America’s Signs and Symbols (Grades 3 +)



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Artful Connections

America’s Signs and Symbols (Grades 3 +)

Overview


Artists use familiar American icons – the Statue of Liberty, the bald eagle, the flag – to communicate their ideas and to encourage probing thoughts about our society. After an introduction to America’s signs and symbols through a pre-visit activity, participation in the videoconference, and a post-visit lesson to cement concepts, your students will be better able to:


  • Understand the historical context and symbolic meanings of American icons

  • Understand the role of symbols in the expression of a national identity, personal ideas, and social commentary

  • Use visual vocabulary to articulate observations and interpretations of artworks



National Standards

Visual Arts


K-12.1 Understanding and applying media, techniques, and processes;

K-12.3 Choosing and evaluating a range of subject matter, symbols, and ideas;

K-12.4 Understanding the visual arts in relation to history and cultures;

K-12.6 Making connections between visual arts and other disciplines.




Tips for a Successful Videoconference

Before the Videoconference


  • Check with your technology coordinator to ensure your school has compatible videoconferencing equipment (H.323 protocol).

  • At least four weeks prior to your preferred dates, schedule your videoconference with the Center for Interactive Learning and Collaboration (CILC): http://www.cilc.org. Search the list of content providers for Smithsonian American Art Museum to view a list of our programs. All requests made on CILC will be routed to the museum and our staff will contact you to set up a test call.

Please note: We recommend you book early due to high demand for limited time slots.

  • At least one week prior to your program date:

    • Staff will contact you with the assigned videoconference presenter’s name and e-mail. Contact the presenter to discuss your plans for integrating this topic with your curriculum. Your videoconference presenter may suggest ways to customize the content of the videoconference to your needs.

    • Complete a successful test call at the scheduled time with the American Art Museum staff. This is a good time to practice turning the equipment on and off and locating the volume and other functions of your videoconference equipment.

    • Identify a space where all your students will be able to sit comfortably within your camera’s view, see a projected PowerPoint, and hear the videoconference presenter.

    • Review videoconference rules and expectations with your students. Students should speak loudly and clearly to the presenter, one at a time. It’s helpful to have students raise their hands and for you to call on them before they speak.

    • Review the pre-visit material (available to download at http://AmericanArt.si.edu/education/video). Encourage your students to write down questions for the videoconference presenter elicited by the pre-visit activities. Questions about the content, artwork, museum, and (within reason) the presenter are welcome!

During the Videoconference


  • Make sure students are comfortably seated within view of the camera and can readily see the videoconference screen and projected PowerPoint presentation.

  • Classroom-appropriate behavior is essential to a successful videoconference program. Students should listen to the presenter as well as each other and should behave respectfully.

  • Encourage your students to ask and answer questions and give their opinions and ideas. Remind students to speak loudly and clearly for the presenter.

  • Encourage your students to exercise the observation and interpretation skills you introduced with the pre-visit materials.

  • Help the videoconference presenter maintain classroom management. Call on students to prompt them to ask and answer questions. Consider rephrasing or restating a question if you know your students have something to say but are shy or may not understand the question. If the presenter cannot hear students, repeat their answers for the presenter.

After the Videoconference


  • Incorporate the appropriate videoconference post-lesson into your classroom curriculum (available to download at http://AmericanArt.si.edu/education/video).

  • Contact the videoconference presenter with any follow-up questions from your students.

  • Contact American Art staff (AmericanArtEducation@si.edu) with your comments and suggestions. Evaluation and program improvement are a priority and we welcome your comments.

  • Follow the link to CILC below and complete a brief survey about your videoconference experience.

    • America’s Signs & Symbols http://cilc.org/evaluation.aspx?pass=9k7jQ1nSxf

Vocabulary

US History/Civics


Amendment – (n.) a legal addition to the Constitution of the United States of America that changes or expands its meaning. The two of the four paths to amendment that have been used historically are: proposal by Congress and ratification by state conventions and proposal by Congress and ratification by state legislatures.

Bill of Rights – (n.) the first ten amendments to the Constitution that provide Americans basic freedoms of speech, religion, petition, assembly, and the press as well as the right to bear arms and the right to due process.

Constitution – (n.) adopted in 1787, the Constitution of the United States of America is the basis for law in the United States, organizes the federal government, and defines its relationship to all American states and citizens

freedom – (n.) assurance that a government will not oppress its citizens

immigrate – (v.) to enter into a country with the intention of establishing a life and livelihood

liberty – (n.) the enjoyment of certain social, political, and economic rights and privileges1. For example, America’s freedom from the rule of England and ability to self-govern.

sign – (n.) a mark or shape that stands in place of written words or an idea

symbol – (n.) something that stands for something else due to a relationship, association, or accidental resemblance2


Visual Arts


composition – (n.) the arrangement of elements such as shape, line, value, and form within an artwork

interpret – (v.) to derive meaning from observed features or traits

landscape – (n.) a picture representing natural scenery

museum – (n.) an organization traditionally concerned with acquiring, conserving, studying, and exhibiting objects

observe – (v.) to note the visible features or traits of an artwork

portrait – (n.) a pictorial representation of a person, usually showing the face

process – (n.) a combination of methods and techniques used to create an artwork

subject – (n.) the principal idea conveyed by a work of art


Topic Related Artwork

A representative sample of the artworks in our collection that support the videoconference topic appears below. These are suggested for use during pre-videoconference activities. Images used during your videoconference may vary.



