1st Grade Cathedrals

iPad-generated artwork, traditionally-created artwork, art history, learning about other cultures through architecture, symmetry, asymmetry – what magical art project includes all this?  The Gothic Cathedral art project!  And, for a bonus, there’s a behind-the-scenes movie clip on all the steps the students took to create each of their rose windows that’s unlocked by Aurasma.

I learned this art project from my mentor teacher, Kathleen Zeigler.  She has so many great project ideas and understands teaching art to children backwards and forwards.  You can find some great ideas from @kathleenzeigler on Twitter and http://www.pinterest.com/kathleenzeigler – check her out!

We started this project talking about and looking at Gothic cathedrals around the world.  This project concentrated on the Gothic-style facades of the West end of the cathedrals featuring symmetrical, taller South and North towers and a shorter central portal like those found at Reims Cathedral and Notre Dame Cathedral in France, Leon Cathedral in Spain, and Cathedral of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Zamora, Michoacan, Mexico.  We talked about how, frequently, the cathedrals are at the center of town amid other buildings, and there are streets all around it.  We talked about what you would see around the cathedrals (foot traffic, bike traffic, other buildings, trees, etc.)

We looked very closely at the different parts of the facades and talked about what we see in the facades (spires, finials, gables, trumeaux, jamb figures, lintels, gargoyles, friezes, etc.).  We pointed out and talked about the different horizontal layers seen in the various facades.

Then I passed out the drawing paper and the table leaders passed out the pencils and erasers.  I encouraged the students to draw their cathedrals as tall as the paper and to work vertically.  This was their time to show me that they understood symmetry as they draw their cathedral facades.

Next, they re-drew all their pencil lines with a dark marker.  I had anticipated that each student would use the marker color they chose (black, brown, etc.) all the way through their lines, but a few students alternated multiple marker colors over their lines.  The marker line variety on the same cathedral looked great!  Once they completed tracing over their pencil marks, they erased any pencil marks that were left.

Then I showed them how to peel a gray crayon and turn it sideways to create a nice “stony” texture all over their cathedral.  After the crayon work was done, they cut their cathedrals out and glued them onto black paper.

But what great cathedral doesn’t have a rose window??  I did a class demo on how to create a gorgeous rose window through the Kaleido Free iPad app, and we talked about radial symmetry.  I then selected groups of 3 students per iPad, and one student created his or her rose window while the other students put finishing touches on their cathedrals or watched the Rose window action unfolding on their group’s iPad.

It’s kind of a pain (understatement) for the teacher transferring the saved iPad rose window, but it’s worth it.  You use the Image Transfer ipad app to transfer your students’ iPad rose windows to your laptop.  Then you drop them in a Word document, resize them to perfect squares, choose the circle shape resizer, and then they transform into circles.  If you forget to resize them to squares from rectangles, when you resize them as circles, they turn into ovals.  I know from experience… 🙂

Once all the rose windows are resized and circled out, you print them on a color printer.  The students cut their own rose windows out of the printed page and glued them to the spot where they wanted for their own cathedrals.

***Update – I now just let the students create their own Kaleido Free images, and I print them all out on card stock. Muuuuuch easier!!***

Then you take a pic of their completed artwork and through the Aurasma app, attach the iPad movie the students created as they made their iPad rose windows on the Kaleido Free app (choose the create video part as you’re saving it – can be done later if the kids forget.)  Their parents or anyone with an iPhone or iPad looking at the artwork can see the “behind the scenes” rose window creation through Aurasma.

If you want to compare how asymmetrical North and South towers can also still achieve a strong balance, Chartres and Amiens Cathedrals are great examples.

This article does a great job of visually explaining some of the parts of the cathdral.

***Edit: I’ve now changed this project to a 3rd grade project since it’s a better fit with 3rd grade skills.  The background is now on a sheet of colored paper instead of black paper.***





Cathedral art project from wowartproject.com

Cathedral art project from wowartproject.com

Cathedral art project from wowartproject.com

Cathedral art project from wowartproject.com

2 thoughts on “1st Grade Cathedrals

    • Thanks Carolina! It was a fun project that the kids and I really enjoyed. I loved how your article explained what a Gothic cathedral is, showed examples of them, and even included a diagram – woohoo!


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