Monday, March 6, 2017

Mandalas, Part 1

This past month, 1st grade artists have been learning about the mandala, an art form that originated in India. The word mandala is from the Indian language of Sanskrit and means "circle." We looked at an example of a mandala and students noticed that it had a repeating pattern in its design, and to many students it reminded them of stacked plates or a rug. We also connected the radial symmetry of the mandala to that found in snowflakes, which we recently learned about.
We looked at different mandalas and pictures of people creating mandalas on the ground, using what looked like chalk. We noticed that they start in the middle and work their way outwards. We thought about what happens to drawings that we make on the sidewalk or asphalt when we use chalk and talked about how they wash away eventually, which might also happen to these mandalas. 
We then watched a time elapse video that showed Buddhist monks creating a sand mandala over a period of a week. It took them many hours and their design was very complex and detailed. We noticed that they used teamwork to create their mandala. Afterwards, they destroyed the mandala, brushing the grains of sand into the middle. This surprised many students! We talked about why they might do this, and connected it to when we have drawn on the sidewalk with chalk. Even though the result is not permanent, it is still a fun and a worthwhile experience to create something together. 
To explore this idea, students worked in groups at their table to create a mandala using a variety of different materials. Groups either received colorful foam shapes, wooden shapes, or found objects. We noticed that in the video, the sand mandala was created from the center going out, so students were encouraged to start with the middle and build out.
Students had to work together to share their ideas and create their mandala design as a group, which was part of the challenge! Students also had to keep radial symmetry and the circular shape in mind. 
At the end of class, student walked around to see each other's mandalas before (calmly!) destroying them and putting all the materials back into the plastic bag. Here are the group mandalas from each class
Group mandalas from Ms. Landay's class
Group mandalas from Mrs. Mandile's class
Group mandalas from Ms. Massa's class
Group mandalas from Ms. Salvucci's class
Group mandalas from Ms. Torchio's class

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