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        K-2, 13+

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        Math + Arts | Abstract Sculpture & the Attributes of Cubes

        In this lesson, students will create cubes and identify the attributes of a cube, including discussion of edges, faces, vertices, and angles.

        Lesson Summary

        There are three options for this lesson, depending on class needs and time available:

        1. Frame, Focus, and Reflection (view and discuss): students will view videos about shapes. They will discuss and identify cubes.

        2. Short hands-on activity: students will form cubes out of craft dough. They should identify the attributes of a cube, including discussion of edges, faces, vertices, and angles.

        3. Project (view and discuss): students will view a video about how an abstract sculptor uses math and 3-dimensional shapes. Students will make three cubes (small, medium, and large) and collaborate with others to create an abstract sculpture.

        Time Allotment

        1. Frame, Focus, and Reflection (view and discuss): 1 class period

        2. Short hands-on activity: 1 class period

        3. Project: 2 class periods

        Learning Objectives


        I can describe the attributes of cubes.

        I can identify faces, edges, and corners.

        I can distinguish between defining and nondefining attributes.

        Arts and Humanities

        I can begin to describe artwork using proper terms for at least two elements of art (form and color) and one principle of design (contrast).

        I can make a cube out of craft dough or clay by molding it with my hands and describe it using art terms.

        I can make a series of cubes using the elements of art and the principles of design.

        I can work independently or with others to create an abstract sculpture.

        I can critique my work and the work of my peers orally.

        Prep for Teachers

        In this lesson the emphasis will be on the elements of form and color. In art, a 3-dimensional shape is called a form. Forms have length, width, and height and can be geometric or organic. This lesson emphasizes geometric (geometrically measurable) forms.

        The sculptor sometimes paints her steel and aluminum. The colors seen in the video can be identified as warm (red, yellow, and orange); cool (blue, green, and purple); or neutral (silver, gray, black, white, and brown). When you use craft dough, you may restrict individual students to one color or allow them to combine colors in making their cubes. In either case, students should be able to identify the colors as warm, cool, or neutral.


        Craft dough

        • NOTE: Air-dry clay will give better and more permanent results but is also more expensive. Use it if your budget allows, but craft dough will give acceptable results.

        One piece of sturdy cardboard or foam board 12” x 12” for every 3-4 students

        Tack craft glue (or teacher can use a hot glue gun)

        Media Resources

        PBS LM Sculptor

        KET Shape Hunt

        KET Shapes All Around Me

        Elements of Art PDFs

        Learning Activities

        Frame, Focus, and Reflection

        Show the Shape Hunt and Shapes All Around Me videos and the Elements of Art PDFs. Do a scavenger hunt in the classroom for 2-dimensional shapes and 3-dimensional forms and warm, cool, and neutral colors.

        Explain that students will be seeing how a sculptor uses math in creating her art. During the first part of the video, you want them to pay attention to the forms and colors that they see. Pause the video at 46 seconds and ask what forms they have seen. Some will be easy to describe in geometric terms,others are organic and are more difficult to describe. Ask students to identify the colors and classify them as warm, cool, or neutral.

        Show the Sculptor video.

        After the video, ask students what Ms. Mears does for a living. Do they know anyone who makes their living as an artist? Do they know anyone who creates art for a hobby? Do any of them like to create art? Explain that many people find it personally fulfilling to create art, either as a profession or as a hobby.

        Show a few of Ms. Mears’ sculptures by pausing the video at different places. Ask students to express their thoughts about the sculptures. What do they think they look like? Would they like to see them in real life? Would they like to have one in front of the school? Which one do they like best? Why?

        Explain that public art, like the works Ms. Mears creates, is used to beautify the environment and to make it more interesting. Ask students if they have seen other examples of public art. Maybe there are paintings or murals in your classroom, lobby, media center, or hallway. Ask them to describe a piece they have seen, being sure to use art terms.

        Explain that your class will be creating abstract sculptures to exhibit as public artworks.

        Short Activity

        Demonstrate to students how to shape craft dough into cubes of three different sizes, progressively larger. Allow them to select the color of craft dough or air-dry clay they want to use for each cube, encouraging them to use different colors. Have students describe the attributes that all the cubes share—number of faces, corners, and edges. Compare the cubes in terms of length, width, and height. Ask if all the shapes are cubes, no matter what size they are. Ask each student to determine which of their cubes are made with cool colors and which with warm colors. Ask if all the shapes are cubes, no matter what color they are.

        Lead the class in making a list of defining and nondefining attributes of cubes.