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Fourth of July Parade (from book, Suburbia)


1972

Bill Owens

gelatin silver print on paper mounted on paperboard

image: 8 1/2 x 6 in. (21.5 x 15.2 cm.)

Smithsonian American Art Museum Transfer from the National Endowment for the Arts

1983.63.1054

http://americanart.si.edu/collections/search/artwork/?id=19134





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Liberty


ca. 1884

Frederic Auguste Bartholdi

bronzed terra cotta and tin

46 x 12 x 11 in. (116.8 x 30.5 x 28.0 cm)

Smithsonian American Art Museum Transfer from the U.S. Capitol

XX76

http://americanart.si.edu/collections/search/artwork/?id=1415







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Preamble


1987

Mike Wilkins

painted metal on vinyl and wood

96 x 96 in. (243.8 x 243.8 cm.)

Smithsonian American Art Museum Gift of Nissan Motor Corporation in U.S.A.

1988.39

http://americanart.si.edu/collections/search/artwork/?id=27722







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Miss Liberty Celebration


1987

Malcah Zeldis

oil on corrugated cardboard

54 1/2 x 36 1/2 in. (138.4 x 92.7 cm) Smithsonian American Art Museum Gift of Herbert Waide Hemphill, Jr. 1988.74.14

http://americanart.si.edu/collections/search/artwork/?id=15517




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Electronic Superhighway: Continental U.S., Alaska, Hawaii

1995


Nam June Paik

49-channel closed circuit video installation, neon, steel and electronic components

approx. 15 x 40 x 4 ft.

Smithsonian American Art Museum Gift of the artist

2002.23

http://americanart.si.edu/collections/search/artwork/?id=71478





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Vaquero

modeled 1980/cast 1990



Luis Jiménez

acrylic urethane, fiberglass, steel armature

199 x 114 x 67 in. (505.5 x 289.6 x 170.2 cm.)

Smithsonian American Art Museum Gift of Judith and Wilbur L. Ross, Jr., Anne and Ronald Abramson, Thelma and Melvin Lenkin

1990.44

http://americanart.si.edu/collections/search/artwork/?id=31943





Additional Resources


Nam June Paik: Zoom It

http://americanart.si.edu/education/insights/zoom/paik/

Explore a photograph of our video installation Electronic Superhighway: Continental U.S., Alaska, Hawaii, using the "zoom" tool. To design this monumental map of the United States, the artist Nam June Paik arranged 336 televisions on a scaffold and overlaid it with almost 600 feet of neon lights.



Superhighway Scholars

http://americanart.si.edu/education/rs/index.cfm

Superhighway Scholars is a classroom activity designed to complement the elementary-school state history curriculum. Inspired by Nam June Paik's monumental video installation Electronic Superhighway, students use historical and geographic facts about their states to create collages. They then submit the collages for posting in our student showcase, where the public can view their artwork.



Ben’s Guide to US Government for Kids

http://bensguide.gpo.gov/3-5/symbols/index.html

U.S. Government Printing Office's kid-friendly site that introduces both American government and American symbols.



Symbols on Coins: U.S. Coins Evolved from Ancient Times

http://www.usmint.gov/kids/teachers/LessonPlans/viewLP.cfm?lessonPlanId=127

Students will learn about the evolution of coins, and can design their own coin, using features that have been carried over into modern times.



U.S. Department of the Treasury: Portraits and Designs

http://www.ustreas.gov/education/faq/currency/portraits.shtml

FAQs presenting information on the significance of signs and symbols incorporated into American paper currency.



Celebrate America in Poetry and Art Edited by Nora Panzer. (Washington, DC: Smithsonian American Art Museum: 2001).

Through the years, America's writers and visual artists have sought to capture the pulse of the American experience through poetry and art. Celebrate America unites these diverse artistic expressions in one volume, examining this country's identity as a cornucopia of beliefs, cultures, and peoples.



The Art of Freedom: How Artists See America by Bob Raczka (Millbrook Press: 2008).

What is America? See a variety of answers through the eyes of eighteen artists.



How Artists See America by Colleen Carroll (Abbeville Press: 2002).

Appropriate for grades 3 to 6. Readers will see how Childe Hassam's festive images of a New York street send a clear message of patriotism; how Romare Bearden captured the colorful sights and sounds of a jazz band in New Orleans; how Grant Wood's portrait of a man and woman expresses the no-nonsense, hard-working character of midwesterners; and how Georgia O'Keeffe used bones and other objects she collected to portray the openness and beauty of the Southwest.



How Artists Use … (series) by Paul Flux (Heinemann Library: 2007).

Appropriate for K to 3. An introduction to art concepts including color, line, shape, and perspective. Ideas for studio activities grow from an understanding of how artists use particular visual qualities in their work. Full-color images of artworks are enriched with simple text.



1 Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary. 11th ed. Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster, Inc. 2004. [adapted]

2 Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary. [adapted]



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