Toys in the attic? No, toys in the art studio!

Today’s Contributor: Kevin Abeyta

Kevin A I am the Arts Specialist at Lee Lewis Campbell Media and Performing Arts Institute. (Whew! Say that five times real fast!) This is my third year teaching art to grades Pre-K through 5th on the East side of Austin. In that amount of time I am amazed at what I still find in my supply closet from past teachers who had this space before me. One recent discovery was a large supply of the flat 12”x12” Lego tiles that children use to build things on. I’ve looked at these things for some time wondering how to use them in the art studio with my students.


One thing I should explain is about myself and my art background is that I am a printmaker, namely screen printing. I have taught my students this technique and each year we screen print posters, cards and other items. They love experiencing this technique and style of art. It’s also a  great reinforcement that outside of the classroom this is a viable career as Austin is a huge screen printing/printmaking town with many shops and printers working and thriving here.

I use social media quite a bit like we all do, especially to seek out other artists and teachers to see what techniques I can incorporate into my lessons with my students. One printmaker who I follow on Instagram is Chris Fritton, @itinerantprinter who travels around the country to various letterpress print shops collaborating with them to make new work. He recently posted imagery of using the small, flat tiles that kids use for decoration with Lego kits as printmaking tiles.

*Insert head slapping light bulb moment here*

I have a bunch of those tiles! I could use those with  my kids!

And thus began a new way to incorporate fine motor skills usage, creative play, math and art  into one glorious letterpress-styled project. I started out small, with a group of two to four students because I did not have enough tiles for the entire class. This turned out to be a blessing as it helped me fine tune how best to explain the printmaking process and idea for the lesson in a clear, straightforward way. I always strive to create a lesson that allows for experimentation, flexibility and success for my students. I am never ever about the final product but I am all about the process. My goal is to engage, create a safe environment and to have fun with art while secretly incorporating core content such as math and reading.

I began with a first grade class and eventually moved up to fourth grade with this process. Right from the start the students were super excited to “play” with Legos in art. While they were “playing” I showed them the printmaking supplies we would be using. As we progressed, discussions about symmetry, proportion and shapes happened organically, further helping me learn how best to teach this lesson to an entire class.

The actual printmaking process went smoothly. I showed them the ink, how to use a brayer and then finally making sure they transferred the ink from their Lego tiles to the paper properly. I wish I could share with you the looks on their faces as they “pulled a print” and saw the image transferred from their Lego creations to the paper. This lesson is still a work in progress and the fact I am still on the hunt for more Lego tiles is ongoing. Eventually I’ll be able to teach this to an entire class but until then I know I learned just as much from my students as they hopefully learned from me about printmaking in the classroom using a familiar toy they have at home.

Cheers,

Kevin Abeyta

“Mr. A.”

Elementary Arts Specialist

 

KA2Ink, brayer and the flat Lego tiles used for decorating finished Lego sets. Kevin 2My first graders loved the “play” aspect of this lesson. Kevin 3“Building” faces and robots helped my students make successful prints.
Kevin 4A successful print! Ka 5 Ka 6Successful printing! These are some of my 3rd graders after printing for the first time.
Ka 7Some of my 4th graders with their Lego Letterpress styled prints. They really got into the math aspect of this as we discussed creating symmetry and proportions in their art. Ka 8Making simple shapes was a great start for some of my students. Ka 9My initial setup. Apologies for not having more action shots i but you can see the supplies I used for this.

 

6 Comments

  1. This is such an innovative idea and use of legos! I am trying to think of how I could apply this to history curriculum at the high school level in the spring!

  2. Wow! What an innovative idea! I will certainly share this with the art teachers at my campus. This certainly is a great way to bring in the A to STEAM!

  3. This is an awesome idea! Sometimes we have to look at things in terms of a square at a time. Legos is perfect for that!

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