HighSchool Art Room: instruction and providing choice to students

STEAM at the Middle School


Whether you're working with secondarygrades in an enrichment setting or collecting ideas for the next school year, you might consider some of the lessons collected here!  Below you'll find ideas for art lessons with strong connections to academic content! 

I take a lot of inspiration from our awesome online art community.  I will try to give credit to the teachers I saw these lessons from!  Some are recent work I've done with small groups of students and others are from a few years back.  What I enjoy about all of these lessons is the chance to integrate other academic concepts into the process! 

Fifth Grade Lessons with Skills Challenges

This picnic challenge had students figuring out how they could use a two dimensional material (construction paper) to creatively represent food. I love the differences and creativity in each! folding, gluing, crumpling- any experimentation was allowed!

Students can use a variety of images over their value scale in a high contrast painting concept.

By manipulating wire, students create armatures for cubist head collages based on a previous sketch.  These cubist heads have been influenced by artists from Picasso to Sandra Silberzweig.

  Students use various forms of symmetry and simple transformation  techniques in their creations of paper mache fruit bowls and self portrait playing cards.

I love EJ from the blog, Art Ed Guru.  He has a wonderful little advocacy poster about 

the natural intersection of Art and STEM. He says…

When we grid, measure, and draw—we use geometry. When we make sculptures—we use engineering. When we mix colors—we reveal information about physics. When we create illustrations for stories—we learn about literature. When we review the styles of art from da Vinci to Banksy—we teach history. When we write about art—we strengthen these skills. When we create works of art, we solve complex visual problems in creative ways.

Art is naturally intergrated into STEM/STEAM for sure, but there are some really clear ways we can draw connections to support students academic growth and school growth objectives.

I have been collecting great lessons with a strong STEAM theme from teachers all over the US. In 2018, I was fortunate to attend the National Art Education Association Conference in Seattle, which had a STEAM theme. So I was able to attend many presentations that drew a clear connection between the arts skills and thinking process and STEAM thinking and processes.

STEAM Lessons Supporting Mathematics

One such presentation came from Debbie Suplitt and Jennifer Frye in Washington State and California respectively. Debbie shared this awesome geometric non representational art that is really based in algebraic plotting. Students plotted out all of the shapes and recorded the corresponding equations (see photo right)! 

Debbie did not share a website with us but did share her email address, suplitt@comcast.net if you’d like to reach out to her.

Using a grid to enlarge a composition or image onto new media is a classic observation exercise.  Using the grid is closely related to the plotting exercise above for sure! These enlarged animal faces are beautiful and I'm loving the "smashing faces" from the Art of Ed site as well. 

image below from Art Teacher, Kate Eshelman


Smashing Faces: Free Lesson Plan Download | Art education lessons ...


Secondary art classrooms have long been employing the mathematical concept of Transformations as mirrored symmetry and the use of fractions and angles as mandala designs or illusion of form artworks. 

These types of lessons are also fantastic skill builders for students to work on craftsmanship, patience and of course, strengthen elements of art work! 

Artwork published by erica651 | Negative space art, Symmetry art ...

Transformation (notan) from From Archigealab


Radial symmetry with meaningful word from  http://mwmsart.weebly.com/

Check out this awesome spin on the idea using a little pocket mirror (dollar store type find) to multiply the reflection and achieve mathematical transformation! From BabbleDabbleDo

I also love ideas like designing a community mural and then asking students to calculate how much paint will be needed, the area of the artwork and number of hours it will take to complete! 

Scientific Support

Galactic Pastels

These abstract chalk pastel compositions are based on images from the Hubble Telescope. When I have done this with students, they totally flip for the galaxy theme.  AND we get to talk about space and what they know about galaxies and space exploration before we spend a bit of time each class expanding that knowledge and sparking curiosity! I love to share space images from Nat Geo and talk about the NASA telescopes themselves! 

The above images are from the blog, Make it a Wonderful Life

Illustrating Plant and Animal Cells

Images from Becker Middle School Blog.  

In this collaborative lesson, students learned a variety of watercolor techniques including wet-in-wet, rubbing alcohol and salt, graded wash, scraping and resisting. Students were grouped and given a cell to ‘illustrate’.  Groups also used a digital platform to submit notes on their cells! 


There are so many engaging lessons to be taught in the Art room that I think beautifully support our learners in both STEAM as well as 21st century thinking skills.  By encouraging diversity of thought, initiating research and collaboration with grade level content, students will thrive within these lessons AND grow their art making skills!

Thanks for reading as always-  It was a crazy end to our school year all over the nation and I hope you've been able to recover from all the anxiety!  Art is such a powerful vehicle for healing, I hope you all have the chance to decompress with art making soon!