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Art teachers were STEAM-ing before STEAM was cool!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Dragon Puppets

Gung Hay Fat Choy! Happy New Year!

Chinese New Year falls on Monday, January 23rd this year, the Year of the Dragon! In previous years I have had my art students create Dragon puppets and lanterns in honor of the holiday. This year, I'm going to post a couple of related projects so your family can mix and match and have a celebration of your own! These projects are appropriate for a variety of ages, have fun!



Dragon Puppets:

I have made dragon puppets in the past, but I really wanted to try creating the version I saw in Family Fun Magazine about a year ago. They are elaborate (in terms of kid crafts), but worth the work since they definitely have a "WOW" factor! You can find the directions here.

A quick note: I don't usually have projects where children create carbon-copies of the same craft, but these dragons we created in class look very much the same since I didn't have four weeks to let the children all do unique dragons in terms of color and body, etc. Someday maybe I can allow a bit more choice, but for now I chose the colors they would do. 

Here are some suggestions I have when doing this project with a group:

  • Enlist some grown-up help. I had one helper (besides me) for 10 children. We don't have water in our room, so I think I would grab a bucket of water so that no one was leaving to refill water buckets. Have an empty bucket for dumping dirty water into.
  • Precut the egg cartons in the sections.
  • Precut the fabric into rectangles.
  • Create stations to break the craft down into manageable pieces. I had a station for painting the eyes, a station for painting the mouth, and a station for painting the fabric body. When the children were done all of the painting they could go to the cutting station and cut out all of their "extra" pieces like the eyebrows, etc.
  • At each station, have step-by-step instructions for the specific piece they are creating at that station with a finished example of that piece (not the whole dragon).
  • Have grown-ups in charge of dispensing paint.
  • Create a drying area. I laid out sections of newspaper and wrote each child's name on a section. When they were done a piece of their dragon, they could put it onto the newspaper with their name on it to dry. This kept all of their pieces together and I could quickly see what each child needed to finish before class ended.
  • Allow for drying time. It would be great if you could leave the pieces to dry overnight. I don't have space for this since the room I use needs to be empty when I leave. Use a cardboard tray to move and store the pieces between classes if you have to move them.
  • Paint during one session, assemble during another. You could even make this a three (or four) part class if you had time. 
  • Photocopy the chin and tail templates directly onto the colors of paper you want to use. I also needed the children to cut multiple shapes at the same time, but cutting many layers of paper can be too tricky (and time consuming) for some. I stapled the paper together through the shapes they should be cutting out. This held the layers together so they could cut them out. Once the shapes were cut out, I removed the staples (the holes left behind are small).
  • On assembly day, work with 2 children at a time to assemble the finished dragons while the rest of the class does something else (maybe Chinese calligraphy?). It is a nightmare to try to walk more than two children through assembly process. Call in another grown-up if need be to speed the process along.
  • Cover everything with newspaper and have everyone (including grown-up helpers) wear aprons. I was painted on a couple of times yesterday by accident :-)
  • Don't use good paintbrushes for this. Due to the nature of this craft the paint gets ground into the brushes no matter what you do. Encourage the children to place the brushes back in the water when they are done painting so the paint doesn't dry on the brushes (especially if using acrylics).
Despite all of these warnings, I really did love this craft! I think it is totally worth doing and would be very manageable with a small group or single child. Just plan ahead and take your time! ENJOY!

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