Fifth Grade - Visual Arts - Overview - January

The Visual Arts lessons for the month of January parallel and reinforce the World History and Geography lessons for the month and provide an opportunity to review and reinforce those lessons in another context. The first lesson follows the relocation of Byzantine art from Constantinople to Russia, in service to the Orthodox Church. The next three lessons focus on the arts in Japan; first, the great sculpture of the Buddha at Kamakura, followed by what should be an amusing activity inspired by Japanese woodcuts of traditional hairdos. The last lesson looks at several Japanese art forms that grew out of Zen Buddhism, especially that of landscape gardens.

Fifth Grade - Visual Arts - Lesson 17 - Russian Icon Painting
Note to the Teacher
This art lesson is intended to supplement what the students have been studying in World Civilization about Russia as the center of the Eastern Orthodox Church and of Byzantine culture after the fall of Constantinople in 1453. It should not be taught before they have had World History Lesson 20, in which they learn that Ivan III made Moscow the center of the Eastern Orthodox Church and of Byzantine culture. The Core/BCP curriculum includes extensive lessons on Medieval European art and architecture in Fourth Grade, which this year's fifth graders will not have had. Nevertheless, they will have seen examples of Medieval Madonna and Child paintings at the beginning of their study of the Renaissance this year.

Locate on the class timeline the beginnings of the use of vanishing point perspective (review from Lesson 5).

Recognize Moscow in Russia as a center for the Eastern Orthodox Church after 1453.

Compare and contrast Medieval and Renaissance figure painting by way of review.

Consider the similarities between Russian icons and painting on Medieval illuminated manuscripts from Western Europe (includes recall from Fourth Grade BCP lessons).

Comment on the elements of color and design in Russian icon painting.


Classroom-size world map

Examples of Medieval madonna and child paintings, see Suggested Books, Lesson 5

Examples of Russian icon painting, see Suggested Books

Suggested Books

Student Titles

Bergere, Thea and Richard. From Stones to Skyscrapers: A Book About Architecture. New York: Dodd, Mead, 1960.

A wonderful pen-and-ink drawing of St. Basil's Church built in Moscow in the 16th century, with its multiple onion domes, is on p. 69.

Hirsch, E. D., Jr., ed. What Your 4th Grader Needs to Know. New York: Doubleday, 1992.

Pp. 224-227 are devoted to Byzantine art. Two black-and-white photos of Hagia Sophia, one taken from the outside, the other from the inside and showing the remarkable play of hemispheres and domes, are part of that section.

Knox, Bob. The Great Art Adventure. New York: Rizzoli, 1993.

We have recommended this book before. Though it is unpaged and seemingly elementary, the particular examples of art from a wide variety of cultures are not found in other juvenile art books. A beautiful Russian icon from the 1470s is reproduced that would be especially helpful for this lesson.

Teacher Reference

Beckett, Sister Wendy. The Story of Painting. London & New York: Dorling Kindersley in association with the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1994.

Byzantine art, with several outstanding examples, is on pp. 24-27. A brief paragraph about Russian art plus an example of Russian icon painting is on p. 28.

Hamilton, George Heard. The Art and Architecture of Russia. New York: Penguin, 1983.

Examples of Russian icon painting reproduced in black-and-white and suitable for sharing with the students are found on pp. 106-162. Photographs of Russian Orthodox churches with multiple onion domes are on pp. 180-220.


Begin the class by reviewing briefly what the students have learned about the development of the use of vanishing point perspective in Renaissance Italy (review from Lesson 5). Ask the students: Where on the timeline did we indicate the beginnings of the use of vanishing point perspective in Italy? (around 1435; the early 1400s).

Next, write Renaissance Painting on the board. Tell the students you want them to think of the paintings of human figures they saw by Raphael, by Leonardo, and by Michelangelo. (If you retained a book with examples in the classroom, quickly refresh their memories by showing some examples.) Ask them what characteristics they remember about the way these three painters portrayed their figures (looked very human, lots of movement, showed muscles and the way the weight of the body is distributed when people actually stand or move, colors very realistic, shapes very 3-dimensional; accept any other thoughtful answers).

Write Medieval Painting on the board and show the class some examples. (Knox has an example from the Book of Kells, and Wendy Beckett's book has several, if you don't have books of Medieval art in the classroom.) Ask the students to list the characteristics of the Medieval paintings, and hopefully they will begin to see that these characteristics are nearly all the opposite of the things listed under the Renaissance Painting category.

