Students at KIPP Empower Academy in South Los Angeles recently completed an art unit created by their teacher, Jessica Armstrong, called “Dreamland.” During this unit, second and third-grade students learned about one-point perspective and incorporated techniques of overlapping, size, detail, and color by imagining and creating their own Dreamlands. Read on for more details, tips from Ms. Armstrong, and a sampling of student Dreamlands.
The Importance of Art and Imagination
Ms. Armstrong explains that “the reason I love this unit so much is that it allows students to be silly while pushing them to consider a world that they would love living in. Some scholars end up with a seemingly normal land, and some scholars end up with chocolate rivers and rainbow lollipop trees. Of course students are learning drawing techniques, but it is most important to me that our scholars are dreaming of a better world. For a few weeks, they are the architects and creators of a place that means so much to them.”
She adds that the ability for elementary-aged students to create, dream, and design a world of their own is so important because students are simultaneously learning problem-solving skills, self-expression, and the importance of trying, potentially stumbling, and recovering.
When creating her art curriculum for the year, the first thing Ms. Armstrong does is re-read the state standards for art education and pick one or two topics to focus on for each project. She finds that “if you follow each benchmark, students should be ready for the next step.”
Next, she opens her cupboard and Pinterest searching for inspiration. “You can get ideas from anywhere. Start by looking at the materials you have in your classroom already,” she adds.
Finally, Ms. Armstrong puts together a PowerPoint presentation and demo for her students to introduce key concepts, provide instructions, and spark creativity. She chooses to include multimedia elements, including a clip from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory in her Dreamland unit. She also sprinkles in elements of art history when applicable, such as Ansel Adams’ photographic landscapes to assist in explaining one-point perspective, and provides students with a handout to help them express the inspiration behind their artwork and solidify the techniques learned and used during the unit.
“There are colorful clouds, fireworks, and people who can fly so we don’t have to use gas in cars,” Jaasiel, KIPP LA third-grade student.
“In my Dreamland, trash becomes food again, and there’s a hotel full of beds where everyone can sleep - and it’s made out of pizza,” Genesis, KIPP LA third-grade student.
“My Dreamland has planets, meteors, the sun, and some flags on the moon where I want to live. I want to be an astronaut when I grow up,” Daniel, KIPP LA second-grade student.