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New Project Idea- Cement "Fire" Masks for Alt Schools, Summer Camps, Expeditions

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  • gretchenwoodman
    Dear Art Educators, I am excited to share this project that I have created for my students. Please read this and tell me what you think. I would love to hear
    Message 1 of 3 , Jun 30, 2009
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      Dear Art Educators,

      I am excited to share this project that I have created for my students. Please read this and tell me what you think. I would love to hear your input about this idea! I have used your group for ideas and help over the years since I began teaching(5 years ago) and you have all been a tremendous resource to me! Thank you -and I hope I can give back by sharing this with you!

      Sincerely,

      Gretchen Hill Woodman


      Cement "Fire" Mask Project
      by

      Gretchen Hill Woodman
      Written June 20, 2009


      Purpose: To provide an interesting and therapeutic activity to students in an alternative school, camp or expedition setting.

      Benefit: This project is very inexpensive! Cement is cheap and goes a long way for this project.

      Description: This activity begins with a cement mask form which is embedded with grass, leaves, shells, sticks , paper, or any other material that are burnable. These materials represent the experiences, traits or memories that students find unpleasant in their lives. (If you want to make the cement less heavy, you can mix vermiculite into the cement mix-be careful not to add too muck or it will weaken the mask).

      Once the mask has hardened and dried, the students build a campfire and carefully set their masks into the fire to ceremonially burn out all the materials.

      Once the masks have cooled, each student is left with a form that has many gaps and holes that can now be filled in with desirable materials. These materials are used to "reinvent" the mask or symbolically "reinvent" the person making the mask. The students can fill in the holes with plaster, objects and/or decorate and paint them to make "themselves" into the person they wish or hope to be. Students who use the plaster to fill the gaps will need to sand it smooth after it hardens to blend it with the surface of the cement.


      Results:
      I have done this project twice with our school (Longview School, Deerfield NH). The first time was during the 2006-7 school year and the second time in 2008-9. The 2006-7 students took the project through all the phases of the project. They filled the gaps with plaster, which they colored by adding paint to the plaster mix.

      The 2008-9 students were less willing to redecorate the mask, so we placed them in a running stream on our property to let nature "symbolically" recreate each mask over time.

      I feel that the possibilities are tremendous with this project. It is hands-on, quick and dramatic-all things that work well for alternative students. It is also a great project for any student, and would work well for expeditions or summer camps.


      Origin of Idea: I was covering some posts with cement. These posts were destined to be covered in mosaic. I had finished with my day's work and had some leftover cement which I hated to waste, so I made it into balls, pulled some grass from the area I was working in and mixed it into the cement. The next day I looked at these balls and thought it would be interesting to burn out that grass and see what was left. I put them into my wood stove and lit a fire. Later I looked at them and saw all the interesting gaps and patterns that the grass left behind.
      As I thought more about this, I realize that if I took that cement and mixed it in with grass and other materials, I could place the cement into a greased plastic face form that I got from an art supply store and make these things in the shape of a face. This is when I began to realize the potential for a really interesting project for my students.

      I am excited to do more of these, but I wish to share the idea with all of you. I would appreciate your input about this, and if you try this with your students-please let me know how you make out with it.

      I would love to see photographs if you wish to share!



      Materials:

      Cement (sand mix)

      leaves, grass, sticks, etc.

      Bowls to mix cement in

      Plastic or rubber Face molds or mask mold of any shape, size

      Vaseline, oil, or Pam to use as a separator between mask and cement

      paint, plaster, other materials to redecorate mask after burning

      spoons, spatulas

      sandpaper(to smooth out plaster after hardening)
    • Suzette Milam-Morrow
      . Gretchen, What a
      Message 2 of 3 , Jun 30, 2009
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        .

        Gretchen,

        What a great project! I forwarded it to a friend that runs a camp for abused foster-care kids. I think they would have a great time with it. I will let you know if they use the plan.

        That was a God thing in my opinion. He spoke to your heart to do that project. Wow! Great work! Congrats! Thank you for sharing, really.

      • Gretchen Woodman
        Thank you Suzette for your encouragement.  I really appreciate it!                                                     Gretchen
        Message 3 of 3 , Jun 30, 2009
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          Thank you Suzette for your encouragement.  I really appreciate it!

                                                              Gretchen Woodman

          --- On Tue, 6/30/09, Suzette Milam-Morrow <suzet@...> wrote:

          From: Suzette Milam-Morrow <suzet@...>
          Subject: RE: [art_education] New Project Idea- Cement "Fire" Masks for Alt Schools, Summer Camps, Expeditions
          To: art_education@yahoogroups.com
          Date: Tuesday, June 30, 2009, 1:07 PM

          .

          Gretchen,

          What a great project! I forwarded it to a friend that runs a camp for abused foster-care kids. I think they would have a great time with it. I will let you know if they use the plan.

          That was a God thing in my opinion. He spoke to your heart to do that project. Wow! Great work! Congrats! Thank you for sharing, really.


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