Remind the students that there was an argument in the Christian Church in the very early Medieval period that resulted in a major division. One part, with its center under a powerful pope in Rome, was called the Roman Catholic Church. The other part had its center in Constantinople. (Have someone point out the 2 centers on the map.) Tell them that the paintings and mosaics that were produced for the Eastern Orthodox Church are known as Byzantine art. (Write the term Byzantine Art on the board.) Say to them: The subjects of most Byzantine art were Jesus Christ as the great teacher, Mary the mother of Christ, and a great many saints.

Show them some examples of Byzantine painting and tell them: While the Renaissance was developing in Italy, Byzantine painters kept right on in the same style they had always painted in. Point out the date 1453 on the class timeline and ask: What is it that happened in 1453 that would have affected Byzantine art and culture? (Constantinople was defeated, and the new center of Byzantine culture was Russia.) Tell them that all the while the Renaissance art they have just been studying was being produced--both in Italy and in Germany and the Netherlands as well--Byzantine art continued to flourish in the Orthodox Church in Russia.

Ask the students: Does anyone know what Russian Orthodox churches look like? (Give the students a chance to answer in case anyone has seen the one in Baltimore or elsewhere.) Show them some pictures and ask: What is the first thing you notice about the architecture of Russian Orthodox churches? (onion domes) Show them some more examples from different periods of Russian history so they can see that Russian church architecture retained the use of all those onion domes for hundreds of years. Let them count the domes, and remind them that the other domes they have seen (the Pantheon in Rome, Brunelleschi's dome in Florence, and the dome of St. Peter's in the Vatican) were single domes over the crossing of the cathedrals, whereas these Russian churches have multiple domes. Ask what they see on most of these domes (crosses).

Tell the students that inside, these churches are filled with a special kind of Byzantine painting called icons. Show examples of icons to the class and ask them to tell you how they would describe the elements of art in Byzantine icons. First ask them to name the elements of art (color, line, shape, texture, sometimes light and space), then list them as subheadings on the board under icons, and let them tell you what they see. (This will depend to some extent on the examples you choose, but they will undoubtedly notice the extensive use of gold and silver, the many haloes, the curved lines in the figures, the flatness and static quality of the figures, the luminous surface texture, and the tendency to ignore realistic representations of time and space.)

When they have had a chance to describe what they see and identify the elements for you to write on the board, tell them that icons are not only painted on the inside walls of Russian Orthodox churches, but a great many of them are portable, painted on wooden panels that may be carried around in processions by the clergy. In the Orthodox church, there are many processions filled with music and lots of incense, with the clergy dressed in splendid vestments, carrying sacred, decorated books and icons. Say to them: Perhaps the reason that icons look so mysterious and don't show a realistic representation of a particular time and location is that they are meant to be channels for prayers to holy personages. They are a little bit like a secret doorway to another realm.

Optional Activity

If you have the Knox book and can show them the modern, somewhat cartoonish icon he has created on the page facing the Russian icon, the students may be inspired to create icons of their own. They might choose someone they greatly admire to paint in the center, surrounded by important events of his or her life. Alternatively, they might choose to create a mother and child icon with the very rounded shapes they have seen in the Russian icons and the figures not located anywhere in particular in space. Let them use markers and experiment with silver and gold markers to make their icons look more in keeping with the style of Byzantine art.

Fifth Grade - Visual Arts - Lesson 18 - The Kamakura Buddha

Note for the Teacher

The students will have had a lesson in Second Grade World Civilization on the spread of Buddhism and an art lesson in Second Grade that focused on a sculpture of a seated Buddha from Thailand, done in the 14th or 15th century (slide #18 in plastic sleeve). If you can borrow that slide and show it to the class, it could supplement the present lesson by way of comparison. The students should have completed their World History review of Buddhism and introduction to Shintoism (Lesson 23) before you teach this art lesson.


Recall the spread of Buddhism from its origins in India to Japan.

Locate the period of the Kamakura sculpting on the class timeline.

Observe closely the elements of art in the Great Buddha (or Kamakura Buddha) of Japan.

Note the position of the hands in the Kamakura Buddha.

Relate the feudal period of Japan to that of Western Europe (review from Geography Lesson 22).


