Fall’17 Blog Post #1

Name: Melissa Akey

Lesson Title: Kara Walker Silhouettes (Social Justice Art)

Date: TBD

Rational: In this political and social climate, I wanted to introduce my students in my Studio I class (which is a survey class) to the history and ability art has in activism and awareness. I want my students to know they have a voice and their art can play a big role in that. Kara Walker and her work is such a powerful contemporary of example of this. I wanted my big idea to be that artmaking is the production of new thought about self and the world. Art can be used to promote social justice and give individuals a voice. I want my students to choose their own issue that they feel strongly about to create their artwork on. After getting to know my students in this course I feel they can handle the responsibility of the subject matter as well as the freedom of choice in their art. I wouldn’t recommend this project as a first project of the year but after working with them I believe they can do this. Along with the student choice and the topic of social justice issues I also wanted to incorporate a new art medium for them to learn as well. This process also builds on previous skills and concepts that they have learned.


Content Area to be taught: Art

Grade Level: 9-12

Class: Studio I

Number of Students: 24

Prerequisite Knowledge:

  1.  Students will need to know how to draw using line.
  2.  Students will need to know how to cut using scissors and exacto knife.
  3. Students will need to activate prior lesson knowledge on color schemes.

Characteristics of Students:

  •      Students come from different cultural and linguistic backgrounds, Spanish and English.
  •      There are a few students who are English Language Learners (ELLs).

Classroom Environment:

  •      The classroom is bright and well lit with artwork on all walls.
  •      Students sit in the classroom at tables that have 2 students per each table.
  •      There is a large open area in front of the smartboard for demonstration.

Goal: Students will create two pieces of art inspired by artist, Kara Walker. One piece using cool colors and one piece using warm colors. Both pieces of artwork will be based on a current social issue in our country today.

Big Idea: Artmaking is the production of new thought about self and the world.

  • Art can be used to promote social justice and give individuals a voice.



  1.   Students will gain some art history knowledge of artist, Kara Walker. (Art History)
  2.   Students will learn how to dye paper using chalk pastel. (Studio)
  3.   Students will learn how to make silhouettes using construction paper. (Studio)
  4.   Students will learn to evaluate their art to that of Walker’s artwork. (Art Criticism)
  5. Students will learn about the use of art in social justice movements. (Art History)

Length: This lesson plan will take about 1-2 weeks to complete.

New York State Learning Standards:

  1.   Standard 1: Creating, Performing and Participating in the Arts
  •      Students will actively engage in the processes that constitute creation and performance in the arts (dance, music, theatre, and visual arts) and participate in various roles in the arts.
  1.   Standard 2: Knowing and Using Arts Materials and Resources
  •      Students will be knowledgeable about and make use of the materials and resources available for participation in the arts in various roles.
  1.   Standard 3: Responding to and Analyzing Works of Art
  •      Students will respond critically to a variety of works in the arts, connecting the individual work to other works and to other aspects of human endeavor and thought.
  1.   Standard 4: Understanding the Cultural Dimensions and Contributions of the Arts
  •      Students will develop an understanding of the personal and cultural forces that shape artistic communication and how the arts in turn shape the diverse cultures of past and present society.


  1.   Students will view photos and videos of Walker’s work and listen to history of the artist and her work. Students will be viewing a slideshow on the significant of Kara Walker’s Work. We will also discuss the time period in which her work was being made as well as the meaning.*Also introduce the idea of art being used in current events and show examples* (Day 1)


  1.   On the table there will be a shallow basin of water with water filled up a third of the way. (Day 2)
  2.   Students use a Popsicle stick to scrape away at pieces of chalk pastel into the basin. They must shave colors into the basin until a layer of color forms on top, where almost no water is visible.
  3.   Then, they lay the paper flat on top of the water for about 5 seconds, and carefully remove it. The paper will definitely start to curl, so they should have somewhere that they can put it down on quickly like placemats where the color didn’t take properly, students shaved some extra chalk shavings onto it, which blends well since the paper was still wet.
  4.   Students will make two of these dyed papers. One with warm colors and the second with cool colors which is a concept they learned previously.
  5.   As the paper dries students will leave them to the side and draw their silhouette shapes with pencil on black construction paper. While paper is drying they should be working in their sketchbooks to create their social justice issue art ideas. (Studio Time)
  6.   After they draw their silhouette shapes they will cut them out and glue them to their dyed paper once it is fully dry using the glue sticks.  


  •      Pastel Chalk
  •      Popsicle Sticks
  •      Water Basins
  •      White Watercolor paper
  •      Black Construction Paper
  •      Scissors
  •    Exacto Knives
  •      Glue
  •      Pencils
  •      YouTube Videos of Kara Walker and her work

Interdisciplinary Connections:

History: Connecting to what was going on during the time period of Kara Walker’s life and work.

American History: Connecting to the history of the American south to gain appreciation for the artist’s work.

Current Events: Learning about current social justice issues and working through how they could spread awareness through their art.


Intended Student Learning Outcomes/Assessment:

  1.   Students will be able to answer questions about the artist, Kara Walker and her artwork.
  2.   Connection will be able to be seen between the artist’s work and the student’s work and their choice of social justice issue.
  3.   Students will be able to dye paper using pastel chalk.
  4.   Students will be able to make and define silhouettes using construction paper, scissors and exacto knives.  


  •      Kara Walker
  •      Contemporary Art
  •      Silhouettes
  •      Pastel Chalk
  •    Social justice  


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