middle school art projects

How to Choose Perfect Middle School Art Projects

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middle school art projects

Most students in middle school love art projects.  They love discovering artistic techniques and trying their hand at it.  Sometimes it's great.  Other times it is pretty bad.   But they all have fun.

They also love art projects because it doesn't usually involve sitting at their desk listening to a teacher.  An instant win in the world of academics.

So how do you choose the perfect middle school art projects?  The biggest factors involved actually have nothing to do with the art projects themselves, but by limitations of the classroom.  Cost, time, teacher's expertise, creativity and space to create all factor into lesson planning for middle school art projects.

I would like to share how I worked through each of these factors with my classes, but first I would like to share some background information.

My Story

Most of my middle school art projects have long since gone in the trash.  I do have one drawing book left from a high school art course that I took in 7th grade.  Because I went to a small school, age wasn't a huge consideration if students wanted to do extra courses and could handle the extra course load.

And for whatever reason, that was my absolute favorite art course.  It was really just a basic course--observation, perspective, shading, pencils, pen and ink, acrylics, chalk pastels.

So what made it so special?  My teacher was engaged with all two of us that took the class.  Did I mention I went to a small school?  I got personal tutelage in a course that I never would have taken if she had not come to me and offered it.

And out of it, I went on to enter and win regional art contests and pass on my limited but okay painting ability to many classes and my own kids to the present day.

What Do I Mean by Art Projects?

So before I get into the details, I would like to share what I mean by middle school art projects.  I am not talking about their normal art curriculum, although the concepts they are learning there will definitely help with their ability to craft these projects.

What I am talking about is heirloom quality looking things that they will bring home and their parents will say, "Wow, we never did art like that when we were in school!"

So why would we do these kinds of middle school art projects?  Because it puts to real life practice what your students are learning in the classroom and lets them see a much bigger picture.  It may inspire them to use these things in some way in their future lives.

It will inspire them.  And it may inspire a whole lot more people around them.  It may even inspire people for generations to come.  Because that is what it did for me.

So now let's take a look at some of the difficult parts of planning great middle school art projects and how to pretty easily overcome them.

Middle School Art Projects

Cost to Make the Crafts

Whenever we are talking about money for schools, it can be a problem.  There is generally not a lot of funding for extra things at most schools.  And teachers are already shelling out a good amount of money for various other expenses in the classroom.

So how do we find enough money for the best quality crafts?  Maybe the better question is how do we find the best ways to cut the cost of crafts down to a comfortable amount?

There are several ways that we can cut that cost down.  I have actually written an article about 5 great ways to save money on classroom crafts that you can find here.

To summarize some of those ways, though, here are some great ways you can save money:

  1. Use supplies that are generally common household items and have the parents send them in ahead of the crafting day.
  2. Buy your supplies at your local dollar store, or better yet, a thrift store.
  3. Shop Amazon ahead of time to find the best sale prices.
  4. See what stores offer discounts or grants to schools.
  5. For book crafts, ask the library or a used book store if they have books they are going to throw away that you can have.

There are tons more ways to save money.  Most of them include thinking quite a ways ahead of the day of the project.

Finding Adequate Time to Make the Crafts

Because of class structure, there is generally not a lot of time to do great quality crafts.  So it takes a couple of things to make it work.  The first is for you to maybe prepare certain aspects of the class before the day of the class.

I kind of cringe a little bit when I say that you need to come up with more time outside of school hours.  But there are ways that you can even cut down on that time.

One of them is to have parents who are willing to volunteer help out.  There are most certainly going to be at least a couple of parents that love crafting and will be happy to share their talents with you.

Another would be to have an advanced student or two do some of the prep cutting, folding, organizing, or whatever is needed to be done.  They can do this when they have finished their class work and are looking for something to do while everyone else is finishing.

The final obstacle that I found was great quality crafts take significant amounts of time.  So for the projects that would take more than 30 minutes worth of class time (not counting the setting up, maintenance, and cleaning up of the classroom), I just spent more than one class period to do it.  If a certain art project takes a couple or three days to get finished nicely, it's okay.  The kids won't mind and the parents will be thrilled at the quality product that you are sending their kids home with.

Teachers' Crafting Expertise

This one is almost not even a valid excuse because we now have the internet.  And in particular, we have Pinterest, Youtube, and Google.  Your need for creativity has now been reduced to choosing the pictures and ideas that you like the most and watching how they do it on a video!

There is actually a little bit more to it than this.  But it is a great start.  And usually just coming up with the idea is the biggest obstacle to overcome.

And there is now so much step by step information online that you won't have to worry about a lack of expertise.  You can take whatever vision you have and someone has already done it in some form with some theme.  You just need to tweak it to work with your class.

Teachers' Creativity

This is also much less of an issue with the advent of the internet and the above mentioned websites. You no longer have to invent all of your projects from the ground up.  It is as easy as being inspired by something that you are teaching and then using general keywords to find what you are looking for.

What you will need to exercise creativity for is customizing your craft ideas to what you are doing in your class.

An Example

For instance, when I did my project on the Voyage of the Dawn Treader painting that had the Dawn Treader coming out it, I couldn't just google that and come up with it.

What I ended up having to do was research how to make a stormy sea painting. I found that on Youtube by a young man from Russia--it was amazing!  Then I found the Dawn Treader folding paper project from a website out of Japan.  And finally, I had to get creative and experiment with the "water" coming out of the picture.  By the time I had all of the research done, I had a great quality craft without having to come up with all of it myself.

Fortunately, I did most of the planning for this book during summer break, so I had extra time to sit online for longer than normal.