        Allow the craft dough cubes to dry. Place students into teams with 3-4 students in each team. Tell them they are going to work together as teams to create public art sculptures made from their cubes arranged on a piece of cardboard or foam board. The finished sculptures will be displayed in your classroom (or school lobby, media center, etc.). Encourage students to experiment with various arrangements. They can put all the cubes together to make one large sculpture or make two smaller sculptures. When they have an arrangement they like, they can glue the cubes together or the teacher can go from group to group with a hot glue gun.

        On the final day, first lead students in the critique process (see Formative Assessment). Then discuss if the sculptures should be further combined or displayed individually. Place them in a setting where they can be viewed by other classes and/or parents. You might want to have each team name its sculpture and decide as a class on a name for the exhibit. If possible, hold an opening reception for the exhibit and invite parents, grandparents, and school and community leaders. Invite the members of your site-based council.

        Formative Assessment

        What are the indicators of student progress toward or achievement of each learning target?

        Math Assessment Problems

        Combined with the AH critique by including questions about how many cubes of each size and color, how many faces and edges are visible, etc.

        Arts and Humanities

        At the end of the project, lead students in verbally critiquing the sculptures that their team and the other teams have created. Follow this outline for a critique:

        1. Describe: Ask students to describe what the artwork is (abstract sculpture) and the medium (air-dry clay or craft dough). Ask them to describe the form (combination of cubes of different sizes joined side by side and/or on top of each other) and to name the colors used.

        2. Analyze: Ask students to describe how the elements of art (form, size, and color) have been used to create contrast.

        3. Interpret: What do you think the sculpture looks like or represents? Emphasize that everyone might have different ideas, and that is one of the exciting aspects of abstract sculpture. Encourage them to include not only concrete objects but also feelings and ideas in their interpretation?

        4. Evaluate: Remind students that one purpose of public art is to beautify the environment. Where should this sculpture be placed to best beautify the environment?

        Program Review

        Where does this fit in? How should you document it?

        This activity contributes to your school’s overall efforts in art programming in several areas, depending on whether you implement just the Frame, Focus, and Reflection portion or you implement the entire project.

        Document with lesson plan and photos of sculptures.

        Curriculum and Instruction: Aligned and Rigorous Curriculum

        a) To what extent does the school ensure that the arts curriculum encompasses creating, performing, and responding and is fully aligned with the Kentucky Core Academic Standards?

        b) To what extent does the school ensure that the arts curriculum provides for the development of arts literacy in all four arts discipline and also utilizes the Common Core Standards for English/Language Arts?

        c) To what extent does the school ensure that the school’s curriculum provides opportunities for integration as natural cross-curricular connections are made between the arts and other content areas?

        d) To what extent does the school ensure that the arts curriculum includes the study of representative and exemplary works of dance, music, theater, and visual arts from a variety of artists, cultural traditions, and historical periods?

        Curriculum and Instruction: Instructional Strategies

        a) To what extent do teachers systematically incorporate all three components of arts study: creating, performing, and responding, into the arts?

        b) To what extent do teachers provide models of exemplary artistic performances and products to enhance students’ understanding of an arts discipline and to develop their performance/production skills?

        c) To what extent do arts teachers provide for the development of artistic theory, skills, and techniques through the development of student performances or products that are relevant and developmentally appropriate for students?

        Curriculum and Instruction: Student Performance

        a) To what extent are students actively engaged in creating, performing, and responding to the arts?

        b) To what extent do students use written and verbal communication to objectively reflect on exemplary exhibits and live or technologically provided performances as classroom assignments?

        c) To what extent do students, with teacher guidance, routinely use creative, evaluative, analytical, and problem solving skills in developing and/or reflecting upon their artistic performances and products?

        d) To what extent do students use written and verbal communication to objectively reflect on exemplary exhibits and live or technologically provided performances as classroom assignments?

        Formative and Summative Assessment: Assessments

        To what extent do teachers guide students to use developmentally or grade level appropriate peer review and critique to evaluate each other’s work?

        Formative and Summative Assessment: Expectations for Student Learning

        To what extent do teachers utilize exemplar/models to encourage students to demonstrate characteristics of rigorous work in the appropriate art form in most instructional lessons/units?

        Formative and Summative Assessment: Assessment for Teaching

        To what extent do students regularly reflect on, critique, and evaluate the artistic products and performances of others and themselves as is grade level and age appropriate?


        Lesson Creators: Lesa Gieringer, Dianne Simpson, Amy Varney, Melissa Roberts and Judy Sizemore


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