Diatoms and the Diatomist

This video kicked it all off for the Grade 1s. Their current UOI is How The World Works, and they are looking at the different states of water. Following on from our adventure in painting ice balls, we were looking at what was inside water.

I remember seeing this documentary about Klaus Kemp, one of the only people in the world who creates intricate artworks out of diatoms.

After looking at the video and discussing the shapes (we've been looking at different types of symmetry in art and nature) we discussed what kinds of lives these creatures must have. Students drew their interpretation of a diatom design, which we then cut out to show as if we were looking through a magnifying glass.

Gallery of student works

Painting and Planting Ice Balls


It's winter here, though just barely above freezing, and I was thinking of ways we could be making art outdoors in a fun and interesting way. Unfortunately, were hampered by the lack of snow and ice. Fortunately, however, I was able to talk my way into using the school cafeteria's giant walk-in freezer to make some large balls of ice (frozen water balloons).

We made about 60 ice balls and brought groups of students out to paint them with watercolors. It was a really engaging activity and the students enjoyed the thrill of painting on a strange substance. We then "planted" the ice balls around the large tree. It was quite beautiful with the ice hitting the ice and highlighting the colors. The balls lasted for about a day before they melted away.

For the next round, I think we will experiment with placing objects in the ice, or doing this at a time of year when the temperature stays below zero for longer.

Jasper Johns and Our Favourite Number

Take an object. Do something to it. Do something else to it.
— Jasper Johns

With the grade 1s and 2s, we often talk about the subjects of artworks and why an artist might choose a particular subject. They're really interested in the backstory behind artists and their artworks. We've been looking at a lot of abstract expressionist artworks lately, and they've really engaged with the opportunity to interpret artworks. However, when it comes to creating their own works, students often gravitate towards depicting scenes or objects. For this painting unit, I wanted us to move away from representational subjects and towards depicting abstract ideas.

0 Through 9, Jasper Johns

0 Through 9, Jasper Johns

Using the quote above as a jumping off point, we looked at his works and talked about how we could use the idea of an every-day object, like a number, as a way to make art. Students then created their own compositions with numbers using watercolors and explored they could create a feeling or emotion with their composition.