Classroom-sized world map or map of Asia

Photographs of the Kamakura Buddha, see Suggested Books

Seated Buddha from Thailand (slide #18 in Second Grade plastic sleeve), optional

Suggested Books

Student Titles

Hirsch, E. D., Jr., ed. What Your 5th Grader Needs to Know. New York: Doubleday, 1993.

See photograph of the Kamakura Buddha on p. 147.

Odijk, Pamela. The Japanese. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Silver Burdett, 1991.

Part of Silver Burdett's The Ancient World series, this has useful timelines specific to Japan on pp.6-7. An excellent color photo of the Kamakura Buddha is on p. 25 with a 16th-century wood carving of a Shinto god shown on the facing page.

Roberts, Jenny. Samurai Warriors. New York: Gloucester Press, 1990.

As the title indicates, this book is all about the period, from about the 12th century to the mid-19th, when the samurai virtually controlled Japan. Roberts makes a point of comparing knights of Medieval Europe to the warriors of feudal Japan. She briefly discusses Zen Buddhism (which she identifies as "Samurai Religion") and the arts of the period on pp. 12-15 and includes a large colored painting of the Kamakura Buddha.

Shelley, Rex. Japan. New York: Marshall Cavendish, 1993.

This book is primarily about modern, post-war Japan, but it has a good chapter (pp. 63- 69) on the principal religions of Japan with a striking, full-page color photo of the Kamakura Buddha on p. 62.

Teacher Reference

Ross, Nancy Wilson. Three Ways of Asian Wisdom: Hinduism, Buddhism, and Zen and their significance for the West. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1966.

Ross has a particularly good section on "The Art of Buddhism" between pp. 95 and 129, with many examples of sculptures of Buddha from various Asian countries.

Teacher Resources

We suggested in Lesson 12 that you order a free poster of the Kamakura Buddha in preparation for the present lesson. If you haven't done this and would now like one to hang in the classroom, it is available from

Japan National Tourist Organization
One Rockefeller Plaza, Suite 1250
New York, NY 10020
Additional Teacher Packets about Buddhist art and the arts of China and Japan are available for a small sum from the Freer Gallery of Art/Arthur Sackler Gallery in Washington, D.C. They will send a descriptive bulletin with price list. Their mailing address is
Schools and Family Programs
Education Department
Freer Gallery of Art/Arthur M. Sackler Gallery
MRC 707
Smithsonian Institution
Washington, D.C. 20560


Point out the poster of the Kamakura Buddha if you have it hanging in your classroom; otherwise, show the largest reproduction you can find in one of the Suggested Books. Ask the students: What kind of art form is this? (sculpture) Who do you think is the subject of the sculpture? (Buddha) Using the map and the timeline, review with the class the route of the spread of Buddhism in Asia, starting with its beginnings in India. Ask them: What is the name of the other religion in Japan, the one that is indigenous to the islands of Japan? (Shintoism) Write Buddhism and Shintoism on the board and ask the students to give you some of the characteristic concerns of each religion. Write them on the board under the appropriate heading for each.

Tell the students that this sculpture was made in 1252 or 1253 and is called the Kamakura Buddha, because the period from 1200 to about 1340 in Japan is called the Kamakura period. It is named after the place where the first military shogun established his capital. Ask the students: What is it that makes sculpture different from painting? (3 dimensions) And what artistic element does 3-dimensional sculpture have that paintings lack? (mass) Ask them: Can you sense the mass in this sculpture of the Buddha? How? (Accept any thoughtful answer.) Tell them that this Buddha is about 37 feet high. (Have them figure out approximately how many stories of their building that represents, depending on the height of the ceilings in the classrooms, etc. so they can then imagine what floor the statue would come to if it were placed outside their building.)

Tell the students that this sculpture is made of bronze, which is an extremely durable material that can withstand all kinds of weather. (Remind them that the the Renaissance sculpturs they studied--statues of David by both Michelangelo and Donatello--were cast in bronze. Ask for a volunteer to tell briefly how bronze statues were cast.) In fact, the Kamakura Buddha had survived several earthquakes and tidal waves, and the wooden shrine that originally surrounded the sculpture was long since destroyed by weather.

