photoshop or other software to manipulate these photographs through juxtaposition, blending and other tools.

Students could be assigned simply to make a digital artwork related to September 11th and their reactions to it. Alternatively, add elements of graphic design by assigning students to create a movie poster for a potential film about 9/11, or a travel poster advertising a new memorial.

No matter which art lesson ideas you choose, provide students with plenty of opportunities for critical thinking, research, personal reflection, and self-expression in their artwork. Everyone has a story to tell, and you’ll be amazed at what your art students will come up with.

As a final note for art teachers, be sure to keep in touch with your administration and consider sending a note home to parents before teaching art lessons on this topic. 9/11 is a touchy subject for many, and you should be aware of problems or controversies that may arise, whether from political or religious conflicts or your school’s policy on imagery (for example, some schools ban images of guns in student artwork).

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