Teaching Printmaking to 4th graders
April 16, 2018 5:11 PM   Subscribe

There's an after-school arts program that I got invited to teach at, and I'm struggling to put together a curriculum. These kids love slime and other tactile things; however, the boundaries of the program are such that it sometimes feel like cheap after-school day care.

I wanted to introduce the students to printmaking by using the cyanotype process; I'd show them how to mask, layer, expose, and other such things, and how to rinse and take care of of their prints (or possibly, their fabric pieces).

Unfortunately, they are really into slime, like really really into slime and drawing on themselves and each other.

I haven't started teaching yet, and I haven't 100% decided to do this, because I'm worried about how much effort needs to be spent

a) keeping them on task
b) keeping them interested
c) keeping them from hitting each other

posted by tedious to Computers & Internet (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Are other forms of printmaking an option?

Collagraphy might be a good alternative — it's very textural, and you get to apply lots of goopy glue. Because it's so materials-based, I think it would provide some of that tactile immediate gratification that cyanotype printing might lack. You can also make collograph plates very cheaply — you can even just use cardboard as a backing. Monotypes could be a good option too, especially if they love drawing. Again, very immediate, very hands-on. Monotypes can also be combined with masking and layering.
posted by celestine at 5:21 PM on April 16, 2018 [4 favorites]

I think this depends on how you'll be building the negatives. If you have the resources to take them on a nature walk where they can get out a lot of energy and gather a lot of interesting shapes like ferns and twigs and whatever else to help build their masks, it might work out okay. But if you're just taking something like a transparency of a digital photo or having them arrange a bunch of different paper shapes for the masking, it's going to be too abstracted and not hands on enough. And you'll probably have to explain basic things that no longer have immediate relevance in this newfangled digital age, like the concept of a negative to begin with, and that'll be a lot of talking compared to activity.

Would it be possible for you to sit in and observe a few sessions taught by other people, so you can get more familiar with the kids, their expectations, and the program's expectations of its teachers? This might lead you to a more confident and refined lesson plan - and maybe you'll pick up tips on how to keep them from hitting each other while you're at it.

If you want to give in to the inevitable, you could do henna with them and they could *deliberately* draw on themselves and each other.
posted by Mizu at 5:32 PM on April 16, 2018 [1 favorite]

I'd probably go with something a little simpler, at least at first... like maybe just the paper kits, which just involve exposing the paper? Or was that what you were planning?

I did some printmaking with 4th graders, and we did gyotaku fish prints, which can be really simple or pretty complex, depending on the method you use. We have some rubber fish life casts, which you can get on Amazon, and they get to smear them with paint, and they look cool no matter what.

As a teacher with 15 years experience, I'll say that I think real cyanotypes are going to be way too much for kids that age, and guaranteed the stuff is going to be all over someone, if not everyone, which might not be great with the chemicals involved.
posted by Huck500 at 5:58 PM on April 16, 2018 [3 favorites]

I wanted to introduce the students to printmaking by using the cyanotype process; I'd show them how to mask, layer, expose, and other such things, and how to rinse and take care of of their prints (or possibly, their fabric pieces).

That's probably too advanced for that age. It helps to have something that's fast enough to do in their attention span and low stakes if they mess up. Doing small prints onto something like postcards or coasters that can be discarded and redone if there's a mistake that bothers the child will probably work better than a long process that can be messed up at the last minute. At the very least, if you have a room full of chaotic children that you're not used to supervising, you should be the one doing anything with chemicals like hydrogen peroxide.

I do recall doing some simple positive image prints around that age using sunlight.

They might be a little old for it, but potato printing is highly tactile and you can do some moderately sophisticated things with it. Tie-dying was something I remember being offered at school around that age and was popular. Shibori might also work. I don't know if those two would be too out of your area of interest.
posted by Candleman at 6:27 PM on April 16, 2018

If they like slime, maybe they'd go for something like paper mache?
posted by Mary Ellen Carter at 6:40 PM on April 16, 2018

My first grader just did printmaking in her art class, and they did block printing with a foam product like this, and really loved it. I vaguely recall doing something similar as an old elementary school kid, but I think they actually handed us linoleum and a knife. Pretty sure that wouldn't fly anymore.

Papier Mache would be good too.
posted by misterbrandt at 6:58 PM on April 16, 2018 [1 favorite]

I would start with block printing. I volunteer in the textiles classroom at a local middle school (omg yes they have a textiles classroom!). I just do loom maintenance on their floor looms on weekends but from the work hanging up and in progress the middle schoolers do block printing on paper and cloth with various media, stitched and clamped resist shibori in indigo, embroidery, some basic sewing (pillows and prayer flags more than garments). They are pretty decent weavers, too, with good selvedges and even plain weave. Their twills are kinda iffy, though, so there’s maybe that’s on the edge of too complex.
posted by janell at 9:15 PM on April 16, 2018 [1 favorite]

Simpler forms of print making to try - would hammered botanical prints be an option? It's a nice interesting experimental project, and could be done with rocks if hammers aren't available. Although I suppose possibly not helpful with the "stopping them hitting each other" goal. (Couple of other instructional links here and here.)
posted by fever-trees at 9:27 PM on April 16, 2018

Styrofoam is great for relief printmaking with young kids because you can incise lines with a pen or pencil. You can use styrofoam plates, or get sheets intended for printmaking for pretty cheap. If you wanted to get a little ambitious you for sure could do some stuff with masking and reduction printing....
posted by Sublimity at 9:50 PM on April 16, 2018 [2 favorites]

I've done gelatin monoprints with kids that age using a gelli plate like the one in this demo and they loved it. You can do a lot with layering, stencils, & drawing in the paint. I used cheap acrylic paint from the craft store. You can also experiment with using things like a silicone baking mat from the dollar store instead of the gelatin plate.
posted by belladonna at 6:32 AM on April 17, 2018 [2 favorites]

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