Ask the students: What kinds of lines do you see in this sculpture? (rounded, curved, circular) What kinds of shapes--remembering that in sculpture we can identify either two- or three-dimensional shapes? (2-dimensional would be circle for the face and head, triangle for the overall shape of the seated figure; 3-dimensional would be pyramid for the body and sphere for the head) If you have the slide of the Thai Buddha, show it to the class, and leave it so they can look at both renditions at the same time. (If you do not have the slide, simply do the next part of the lesson as it pertains only to the Kamakura Buddha.) Ask the students whether they recognize Buddha in this sculpture, and remind them that, as Buddhism fanned out across Asia, it was developed differently in different countries and in the art of those countries. Have someone find Thailand on the map, so the students can see that the kind of Buddhism that spread through southeast Asia was different from the kind that spread through China into Korea and then into Japan.

Write on the board: Compare and Contrast, and brainstorm with the students those things that are similar about the two Buddhas and those that are different. (It could also be done with a Venn diagram.) The two lists might look something like this:


Subject of both is Buddha.

Both Buddhas look calm.

Buddha is seated in the same position in both (the cross-legged Lotus posture of meditation).

Eyes are nearly closed and looking inward as if in meditation in both.

Earlobes are greatly elongated in both.

Both have some kind of protruberance from the crown of the head (harder to see in some photos of Kamakura Buddha).


Thai Buddha is much more slender and graceful with moving lines.

Japanese Buddha is massive and broad.

Position of hands in Thai Buddha has right hand on knee and left hand in lap.

Hands are facing one another, palms up, in Kamakura Buddha.

Kamakura Buddha has something protruding in middle of forehead.

Kamakura Buddha wears draped robe.

Thai Buddha is either naked or wearing transparent sheath that reveals body underneath.

When the students have finished brainstorming with you, tell them that the reason there are so many things in common between the 2 Buddhas is that in Buddhist sculpture there are certain stylistic traits that have to be there. One is the lotus position. When the Buddha is seated, it is always in that position, which is an ancient yoga position from India. The hands are always very important, and there are 5 or 6 different special positions, for the hands of the Buddha are also taken from classical Indian poses called mudras. The position of the hands of the Kamakura Buddha has both hands in his lap with palms turned upward, which is a mudra of contemplation. The Thai Buddha has the right hand on the right knee with fingers extended down toward the earth, which is one of the most common mudras and signifies the Buddha calling earth to witness his good deeds. A protruberance on the crown of Buddha's head is nearly always present, and is suggestive of a special intelligence that is supposed to stream from the head of the Buddha like flame or fire. The additional tuft (shaped in the same way as the curls of hair on the Buddha's head) in the middle of the forehead of the Kamakura Buddha is a symbol of the third eye of spiritual vision, and the elongated earlobes symbolize the human Buddha's noble or royal birth: they are stretched by wearing earrings. (If there is time, you might prefer to give the students the opportunity to guess the significance of all or several of these stylistic traits before telling them what they signify according to accepted traditions.

Fifth Grade - Visual Arts - Lesson 19 - Activity Inspired by Japanese Woodcuts

Note to the Teacher

The students had a lesson in Second Grade (Visual Arts Lesson 31) that focused on Hokusai's The Wave and the method of printmaking used by artists such as Hokusai, Hiroshige, and Utamaro. This lesson would be good to use as review for Japanese printmaking. (Lesson 6 in Second Grade showed another woodcut of Hokusai, called Children's Games, which is slide #4 in the plastic sleeve and would be useful in the present lesson.) As tempting as it is to assign an activity that would allow the students to cut stencils or blocks for each color in the way traditional Japanese printmakers do, the necessity of extensive cutting with sharp knives prevents it from being a good classroom activity. For students especially interested in printmaking, you might suggest it as an activity to complete at home, with help from a parent or other adult. Anyone who wants to try making separate stencils or blocks for each color should start with just a few colors, because the problem of using more than 1 block comes in having to place each block exactly in the right place, called registration in printmaking.


Recall some images from traditional Japanese art.

Observe a series of Japanese woodblock prints of traditional hairdos.

Produce drawings of heads and faces from old woodcuts of traditional Japanese hairdos.


Slide of Hokusai's Children's Games, Second Grade slide #4, optional

Reproduction of Hokusai's The Wave and/or other Japanese ukiyo-e for brief review, see Suggested Books

Japanese block prints of traditional hairdos, reproduced below, copies for each student

Pencils, crayons, and/or markers for each student

Suggested Books for Review of Hokusai's The Wave

Glubok, Shirley. The Art of Japan. New York: Macmillan, 1970.

