Over the past ten years, the Gallery at TCA team has produced more than 30 different visual arts curriculum units for elementary and secondary teachers and parents in conjunction with a variety of exhibition themes. Each unit comes equipped with ready-made lessons, worksheets, hands-on project Powerpoints and connections to the Arizona State Standards for Arts Education (can be easily connected to the National Standards). The Online Curriculum is developed by nationally recognized art educator Dr. Mary Erickson in collaboration with exhibiting artists and Arizona-based art teachers from a variety of schools and media specialties. Each lesson and hands-on art project has been tested by actual art teachers with their students. We hope that you will find this resource as a valuable addition to your classroom. Feel free to download and change the resources as needed. We've given you a good start, now make it your own.
*These lessons are provided free of charge. In exchange, we just ask for your feedback and/or sample pictures of what your students made. Let us know who you are and where you teach through e-mail.
STEAM Lesson Plans
Biomimicry: nature inspired design
Biomimicry is a set of six lessons for both elementary and secondary students designed in conjunction with the Biomimicry: nature inspired design exhibition at the Gallery at Tempe Center for the Arts.
Systems within Systems is a set of lessons for both elementary and secondary students. STEAM is a movement inspired by the popularity of STEM education (science, technology, engineering, ARTS and mathematics). It incorporates and celebrates the addition of art as a tool for creative problem solving and appreciating connections both within us and beyond us.
Going Green: Sustainability
Going Green is a three-lesson unit plan inspired by Green Revolution, a collaborative project originally created by the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry and its Black Creativity Council and is made available by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service.
Birds of Feather
Birds of a Feather is a unit plan designed in conjunction with the Birds of a Feather exhibition at the Gallery at Tempe Center for the Arts.
Green & Gray is a multi-lesson unit plan designed in conjunction with the Green & Gary exhibition at the Gallery at Tempe Center for the Arts.
Arizona Landscapes: Landscape art
The beautiful landscapes of Arizona feature natural wonders of deserts, forests, mountains, lakes and valleys and built environments like historic adobes, modern skyscrapers, highways, subdivisions, farms and golf courses. These sets of interdisciplinary lesson plans provide a framework for teaching students about the landscape and the creative spirit of those who live, work and play in Arizona.
Pop Culture Lesson Plans
Western POP: Facts and fiction of the American West
Western Pop is a set of four lessons for both elementary and secondary students designed in conjunction with the Western Pop exhibition at the Gallery at Tempe Center for the Arts. Explore the history of the old west and what the western landscape consists of today.
Page to Screen: Art and film inspired by the written word
Adaptation is a three-lesson unit plan designed inspired by the Page to Screen exhibition at the Gallery at Tempe Center for the Arts. Lesson Three is appropriate for upper elementary or middle school and lesson four is appropriate for high school students with prior experience using computer graphics applications.
American POP: Pop culture from super heroes to science fiction
Introduce the theme that, “Heroes are people who take action to make things better for others” by allowing students to define what makes someone a hero. Ask them to name: fictional heroes from movies or TV, real heroes from US and world history, or everyday people who sometimes do heroic deeds.
Cars and Guitars
People can use words and images in print and media to persuade others. Learning how images and words influence people can help individuals make better, informed choices.
Chuck Jones: It only looks easy
This three-lesson unit plan focuses on learning and shows how artists learn from teachers, from other artists, on their own, from family and from the world around them
Clay Lesson Plans
Juried Biennial: Clay
This hands-on clay unit focuses on the theme of food and memory. The experience of eating food is short-lived but can hold significant meaning, especially when it relates to personal experiences. Food can also embody personal, social and/or cultural meanings.
Animal Crackers: Animals
Animal Crackers is a series of lesson plans designed for use with the Animal Crackers exhibition. The unit examines the theme life that throughout human existence people have lived around and with animals and the theme in art that many artists have chosen animals as their subject matter.
Clay: Useful or Beautiful?
The unit examines ceramic art and explores how people like and dislike things for different reasons. The unit examines the theme that ceramic art can be judged both for its usefulness and its visual interest.
Media Specific Lesson Plans
Merely Players: Costume Design
Merely Players is a four-lesson unit plan designed in conjunction with the theatrical costume exhibition at the Gallery at Tempe Center for the Arts. Lessons one and two can be used with students of all ages, lesson three is designed for elementary/middle school grades and lesson four is designed for high school.
