8th Grade: The Relatable Degradables


At my 2nd placement, I decided to do another unit that focused on environmental awareness. For the last seven weeks, my 8th graders have been learning how art can function as a tool for environmental awareness through experimental exploration with biodegradable and non-biodegradable objects. We started off the unit by discussing the Trash Mountain in New Delhi India, photo-journalism by Ake Ericson, and other ways we might find non-biodegradable objects negatively impacting our environment. After a few class challenges, my students were required to choose one biodegradable and non-biodegradable object from their brainstorm to sketch.  After they finished, they were asked to combine their sketches to create a sculpture, decide which parts would be made from (a) papier-mache  (b) clay and how they planned to put them together.

We began the first large portion of our project by discussing how we can use a material, like clay, from the earth to make our own art and how we can use slab, coiling, and pinch-pot methods to build our clay structures.

students working with clay [View Image]

While our clay structures were firing, we began to work on our papier-mache sculptures and learned about how we can repurpose paper and non-bio-degradable objects like plastic to up-cycle in the art room. We started by creating our structures with cardboard and recycled materials. Before starting the paper-pulp mache portion I decided to check back in and review some of the content we have discussed. I began by throwing a few pens and paper clips into my blender to demonstrate how non-biodegradable objects have a harder time decomposing and asked my students if they thought these items would create a smoothie or break my blender (I did this for just a few seconds so the only thing breaking would actually be the pens).  Then I showed my students how to make paper pulp using thrown away paper and a blender… They couldn’t believe it!

students using blender [View Image] students mixing with blender [View Image]

colorful bowls on classroom table [View Image]

For this lesson, I decided to prep multiple colors of pulp in bowls for the students to choose from and although it was a lot of fun in the making, in the future I would definitely make one color and let the students paint them after. When students needed a break or finished early, I left supplies on the counter for them to create their own pulp. They blew me away with their teamwork!

Eventually, it was time for glazing our clay projects. I showed the students a process of glazing using salt, coffee, tea, and corn syrup. They thought it was disgusting… However, the chemical reaction between the salt and acidity of the coffee/tea did not work on every project.

brown orange slice design [View Image]salt glaze [View Image]

This called for a great conversation about how sometimes in the art-making process things don’t go as planned. So we improvised by painting our clay with liquid watercolor, acrylics, and then assembled our sculptures!

ostrich with straw legs [View Image] sunflower in yellow croc shoe [View Image]

manatee in a coke can [View Image] tree [View Image] snake [View Image]

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