Life-size black-and-white reproduction is on p. 46. Large details of other works by Hokusai (including another from the Mt. Fuji series) are on the back cover and endpapers of the book.

Instructor magazine, published by Scholastic in NYC, for February 1992, has a fine article about the Hokusai print by Diane Darst. At the time of publication they offered a full- color, life-sized reproduction as a supplement to subscribers.

Tames, Richard. Passport to Japan. Danbury, CT: Franklin Watts, 1994.

A reproduction of the print is on p. 40.


Show a reproduction of Hokusai's The Great Wave off Kanagawa to the class, and ask them to identify the country of origin and the volcanic mountain in the background (Japan, Mt. Fuji). Ask them what kind of artwork this is (print, woodblock print) and whether they remember the Japanese name for this particular kind of printmaking, which is ukiyo-e. Write the term on the board and have the students pronounce it (oo-kee-OH-eh) several times.

Review the technique involved in making ukiyo-e, emphasizing that the artist had to make different blocks for each color and always place each block in exactly the right place; otherwise images will be muddied. Ask the students: How many blocks do you think Hokusai had to make for this print of The Great Wave? (Accept any estimates, as long as they can name the colors they see as evidence.) Remind the students that Hokusai was so fascinated with Mt. Fuji that he made a whole set of different views of it, which he called The Thirty-six Views of Fuji. (If you have the Glubok book, show them another of the series.)

If you have access to the slide of Hokusai's print Children's Games, show it to the class and have them observe closely the clothing and hairdos of the people in the print. Ask them to tell you what they notice about them. (Accept all answers.) If you do not have the slide, show examples from any books of Japanese art you have. The students should notice the energy generated by all the curved lines and designs on kimonos, the style of the hairdos, and the sketchiness of the faces compared to all of the emphasis on line and pattern, which is characteristic of Japanese woodcuts (can also be seen in example attached).

Next, tell the students they are going to concentrate on some traditional hairdos that Japanese people wore before the modern period of their history. If you do not have pictures to illustrate them, point out the hairdos shown on the figures in the picture reproduced here. (The picture is a woodcut print--and even the Japanese written characters are woodcut!)


Pass out pencils, crayons, and/or markers, and copies of the hairdos attached and cut into as many sections as you want, probably each student can work with at least 2 sections. Tell them they are to create heads and faces to go with these hairdos. They will have to decide whether the hairdo dictates a full face or profile, whether male or female, fierce or placid in expression, and whether to make the face a simple line drawing like the Japanese woodcuts or more "realistic" as to detail. They will enjoy looking at one another's creations.

Fifth Grade - Visual Arts - Lesson 20 - Zen Landscape Gardens

Note to the Teacher

This lesson builds on the study of Buddhism and Shintoism (Geography Lesson 23) the students will have completed this month in World Civilization. They will need to be told that Zen is the particular form that Buddhism took as it developed in Japan. Zen is concerned primarily with meditation; because it combines with native Shinto beliefs, the meditation often takes as its subject the beauties of nature: trees, mountains, rocks, waves, even volcanoes.


Observe Japanese love for nature in poetry and painting.

Recall the Taoist term contemplation from Second Grade.

Recall importance of nature in Shinto religion.

Look for the elements of art in traditional Zen landscape gardens.

Compare and contrast Japanese Zen gardens with western gardens.

Complete a journal prompt.


Classroom-sized world map or map of Asia

Slide of Chinese brush painting Landscape with a Lone Figure Contemplating a Waterfall, slide #3 from Second Grade (optional)

Pictures of Japanese Zen landscape gardens, see Suggested Books

Examples of Japanese decorative art on screens, fans, illustrated poems, see Suggested Books

Either journals or paper and pencils

Suggested Books

Student Titles

Hirsch, E. D., Jr., ed. What Your 5th Grader Needs to Know. New York: Doubleday, 1993.

A photo of the famous Zen landscape garden at Ryoan-ji is on p. 261, surrounded by a good discussion about the relationship between Zen Buddhism and its expression in landscape gardens.

Lewis, J. Patrick (haiku) & Chris Manson (woodcuts). Black Swan White Crow. New York: Atheneum, 1995.

A beautiful example of Japanese arts--haiku whose themes come from nature, with inspired woodcuts to illustrate them.

Odijk, Pamela. The Japanese. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Silver Burdett, 1991.

