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Transforming Space

Grades: 4, 5, 6
Related Subjects: English - Language Arts, Mathematics, Visual & Performing Arts
Medium: Mixed Media
Class time required: 1 X 50 minute session
Author: MCASD Office of Education

Student Example: Transforming Space

Student Example: Transforming Space

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Most people are familiar with artists using traditional materials to paint and sculpt with like oil paint, stone, and clay. However, many contemporary artists have been known to use unconventional art materials. Some artists use everyday objects like toothpicks, pencils, and bottles to create beautiful sculptures. In this one-session lesson, students will use an unconventional material to create installation art. The students will also identify and describe characteristics of contemporary artwork, both verbally and in writing.


  • Yarn, etc (students should determine the material to be used)
  • Scissors
  • Painters tape
  • Stools or sturdy chairs
  • Lined paper



Robert Irwin

Baja California Circle

Baja California Circle
Richard Long


Mark Dion

Garden Installation (Displaced Person)

Garden Installation (Displaced Person)
Vito Acconci

Teachers Preparation

  • Print the images listed above onto overhead transparencies.
  • Pre-cutting tape may be done to speed up the process and eliminate confusion (see step 6).


1. Begin a discussion with the students about contemporary art: What does the word ‘contemporary’ mean? What do you think contemporary art looks like? What materials do you think artists use in contemporary art? How do you think contemporary art differs from art made a long time ago? Have the students look up the word ‘contemporary’ in the dictionary, if necessary.

2. Place the first transparency on the overhead. Use the following questions to guide the discussion about the images:
• What’s going on in this picture?
• What more can we find?
• What materials are used?
• How does this artwork make you feel?
• How do you think the artist felt (happy, sad, confused, etc.) when he/she made this?
• What does this artwork remind you of?
• What shapes do you see?
• Is this artwork representational or abstract? Provide evidence.

Repeat this method two more times.

3. Explain to the students that they will be creating installation art in their classroom. Have the students find the definition of installation art. Ask the students to list the different types of art materials that they use in school and which materials (yarn, string, etc.) they would like to use in an installation artwork. Students should agree on one common material to use for their installation.

4. Clear the room or portion of the room from all obstructions (floor and wall).

5. Lay out the materials on a table within comfortable reach.

6. Have the students attach the materials between the walls at many different levels of height. Have them stand on sturdy stools or chairs for a greater variance. Using painters tape, students will affix the materials to the floor and walls (ceilings if applicable).

7. Give the students about 25 minutes to create their classroom installation.

8. Once the artwork is complete, engage the students in a discussion using the following questions:
• What artist does this installation remind you of?
• What materials did you use?
• How is space a material in this installation?
• How would changing the location or the size of the space affect the feeling or mood of the piece?
• If the piece will be destroyed is it still art?
• How do you feel about making something that will be torn down?
• What difficulties occurred while making the piece?
• What can be improved on for next time?
• What would the title of this installation be?

9. Have the students write a multi-paragraph narrative explaining the purpose and process of creating this piece of installation art.

English-Language Arts: Have the students write a research report about an artist who creates installation art (e.g. Richard Long, Robert Irwin, or Tara Donovan). Within this report, students could include a comparison between the class’s artwork and one created by the researched artists. If your school has the technology available, the students could create a Power Point presentation rather than the standard written report.

Mathematics: If yarn or string is used, based on the amount of yarn in each roll and the dimensions of the classroom, have the students estimate the amount of yarn used in the classroom installation. Also have the students calculate the total monetary cost for creating the artwork.


CA Content Standards

Fourth Grade Visual Arts:
1.5 Describe and analyze the elements of art (color, shape/form, line, texture, space and value), emphasizing form, as they are used in works of art and found in the environment.

2.4 Use fibers or other materials to create a simple weaving.

4.3 Discuss how the subject and selection of media relate to the meaning or purpose of a work of art.

5.4 Read biographies and stories about artists and summarize the readings in short reports, telling how the artists mirrored or affected their time period or culture.

Fifth Grade Visual Arts:
1.2 Identify and describe characteristics of representational, abstract, and nonrepresentational works of art.

2.5 Assemble a found object sculpture (as assemblage) or a mixed media two-dimensional composition that reflects unity and harmony and communicates a theme.

4.4 Assess their own works of art, using specific criteria, and describe what changes they would make for improvement.

5.3 Research and report on what various types of artists (e.g., architects, designers, graphic artists, animators) produce and how their works play a role in our everyday environment.

Sixth Grade Visual Arts:
1.1 Identify and describe all the elements of art found in selected works of art (color, shape/form, line, texture, space, and value).

1.2 Discuss works of art as to theme, genre, style, idea, and differences in media.

4.1 Construct and describe plausible interpretations of what they perceive in works of art.

Fourth Grade English-Language Arts:
2.1 Write narratives.

2.3 Write information reports.

1.1 Ask thoughtful questions and respond to relevant questions with appropriate elaboration in oral settings.

Fifth Grade English-Language Arts:
2.1 Write narratives.

2.3 Write research reports about important ideas, issues, or events.

2.2 Deliver informative presentations about an important idea, issue, or event.

Sixth Grade English-Language Arts:
2.1 Write narratives.

2.3 Write research reports.

2.2 Deliver informative presentations.

Fourth Grade Mathematics:
2.1 Estimate and compute the sum or difference of whole numbers and positive decimals to two places.

3.0 Demonstrate an understanding of, and the ability to use, standard algorithms for the addition and subtraction of multi digit numbers.

2.1 Use estimation to verify the reasonableness of calculated results.

Fifth Grade Mathematics:
2.0 Students perform calculations and solve problems involving addition, subtraction, and simple multiplication and division of fractions and decimals.

2.1 Use estimation to verify the reasonableness of calculated results.

Sixth Grade Mathematics:
2.0 Students calculate and solve problems involving addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division.

2.1 Use estimation to verify the reasonableness of calculated results.



Craughwell, Thomas. CowParade New York. New York: Workman Pub., 2000.

Davies, Hugh Marlais and Ronald J Onorato. Blurring the Boundaries: installation art, 1969-1996. La Jolla, CA: Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, 1997

Frohardt, Darcie C. Teaching Art with Books Kids Love: Teaching Art Appreciation, Elements of Art and Principles of Design with Award-Winning Children’s Books. Golden, Co: Fulcrum, 1999.

Rosenthal, Mark. Understanding Installation Art: From Duchamp to Holzer. Munich : Prestel, 2003.

Comprehensive definition of installation art.

ArtLex Art Dictionary
Definition of installation art with many examples.


Mason, Antonym. In the Time of Warhol-Art Around the World. Brookfield, Conn.: Copper Beech Books, 2002.


Museum of Photographic Arts
Mingei Museum Timken Museum of Art

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