There are certain units in art class that take on a life of their own and just GROW! My Cave art unit turned out even better than I had anticipated and grew into a Pre-K – Grade 5 theme due to the overwhelming interest of the students. Displaying children’s work is so important to me so this had to be BIG! And how was I just going to achieve this? Re-creating a cave similar to the Lascaux Caves in France filled with all my students’ work of course! I wanted them to fully understand the importance of those early cave paintings as the first-ever examples of art in history.
We first began by looking at actual prints of paintings from Lascaux and looking at the subject matter chosen by the cave people. There are plenty of good websites to show kids plus youtube has a ton of short videos and information.
Google image search is wonderful and I created a slideshow of many cave paintings. I also included petroglyphs so that my older grades could learn the difference between a pictograph (painted picture on a wall) and a petroglyph (carved/engraved picture on a rock or cave wall) because they would eventually make their own.
Pre-K and Kindergarten couldn’t wait to start drawing and painting their big animals and hunters. I saved quite a large amount of brown packing paper so everyone got a large piece of paper as their canvas. After a discussion of what animals were acceptable to draw the kids took right off.
I gave the older students the opportunity to stick their paper under the table to give them that feeling of how the cave people painted. The students ‘painted’ with chalk pastels–all in earthy colors. These are the pastels we used which are my favorite and are incredibly versatile for so many art projects–see these gorgeous Modigliani inspired self-portraits here and Georgia O’Keefe flowers here.
The paintings were finished by ‘signing’ their work with a stencil of their hand. Watered down paint was put into a spray bottle and the kids sprayed their hand to leave an outline.
Grades 1-5 made tools and weapons with cardboard and string. Their challenge was to make a tool that they think would have been useful for hunting or painting and they could only use string to put pieces together. This was a challenge for many of the kids because they immediately wanted glue sticks, tape, etc. When this wasn’t an option they had to ‘think’ and they came up with some great ideas!
Next up was learning about petroglyphs. Our school is surrounded by construction at the moment so there were plenty of rocks to go around. These rocks were quite hard to carve into but after a little experimenting, the kids covered the rock faces with chalk pastels. On a piece of paper, they drew a variety of animals and hunting scenes they wanted to copy onto their rock faces. Carving with an opened paper clip was perfect and the petroglyphs were wonderful!
With all the paintings I then created a large cave outside my classroom in the hallway. I covered the sidewalls and the roof. The students helped put the tools and petroglyphs inside the cave and added the remaining tools and weapons on two nearby bulletin boards. We invited parents and kids to come at night time and the rule was to bring a flashlight! All the lights were turned off and everyone had a great time!
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