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5 Collaborative Projects for Any Time of the School Year

Collaboration is a crucial skill. It’s not something that ever stops; it’s truly a lifelong skill. Even beyond the school setting, everyone uses collaboration in the workplace. We might not always get along with our co-workers or colleagues, but it’s still important to be able to work together as a team.

Our students hear us talk about the importance of collaboration, but are we truly taking the time to teach our students what that looks like? Are we giving them real-life examples of how it will benefit them in the future, no matter what path they take? The process of collaboration has so many benefits, and the art room is the perfect place to show this to students.

Here are five collaborative activities that will teach your students about the artmaking process and how to work as a team.

1. Team Weaving

students weaving paper together

This collaborative weaving activity inspired by Amber Kane is an excellent activity to explore the theme of communication and working together. To get started you will want lots of long thin paper strips. Consider cutting each piece to be one inch wide. Have your students work in table groups and select the colors of paper they’d like to use. As a table, students can start lying down the warp and begin weaving the weft paper strips following a simple over-under pattern. As they work together, the weaving is going to become more supportive, which is an excellent analogy for effective communication.

paper weaving on display

Once your students’ table weavings start to grow, challenge them to team up with the table next to them to combine their weavings. Once again, this will take communication and teamwork. Students will have to problem-solve ways to reinforce their work and bring the two pieces together. You can continue this process until the desired size is achieved. The finished result might be a little chaotic, but true collaboration can be.

2. A Collaborative Mantra

Often, your schools will set a new mantra or theme for the school year. Use this idea to create a positive message that will serve as a reminder to your entire school. To plan this activity begin with a mantra or positive saying. To make the project more meaningful, allow your students to brainstorm phrases that make them feel better. As a group, decide on the message.

collaborative art example

Using a large canvas or painting surface, start by collaboratively painting the entire background. Next, write the letters on the background. In the above design, students used line designs and patterns to emphasize the phrases, but let your students take creative liberties!

3. Transparency Suncatchers

We’re all familiar with suncatchers, but have you ever taken the time to research their meaning? At first glance, they are beautiful colorful objects that reflect light, but they might actually bring positive energy to a setting. The light reflection can cause the colors to dance around and bring joy to an everyday moment, or even bring a little feng shui into your life.

image of transparency sun-catchers on display

Our schools need positive energy, so why not try making a collaborative suncatcher installation? All you need to do this is transparency paper, Sharpies or paint, a hole punch, and fishing wire. Encourage students to start with a shape and create a design on that transparency. Remember, they only have to do it on one side. Permanent markers work great for this, but if you want even more vivid colors trying using acrylic paint. Once designs are finished, cut them out, punch a hole in the top and bottom, and start hanging them together with fishing wire. Finally, find window areas in your school to display them.

4. Adhesive Film Art

transparency sun-catchers on dispaly

Collaborative projects are awesome activities to bring your students together and create ownership in the school. However, the final implementation of the installation can rely heavily on the teacher putting everything together. All the extra gluing, cutting, and taping can quickly become a cumbersome job. If you’re worried about the time it might take to put up your next collaborative piece, try creating your next collaborative piece on adhesive film. The film is clear with an adhesive back, which means you can create on the surface just like you would on a transparency paper. The best part is that when you’re ready to hang the pieces, the film will stick to any surface. This is perfect for the cinderblock walls many schools have, it will stay on them and, upon removal, won’t take off the paint.

5. Shadow Art

students creating shadow art

Are you looking for a new way to teach your students about contour lines? This collaborative shadow art activity will get your students moving and working together while exploring important drawing concepts. All you need is a large drawing surface and a drawing utensil. Weather permitting, take your students outside, and have them trace each other’s shadows. Encourage them to rotate their paper and change positions and colors. Soon you’ll start to see some amazing abstracted line drawings come to life.

Collaboration doesn’t have to be hard, but it is a skill that will follow students long after they have left the art room. It’s essential to teach our students why working together is important. Allow your students to learn this 21st-century skill through communication, problem-solving, artmaking, and creativity!

What is your favorite way to collaborate in the art room?

What has been your students’ most successful collaborative project?

Abby is a middle school art teacher in Omaha, NE. She focuses on creating meaningful experiences for her students through technology integration, innovation, and creativity.

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