Friday, May 24, 2013

Michelangelo and the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.

 One fifth grade class was finishing off the year by reading From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg with their classroom teacher.  The story is about a brother and sister who run away from home and live in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  While there, they try to uncover a mystery regarding a beautiful new angel sculpture the museum has acquired.
The fifth grade teacher asked if I would be able to integrate an art lesson with the book.  I remember liking the book as a kid, (it was published in 1967!) I reread it one weekend to see what I could do in art class.
One focus in the story is on the art of Michelangelo whom the children believe may be the true artist of a mysterious angel sculpture.  While I read I envisioned Michelangelo's Pieta.  The smooth and shiny marble and the delicate fluidity of the sculpture are how I pictured Angel.  I began the art lesson by showing my class a photograph of the Pieta.  The class was mesmerized.  Several students commented that it was the most beautiful sculpture they had ever seen.  Several remarked on the subject matter, yet were surprised at how pretty it was.  I love when the students have aesthetic experiences!
Next, we read a little about the life and work of Michelangelo.  I used a biographical handout for us to discuss.
The class again integrated what we had learned in the book and brainstormed ways art historians figure out who made ancient or old works of art.  We wrote several ideas on the board.  Some suggestions were; the artists style, photography (photos of the artist at work), literature about the artist, the artists notes or diaries, passed down verbal stories, or combinations of all these small clues.
I asked the students to write down something about themselves that would give people a clue as to who they were if they were kept anonymous.  This was fun.  Some of the students I could guess what they were going to write.  Like the girl who loves cats, or the boy who is Minecraft obsessed.  And sure enough - that was what they wrote.
Each student received two small smooth stones.  Using the clues about themselves as their theme, they were going to decorate their rocks.  We used Sharpie Marker and acrylic paint markers.  When the designs were done we varnished them with tempera varnish.
Finally, the fun part.  We took a walk around the block and hid our stones.  Our hope was that somebody, a stranger perhaps, might find the stone and wonder about the artist.  Maybe even be able to figure out who it is!  Some students were not keen on hiding their stone because they loved it so much, so I let them save one to take home!
This lesson was a lot of fun and I hope I get to do it again soon!

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