COPPER: Art made or inspired by copper
Copper is a three-lesson unit plan designed in conjunction with the TCA Biennial: Copper exhibition at the Gallery at Tempe Center for the Arts. Both elementary and secondary projects are included.
Realism: From the International Guild of Realism
Point of View is a unit plan designed in conjunction with the International Guild of Realism: 8th Annual Juried exhibition at the Gallery at Tempe Center for the Arts. Both elementary and secondary art projects are included.
WOOD: Art made of or inspired by wood
The Nature of Wood is a three-lesson unit plan that explores the materials that make up what people eat, wear and use in their daily lives. The lessons explore how artists who work with natural materials, like wood, can bring to life the rich variety and unique qualities of materials many take for granted.
GLASS: Art made of or inspired by glass
People throughout time and around the world have made and used glass. This three-part lesson plan celebrates the glories and nuances of light and color in glass art.
PAPER: Art made of or inspired by paper
Paper is part of everyday life from newspapers to homework assignments. Almost all artists use paper in one way or another for drawing, printing or folding. For many, working on paper or with paper is at the heart of the art-making process.
Masters of Illusion: Tricks of Perfection/Tromp L'Oeil
Some artwork is so skillfully done that it looks real or as real as a photograph. This unit focuses on artists who can “trick the eye” and drawing and observation techniques students can use to create realism in their work.
Public Art: art in public places
This unit explains the “who, what, where and why” of art in public spaces. It also presents hands-on projects that can help students build their own modular sculptures and think about site-specific art in three-dimensions.
Expression Lesson PlansSummer of Love: Tokens of Love
Tokens of Love is a three-lesson unit plan designed in conjunction with the Summer of Love exhibition at the Tempe Center for the Arts.
Family Matters: Art about family connections
This set of lesson plans allow students to explore how artworks can reveal complex and simple truths about families. Students explore how they are influenced by their families.
Mixing It Up: Building an Identity (Culture)
Every culture builds its identity from shared activities, beliefs and values. Artworks can help us understand the activities, beliefs and values of our own and others’ cultures.
Outsiders Within: Personal and Cultural Perspectives
Many contemporary Native American and Latina/o artists refer to personal and cultural experiences for inspiration. This three-unit plan is about culture and the concept of multiple artworlds.
Read Me a Picture: Children's Book Illustrators
The world is filled with words and pictures that provide information. This three-lesson mini unit plan shows how artists such as children's book illustrators use words and pictures to tell stories and share ideas.
Faces: Art about the human face
This three-lesson unit plan is designed around art about the human face. Artists’ style choices are both personal and influenced by the world around them.
Projecting Personas: The public image of Roy Orbison
This three-lesson unit plan focuses on "What is Cool." Students learn that life is full of choices and artists create designs to influence people to choose (or like) one thing rather than another.
Twenty Questions: What is it?
When viewing artwork, the public often asks, “What is it?” These lessons focus on inquiry skills for understanding art and include an art project inspired by artist Denise Yaghmourian using Perler beads.
People of all ages and backgrounds can be both attracted to and intimidated by art at the same time. We've found that asking questions that start conversations is one of the best ways to put people at ease. Sure, some art is easy to approach, but some art is more difficult to understand. Just like a book, art can be appealing, serious and yes, even challenging. You and your students bring a variety of thoughts and personal preferences into the experience as well. By practicing some of the Inquiry-Based Art Education Tools below, you will find that those seemingly complicated layers of meaning and context can be pealed back and explored. Its just knowing where to look and why.
Meet one of the Gallery at TCA's inquiry mascots, Questor.
Questor the bird is an art student who is curious about understanding artworks.
Look: What can I see? Facts about the artwork.
Learn: What can I learn? Contextual facts.
Interpret: What does it mean? Conclusions about meaning.
Compare: How does it compare? Conclusions about connections among artworks.
Jack, the rabbit is an artist who jumps at the chance for new art making ideas.
Choose: What choices will I make in my artwork
Seek: What art ideas can I get from my own life and times?
Explore: What ideas can I get by looking at other art?
Plan: What do I want to achieve with my artwork?
These workbooks are designed to help educators and students alike develop thoughtful questions. Whether you are touring the exhibition or studying independently, these workbooks can help enhance your experiences in understanding art.