As the year comes to a close, we have been organizing, cleaning up, and preparing our classroom for the new year. One of these tasks involves bringing down our Iditarod calendar from the wall. Old calendars can be recycled into a fantastic art project I like to call “stretched art” using basic art supplies and a lot of creativity.
Optical illusions hold a special fascination for my students. I have a collection of these types of books in my classroom that are continually checked out and shared throughout the week. I decided to combine our interest in this visual phenomenon with our calendar art project in 10 easy steps.
Share optical illusion books from the library with the class and discuss the visual trickery involved. Some of my favorites are:
Xtreme Illusions by National Geographic
Optical Illusions by DK Publishing
Magic Eye: A New Way of Looking at the World by Marc Grossman
Tear apart your out-of-date calendars, and let your students choose their favorite month and picture for the project. Turn it over and lay it on a larger piece of standard, white construction paper; any length will do. Lay the picture exactly in the bottom left-hand corner of the paper.
Using the top of the calendar as a guide, draw a line all the way across the top of the white paper. Cut off the excess strip and recycle it.
Use the daily grid lines on the back as a guide, and have students simply cut the calendar page into long strips. I find it best to number the strips across the top, so they can be put back in order easily when they are flipped over. For a mathematical challenge, you can require different measurements across the page with a ruler.
Turn over the strips and make sure they are in the correct visual order. Keep the first strip on the far-left side, then stretch the last strip all the way to the end on the right.
Now simply stretch the other strips equally between the ends of the paper. When you have them evenly spaced apart, glue each strip down.
Now the fun begins! Students should use a regular pencil to draw in the missing picture between the strips first, then add color. Use any medium you want to fill in the blank spaces between the strips as accurately as you can. We found colored pencils and oil pastels worked well together.
Oil pastels bring a bright pop of color to the design. They also add a little realism to the optical illusion when students blend the color with their fingers.
It’s helpful to let students see their project from across the room as they work. Viewed up close the picture may look a bit strange, resulting in some giggles from the class. Held up a few feet away, the optical illusion comes together, and they can see their added design brings the strips into a cohesive image, resulting in many “oohs” and “aahhs”.
The stretched art project makes a wonderful bulletin board display in the classroom. I used a black background to make the illusions stand out for the viewer.
For an extra challenge, have students remove more strips to leave larger empty spaces. More creativity and problem solving will be needed to fill in the blank areas with their drawings.
This activity is also a great beginning for a writing lesson. My students wrote similes and metaphors about their pictures since we are learning about figurative language in class. An Iditarod themed narrative story is a great choice or a how-to procedural text about the entire art process: the possibilities are endless. We had great fun creating our optical illusions, but the Iditarod stretched art project has the added bonus of recycling and reusing obsolete calendars destined for the trashcan.
Get your gear for the Last Great Race on Earth™. Be prepared for this project in January by ordering your new Iditarod calendar from the online store now.