Hold On to Your Hats

By Leigh Drake, posted on May 9, 2023

One of my goals is to educate students on the many art-related careers available today. I believe it’s important to start this conversation early to allow students to explore options that are the best fit for them. When my students leave my classroom, I want them to know there are options if they wish to pursue a career in the arts. This year, I shared a different art career with students each time we met. This was done through video clips, articles, guest speakers, and more. I also developed a lesson for them so they could delve deeper into art careers.

SchoolArts magazine, The Play Issue, Summer 2023, Elementary Art Lesson, Hat Design
Left: Kayla, grade five. Right: Kylie, grade four.
SchoolArts magazine, The Play Issue, Summer 2023, Elementary Art Lesson, Hat Design
Left: Zoe, grade five. Right: Sophia, grade five.
SchoolArts magazine, The Play Issue, Summer 2023, Elementary Art Lesson, Hat Design
Riley, grade five.

Let’s Talk Careers
I started by having students fill out an entrance ticket. They listed one career that is related to the arts and one career that is not related to the arts. After I collected the tickets, I found it interesting to see the vast difference between the careers that students had chosen that were art related and those that were not. In looking at the tickets, it was clear to me that many students didn’t realize how many different careers in art existed.

After reading some of the entrance tickets aloud, I showed students a list of the different art careers available, such as art educator, fashion designer, architect, and video game designer. It was great seeing students’ eyes light up when they saw a career from their entrance ticket. Then we discussed a few of the careers to get the ball rolling.

Getting Started
Students chose an art-related career that was of interest to them. This could be the career they listed on their entrance ticket or a new one from our discussion. I asked students to reflect on why they chose that career and why it interested them. Then I asked them to research their art career and record their findings in a sketchbook journal page. This page would include any type of research information they found as well as images, sketches, and other items that referred to their art career.

I told students that they would create a three-dimensional hat inspired by their research, linking the style of their hat to their career choice. Students could design any kind of hat using different types of paper and recycled and found materials in their design. They were challenged to be innovative with their designs as they collected information and sketched out ideas.

Throughout their research, students were asked to investigate the following information on their sketchbook journal page to help them gain a complete understanding of what is involved in the career they selected. This information would then be added somewhere within their hat to demonstrate their understanding:

  • Education/degree requirements.
  • Materials needed to hold the job.
  • Prior work experience required.
  • Salary.
  • Location of job (e.g., office, school, museum).
  • Daily tasks.
  • A description of the work environment.

Students were asked to create the template first, and to complete all the parts before assembling their hat. In their design, they were asked to include symbols and imagery that represented their chosen career.

After designing and assembling their hats, students added color using the media of their choice and any other finishing touches. Lastly, students presented their hats to their classmates and discussed the career they researched. Students wrote an artist statement to accompany their hats.

This project helped students explore their potential interest in an art-related career. They had many options as far as the career they chose, media, and even what their hat design would look like. Their favorite part was designing the physical hat to fit their career. It was great to see the information they collected incorporated into their hats. This project allowed students to look at art from a different perspective and understand that there are careers that will accommodate their passion for art.

Leigh Drake, Ed.S. is a visual arts teacher at Old Donation School in Virginia Beach, Virginia.

National Standard
Connecting: Relating artistic ideas and work with personal meaning and context.

Paper Hat Tutorials

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