2nd graders at the Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School studied the cultural significance and creation of masks in African cultures. To kick-off the unit, students viewed and held real African masks loaned to us from the education curator of the Smithsonian African Art Museum, Deborah Stokes. They compared and contrasted African masks to masks from other countries.
Students then created their own masks in the style of African masks by incorporating four common characteristics: symmetry, geometric patterning, earth-tone colors and simplified/enlarged facial features. As part of the creative process, students first sketched at least 2 different mask designs and selected one of their designs to make into a paper mask. Each mask also has at least one three-dimensional design element created by sculpting paper.
Deborah Stokes, Curator for Education, Head of K-12 Education was invited to the Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School in Rockville Maryland to talk with 2nd grade students about meaning making with African masks. Art teacher, Shari Bergel works with African art in her classroom to teach ideas of symmetry, pattern, color, and 2-D and 3-D shapes. The students were introduced to modern master Modigliani and viewed some of his work inspired by African masking styles.