Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Mandalas from India

2nd grade artists have been studying the geography and culture of India in their classrooms, learning about the Taj Mahal and the Hindu spring festival of Holi. To connect to their study of India in art, we looked at the mandala. The mandala is a spiritual and ritual symbol in Hinduism and Buddhism, which both originated in India, representing the Universe. 
Traditionally, the mandala is a geometric pattern in a circular shape that has strong symmetry. The word "mandala" is from the Indian language of Sanskrit and means “circle.” They can also represent wholeness and our connection to physical circles like the earth, sun and moon, and life circles of friends, family and community.
We learned that mandalas can be two-dimensional or three-dimensional and can be made from different materials, such as paper, metal, cloth and sand. While they originated in India, they are also produced in other countries such as Tibet, Nepal, China, Japan and Indonesia. They were produced as early as the 4th century, and are still created today.
We looked at images of different mandalas and also of people creating mandalas on the ground, using what appeared similar to sidewalk chalk. Students noticed that the mandalas were created from the center outward, and were symmetrical in their design. Because they were being created with chalk, which can wash or blow away, we talked about why someone might take the time to create such a complex and significant symbol, when it was not permanent. Some students thought it might be for practice, while others thought it might just be for fun or for the shared experience.
After learning about the mandala, students watched a time elapse video that showed Buddhist monks meticulously creating a sand mandala over a period of a week. Afterwards, there was a ceremony and they destroyed the mandala, which surprised many students! Again, this led to a discussion of why one might do this and we talked about how it might be about the experience or journey, rather than the end result.

In keeping with this idea, students worked in groups at their table (we discussed how the monks working together made their mandala making go quicker) to create a mandala using colorful foam shapes. 
Students shared ideas and also compromised to be able to form a group mandala, keeping symmetry and the circular form in mind. At the end of class, student had a chance to see each other's mandalas before (calmly) destroying them and putting all the shapes back into the plastic bag.These are some of the mandalas that student groups made: 
The following week, students began designing and drawing their own individual mandalas, to keep this time. We brainstormed different themes, such as spring, nature, sports teams and personal interests, and ways to connect the shapes and patterns to a theme. 
After drawing their symmetrical mandalas, using rulers to help find the center point, students outlined them in Sharpie marker and colored them in. Once they were finished, students cut out the circle and glued it onto a background, considering what kinds of colors would complement their mandala design. Here are some examples:
Dorie, 2nd Grade
Adrian, 2nd Grade
Anna, 2nd Grade
Emilio, 2nd Grade
Ani, 2nd Grade
Domenic, 2nd Grade

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