Teaching art and integrating it into our lesson plans has always
seemed somewhat daunting to me. Like writing, I enjoy that it is
a personal expression of who I am, but instructing others (especially
my kids) how to do it has intimidated me. Enter Visual Manna. In
an e-book format, their "Art through the Core" series applies art
study and lessons to Science, History, American History, English,
Astronomy, Social Studies and Math. Perfect for visual and kinesthetic
learners, each subject is in a separate file, each opening with
applicable Scripture and continuing into a broad explanation of
how art fits with the topic, goals for the curriculum, and the
targeted age range. There is a detailed table of contents, so it's
easy to see how the material fits in with other curricula.
Here are some highlights from the seven e-books:
In Teaching American History Through Art, students learn
about Johnny Appleseed and then create an apple tree or learn to
draw an apple. American symbols and historical figures are discussed
and drawn using the grid technique. Quill pens, cloth dying, paper
quilling, quilting, and pottery are covered and sampled. The importance
and making of maps, Native American symbols, and cartooning are
covered, as are sand painting and famous painting and drawings.
This e-book ends with a timeline test.
Teaching Astronomy Through Art opens with an explanation
of the rationale of teaching astronomy through art, quoting Psalm
19:1--"The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament
sheweth His handiwork." As the students work through the book creating
an "outer space art gallery," they learn about astronomers, telescopes
(drawing and shading cylinders), stars in art (and how to draw
a perfect star), mapmaking, chalk and oil pastels (how to shade
and blend), contrast in art (showing pictures drawn by Galileo),
the sun and its meaning to cultures throughout history, galaxies/nebula/asteroids,
the International Space Station, and outer space comic strips.
"The earliest writings of man were visual symbols or pictographs.
Communicating takes the shape of the written word and the visual
picture. It is very important for students to see the connection
and be able to communicate their own ideas. That is the purpose
of this book." So starts Teaching English Through Art,
which targets grades 4-9 but can be modified for a greater range
of ages. The primary goal in this volume is for students to create
a writing portfolio. Art and word art blend as th e students consider
e motions, coloring with words, drawing a face in proportion (using
the Mona Lisa), and personification. Basic language instruction
is given in parts of speech, types of sentences and paragraphs,
elements of a story, dialogue, and outlining. Students learn about
different kinds of writing, such as the biography (character sketch/caricature),
propaganda, editorials, newspaper articles, letters, and poetry.
Rudyard Kipling is introduced using a poem and a drawing by him.
The work of C.S. Lewis demonstrates three ways to tell a story.
The students are given a brief introduction and illustration of
several famous people. After additional investigation, they write
a particular kind of paragraph or paper and then draw the researched
person using the grid technique. The curriculum ends with a checklist
for producing a video, which will keep their creative juices flowing
even after the lessons are done.
On the cover of Teaching History Through Art, Rich and
Sharon Jeffus use Ecclesiastes 3:1 to remind us that "To everything
there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven." The
book's introduction indicates that this volume goes along with
Visual Manna's History Through Art audio tape (suggested
but not necessary) and that it is a good for group or family activity.
Besides the included timeline, each lesson provided is an overview
so that students can do more research using recommended resources--with
the ultimate goal of making history interesting and unforgettable.
This history volume is perhaps the richest one. Part one covers
diverse and interesting subjects such as prehistoric art, petroglyphs/hieroglyphics,
purple dye, the Bronze Age, glass in history (plus a recipe to
make glass candy), fresco painting, Stonehenge (and clay recipes
to build a model), pyramid building, Greek architecture, and a
lesson on one-point perspective. Also included are vase painting,
mosaics, and relief sculptures; the hanging garden of Babylon and
DIY instructions; the Great Wall of China; the history of sails
and the catacombs; and castles, knights, and metal work for their
armor. Tapestry as a visual story teller was fascinating, as was
the building of the great cathedrals. Famous explorers and pirates
were studied, with projects to make them even more memorable: Marco
Polo and three projects that make him more exciting than a game
in a swimming pool; Vasco de Gama and making authentic-looking
maps; Christopher Columbus and drawing the inside of a ship; and
Blackbeard and pirate maps. Royalty in general (and Queen Elizabeth
in particular) were highlighted, with students instructed to draw
a crown and also the queen's face. There is also a lesson in designing
a shield and a coat of arms (using drawing, clay, and plaster of
Part two encompasses the study of specific Renaissance artists,
scientists, and writers as well as architecture, painting, triptych,
calligraphy, bookbinding, and illuminated manuscripts. The illustrated
timeline at the end is great. The pictures make it come alive
and give it meaning, which makes it more memorable.
The volume I was most interested in reading was Teaching Math
Through Art (aimed at grades 3-8). As a lefty, I learn math
concepts much better if I can visualize them. This volume appropriately
supplements other math curriculum, offering real-life, applicable
reasons to learn math. Covered are clocks and time, fractions
(using a chocolate bar) and how fractions are used to draw a
face; money (domestic and foreign), estimation, using a compass,
sequences and reflections, measuring angles using a snowflake,
kaleidoscopes (including a website resource offered for students
to make their own), Fibonacci Sequence and what it looks like
in nature, 2D and 3D objects, and fractals and fractal art. I
can't wait to use this with my visually oriented boys!
Teaching Science Through Art is for ages 7-12. Psalm
19:1 is appropriately quoted again. This e-book is a fun supplement
to a student's main science curriculum and requires a sketchbook.
Notables such as Audubon and da Vinci are studied, as well as typical
science topics such as animals of all kinds, trees, plants, weather,
earth, water, and minerals (with a Mt. Rushmore tie in). More of
the "outside of the box" ideas include patterns in nature, science
in a sunset, and drawing from photographs. Finally, there are inventions,
machines, airplanes (design your own), kites, boomerangs (make
your own), and a classification calendar.
Finally, Teaching Social Studies Through Art (supplement
to Teaching Geography Through Art ) starts with the students
making a map of their home state in the shape of an animal--how
cool is that! They then learn about the moon, lighthouses (and
how to draw the shapes the make them up), landscapes and cityscapes,
nutcrackers, and flora and fauna (and what it takes to be a landscape
architect). The diversity continues with Monet and impressionism;
sculpture and 3D art; windmills, tunnels, and airports; the ten
largest world cities; Russian Orthodox Churches and Faberge eggs;
the Orient and the bonsai tree; mountains, rainforests, deserts,
oceans, and islands of the world; Iceland and Australia; Antarctica
and Africa; and how to draw eyes.
The ways these e-books can be used are as varied as the subjects
they cover. The main age group is middle school and above, but
most lessons could be adapted for younger students. Students could "read
and do" on their own or as part of a homeschool or co-op class.
The e-books could be used for summer, vacation, or weekend learning.
They might be used in their entirety or in an as-needed capacity.
The options are many, and the limitations are few.
Pros: There are many great things about this set: it
can be integrated into other curriculum, it's adaptable for multiple
levels taught simultaneously, and it points out the art that is
all around us all the time--showing students and teachers alike
that learning opportunities happen constantly. It also takes the
intimidation factor out of teaching art and looks FUN for the teachers
Cons: There are only a few issues that could be improved.
The table of contents would be easier to navigate if it were "clickable." Also,
as easy as the e-books are to read and understand, the Visual Manna
website is hard to manage and figure out. Finding contact information
Although the curriculum package may seem pricey ($200 at The
Old Schoolhouse Store),
it can be used by students of most ages to complement almost
all of their subjects. It's a bargain when you consider the quality,
how long it can be used (even over and over again by the same
student), and the lasting ripple effect of learning the other
subjects more completely.