Don't Judge a Box by Its Cover

posted on Aug 2, 2019

For this lesson, students designed the outside of a box to represent how they are perceived by others, and the inside to represent how they know themselves to be. They were encouraged to work symbolically and to incorporate found objects and small items from home to embellish their work.

painted wooden boxThe inside of this box was embellished with photographs and found objects.

Beginning with Writing
We begin every art exploration with some writing. In this case, it was the creation of two lists—one describing how others perceive us (including potential prejudices), and the other a list of things we know to be true about ourselves; the latter being things maybe only best friends and family know, or even secrets. To preserve personal privacy, I told students they could write in code so even I might not know what their symbols meant, but they should be honest with themselves in their lists so their work would have personal depth.

Sketching Ideas
When the lists were complete, I shared what our exploration would be. Students chose boxes from those I provided, then sketched their box from several angles and included symbols and items to decorate their box. I encouraged them to bring inexpensive items from home that carried personal meaning, but I made many items available in my room, including:

  • magazines
  • access to a printer
  • colored construction paper, fabric scraps, and tissue paper
  • acrylic paint and pens
  • embellishments such as beads, shells, ribbons, feathers, etc.

Peer Review
When sketches were complete, students sought two opinions about their ideas from peers before working on the boxes. They were also expected to get my initials on their sketch as final approval. If I saw anything that might be unrealistic or inappropriate, I could address it and offer some alternative suggestions before students dove into supplies.

painted wooden boxThe outside of the box shows a student looking to the stars.

Embellishing Boxes
As students worked, I went around the room and asked about their symbols, offering feedback. We found out that it’s important to have several gluing options: White school glue was not always the best choice, so I had glue sticks, spray adhesive, tape, and hot glue available. When the boxes seemed to be about halfway done, students shared their work with two of their peers to get additional feedback. This helped some students to refocus and share tips before finishing their work.

As you can see, the work was highly personal and individualized. By tying outcomes to students’ experiences, points of view, and personalities, diversity is assured.

Eric Gibbons is an art teacher at Vernon Malone College & Career Academy in Raleigh, North Carolina. lovsart@aol.com

Connecting: Synthesize and relate knowledge and personal experience to make art.

Art Ed Guru: www.ArtEdGuru.com

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