Scroll paintings, screens, and directions for the traditional Japanese Tea Ceremony show a good sampling of Japanese arts. A landscape garden made only of raked sand and pebbles in a pattern is shown on p. 34.

Shelley, Rex. Japan. New York: Marshall Cavendish, 1993

The chapter on "Arts," pp. 76-96 includes a good photo of a dry landscape garden (p. 79), featuring sand raked to simulate the patterns of waves and the placement of dark rocks. The chapter also includes a good section on Himeji Castle, which the students studied in Second Grade and would be a good review of Japanese architecture, plus brief, illustrated sections on ikebana, haiku, theater, painting, and ceramics.

Spivak, Dawnine. Grass Sandals: The Travels of Basho. New York: Atheneum, 1997.

Well-known illustrator Demi has illustrated haiku by the 17th-century Japanese poet Basho in the style of Japanese screen painting. Dawnine Spivak narrates the biographical story about Basho's travels. This is easy reading for fifth graders but gives a good sense of the nature-inspired flavor of Basho's haiku. This book is new, and, if you can't find it at your library, many other books rooted in Japanese art and illustrated by Demi can be used.

Teacher Reference & for showing illustrations to class

Dalby, Liza Crihfield. All-Japan: The Catalogue of Everything Japanese. New York: Methuen, 1984.

This consists primarily of beautifully arranged color photographs of everything Japanese, from scrolls, sculpture, graphics, gardens, screens to traditional clothing and food. It would be an excellent book to borrow from the library for the unit on Japan.

Lee, Sherman E. Japanese Decorative Style. New York: Harry Abrams, 1961.

This book has wonderful photographs of Japanese art: screens, fans, pottery, kimonos, and lacquer work.


Begin the class by reviewing again the spread of Buddhism from India across Asia, and by having one of the students point out its path on the map and the names of the countries in which it took hold and developed. Tell the students that Buddhism is like a big, powerful river that flows powerfully through lands and picks up bits of rock and earth and fertile soil from the various river beds it flows through. Say to them: One of the reasons Buddhism was able to take hold as a religion in all these countries is that there were ancient traditions and beliefs that supported the philosophy of Buddhism. In China, one of these ancient traditions was called Taoism (DOW izm). In Second Grade, you looked at a pen and ink painting from China that was called Landscape with a Lone Figure Contemplating a Waterfall. (If you have access to the slide, show it to the students to remind them what it looked like.)

Ask them: Who can give a definition of contemplating for the class? (To look at something for a long time, thoughtfully, and usually with feelings of love, joy, and/or appreciation is the definition we gave in Second Grade Art Lesson 5. Accept any response that expresses that basic idea in the student's own words.) Taoists believe that things in nature are the most beautiful and holy things, and that people should try to have the kind of special balance in themselves that they can find in a beautiful scene in nature. These ancient Taoist beliefs in China were entirely compatible with Buddhism, and became incorporated into Chinese Buddhism and expressed in Chinese art.

What ancient beliefs existed in Japan that remind you of the Taoist reverence for nature? (Shinto religion) Give the students a chance to tell a few of the Shinto beliefs they have learned about in World History this month, and write them on the board. Above them write Zen Buddhism on the board and tell them: Zen is the name that Buddhism acquired in Japan. Zen Buddhism includes Shinto beliefs and results in a whole group of art forms that are based on contemplation as an important attitude.

At this point, show the students some examples of Japanese art. They should notice how the beliefs of Zen Buddhism influenced so many aspects of Japanese culture. They can see it in haiku poems, in Japanese screens that were part of the architecture and recreated scenes of nature, and even in the special care taken to arrange simple flowers in an artful way, an art form that is called ikebana. Say to the students: Even something simple like drinking tea became an art form in Japan. The tea house, or the tea room in the house, was approached by a special path, and the room itself had a small pit in which a charcoal fire was built for heating the water to make the tea. Beautiful pottery was used for the jar that stored the tea leaves, and specially designedhandmade implements were used for stirring the tea. Cups were handmade pottery with beautiful glazes, and the whole became a quiet artistic ritual or ceremony that was intended to put the participants in a contemplative frame of mind. (Showing pictures of Japanese tea rooms, with their simple, spare architecture, would help the students to have a sense of this ceremony.)

Tell the students that, just as we have monasteries and convents in the West for men and women who want to devote their lives to the religious life, so there also also Zen Buddhist monasteries that began in the feudal period in Japan. In Zen monasteries, monks were taught that the way to achieve the kind of wisdom that Buddha had was through contemplation, and all of their surroundings were designed to achieve that. Not only did Zen monasteries have simple but beautiful works of art inside their walls, but their surroundings were designed with the same goal in mind.

Show the students some pictures of Japanese Zen gardens. (The one pictured in the Hirsch What Your Fifth Grader Needs to Know is from a Zen monastery and was built in the 1400s. Others pictured in the Suggested Books may show more of the raked designs in the sand, or the particular arrangement of rocks, or other elements that direct the eyes along certain paths. Whatever examples you choose, be sure to give the students a chance to note what they observe.) When the students have had a chance to view a few different examples of Zen gardens, ask them what comes to their minds when they think of beautiful gardens they have seen in Baltimore or in other places they may have visited. (Accept all answers, but have them note the importance of color as the most important feature of our gardens. The way gardens in the West smell is also important, and not a feature of Zen gardens.)

Next, write Elements of Art on the board and tell the students that you want them to investigate the possibility of looking at a Zen landscape garden as a work of art, trying to note the same elements they have applied to paintings and sculpture, architecture and prints. Have them name the elements (color, line, shape, texture, sometimes light and space or mass), then brainstorm how they apply to the Zen gardens you have showed them. It will depend somewhat on the particular examples you show them, but the chances are the three most important elements will turn out to be texture, design, and shape. Encourage them to describe the texture of sand, rocks, and so on, as well as the designs made in sand with rakes and other implements. If they have seen a dry landscape garden with careful placement of rocks, they will need to consider the 3-dimensional elements of the garden, and the way the particular arrangement of rocks affects the overall design of the garden.

When they have finished, tell them to take out their journals or pencils and paper and write 5 or 6 sentences that complete the following prompt:

I think Japanese Zen gardens are works of art because . . . .


My favorite garden is one I walked through and saw . . . .



Student Titles

Bergere, Thea and Richard. From Stones to Skyscrapers: A Book About Architecture. New York: Dodd, Mead, 1960.

Darst, Diane, "The Great Wave Off Kanagawa," Instructor magazine, NY: Scholastic, Feb., 1992.

Glubok, Shirley. The Art of Japan. New York: Macmillan, 1970.

Hirsch, E. D., Jr., ed. What Your 5th Grader Needs to Know. New York: Doubleday, 1993. (0-385-31464-7)

King, Penny & Clare Roundhill. Landscapes. New York: Crabtree, 1996. (0-86505-853-6)

This slim book, part of the Artists' Workshop series, is a treasurehouse of ideas and activities inspired by the works of great artists. The series is not yet available in the Baltimore City or County system, but is very inexpensive and would be a great addition to buy for the art classroom.

Knox, Bob. The Great Art Adventure. New York: Rizzoli, 1993. (0-8478-1688-5)

Lewis, J. Patrick (haiku) & Chris Manson (woodcuts). Black Swan White Crow. New York: Atheneum, 1995. (0-689-31899-5)

Odijk, Pamela. The Japanese. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Silver Burdett, 1991. (0-382-09898-6)

Roberts, Jenny. Samurai Warriors. New York: Gloucester Press, 1990. (0-531-17202-3)

Shelley, Rex. Japan. New York: Marshall Cavendish, 1993. (1-85435-297-0)

Spivak, Dawnine. Grass Sandals: The Travels of Basho. New York: Atheneum, 1997. (0-689-80776-7)

Tames, Richard. Passport to Japan. Danbury, CT: Franklin Watts, 1994. (0-531-14315-5)

Teacher Reference & for showing illustrations to class

Beckett, Sister Wendy. The Story of Painting. London & New York: Dorling Kindersley in association with the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1994. (1-56458-615-4)

Dalby, Liza Crihfield. All-Japan: The Catalogue of Everything Japanese. New York: Methuen, 1984. (0-45897-990-2)

Hamilton, George Heard. The Art and Architecture of Russia. New York: Penguin Books, 1983. (0-14-0561.06-4)

Lee, Sherman E. Japanese Decorative Style. New York: Harry Abrams, 1961.

Ross, Nancy Wilson. Three Ways of Asian Wisdom: Hinduism, Buddhism, and Zen and their significance for the West. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1966.