You may have a harder time coming up with these kinds of things.  If so, talk to someone who is more creative about what you are trying to do.  I bet they will be happy to put something wonderful together in their head on the spot for you.  Then you just need to do the research to make it a reality.

One of the goals I have for Complete Literature is to have all of the crafts for the featured books laid out.  Then busy teachers don't have to do all the background planning, organizing, and preparing.  You will just need to check out which crafts I featured in the book you are working on and choose your favorites.

Space to Create

Sometimes your classroom just doesn't have enough space for everybody to spread out with your craft ideas.  It isn't always practical to have them work at their desks, especially when things are being shared.

Most of my craft projects happened at a few long tables.  That way they could share and move around as they needed to.  And for the times that I needed more space for the kids to move around, or if the project was especially messy, I would move the tables outside.  That was so much easier to set up.

The only problem with this solution is that you can't do that sort of thing in Alaska in the middle of January.  You may just have to schedule the types of crafts you are doing and your space needs with the time of year that you are working with them.

Another way you could get through the lack of space issue is to possibly use the auditorium or gym space.  You just need to make sure it is available when you need it.

Conclusion

So this is how I choose the best quality middle school art projects that students, parents and I will all love to have and enjoy for longer than the time it took to make the projects.

If you are short on your own middle school art project ideas, here is a kick start from Scholastic.  You can always look at the ideas they have posted and soup them up or adapt them to what particular theme you are currently working on.

To see these art project concepts in action, check out my article on The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.


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Comments 67

    1. Post
      Author

      I am glad to be able to inspire you. 🙂 Most of these ideas also work with kids, too, so maybe you will be able to do these with your kids one day.

    1. Post
      Author

      I was thinking about that and then got sidetracked and it didn’t make it into the article, lol! I loved clay, too, but I wasn’t as good at it as I was with other things. I bet I could do better now with some Youtube videos. 🙂

    1. Post
      Author
  1. I don’t have kids so I never thought about what goes into choosing the perfect art project. I love art so much but you’re right a lot goes into choosing the right one beside love…

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      Author
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    1. Post
      Author

      I love to hear things like this! When the teacher can promote crafts that are productive and beautiful it opens the students up to a whole different world. Thank you for sharing with me!

  2. This is definitely a comprehensive guide. Just so fun having art projects at school. A good way to distract young ones from vices and maybe not so good habits.

  3. School art projects are my favorite. It’s great to bring out your creative side and see how happy you’d be seeing the results. I love this idea.

    1. Post
      Author

      Thank you, Hannah Marie! Crafting has always been really fun for me. But seeing how many of my middle school students loved it and how thrilled they were to come to class to see what was next was even more fun. The more they loved it, the more I wanted to keep on growing with it.

  4. I love the idea of creating things that you actually want to keep. So many things that are created at school end up in the trash. I actually still have a lot of my artwork from school. I think I’m probably in the minority, though.

    1. Post
      Author

      I think you are probably in the minority, but it is super awesome. I bet a lot of others wish they had either kept some of the things they made or made things worth keeping. Thanks for sharing!

  5. My children love crafts, they get so creative and when their is finished they always feel so proud! I believe it’s a great way enhance their self confidence!

    1. Post
      Author

      I think you are right. It’s also great to help develop their creativity and encourage them to keep developing it! Thank you for your thoughts.

  6. I remember, as a student, that in middle school I did some of the most beautiful art workshops. One that I still remember was that of paper sculptures to learn the value of recycling.

  7. I enjoyed art projects when I was in middle school. My daughter is in middle school this year and she loves art projects too. I collaborate with her teacher more often in order to give her the best. Thank you for this piece!

  8. I loved art when I was in middle school. My daughter is now in middle school and is enjoying art projects. I collaborate with her teacher to ensure she gets what she requires for these projects. Thank you for this article.

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      Author
  9. These are great ideas! I wish I had created something that would last as a craft when I was in school. My husband and my father both have items that they made that have lasted them 20 or more years though, and as an adult, it is really fun to see what they made. It’s such a fun thing to be able to pass on!

    1. Post
      Author

      It is the special crafts that I made as a child that inspired me to do them as a teacher many years later! I’m glad you have gotten to enjoy your husband’s and father’s crafts!

  10. I love art classes! I enjoy creating, most especially when it comes to colorful stuff. I would have loved to have you as my teacher who keeps everything interesting and engaging. Sadly, my parents weren’t supportive of my school activities then, most especially, as you have mentioned, because of cost concerns! It was sad, I had to withdraw from a lot of activities that I liked, maybe this is why I want to do what I want to do as an adult. Nobody can stop me anymore. Haha! I hope parents can also be as supportive as teachers. This is for personal growth anyway.

  11. Such a great post, thanks for sharing. Art is so important even for those who think they don’t have any artistic expression. To know how to express creativeness is a skill one can use for years.

  12. A great guide of learning and teaching art and craft for students as well as teachers. I love drawing, during my high school (middle school) age, I had read the seven subjects of Art (drawing) and passed “Inter-Drawing Certificate Course”. Always love to play with colours and pencil. You seems great teacher and guide for your students and reader too.

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      Author

      That is awesome that you got a chance to learn and enjoy those things in school! I hope you are able to still use them as an adult!

  13. I have enjoyed reading this, as a teacher I will for sure use some of these in my class when we are able to get back after coronavirus has gone 🙂

  14. i love the tips. and i agree with you, we dont need to spend much to be creative. in fact, using what we already have to make something beautiful is already being creative. i love it! thanks for sharing.

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      Author
  15. My kids are still young and not going to middle school for several years, but they love art projects even now. Art is really important to me, and I always tell their teachers to please let me know if they need anything so I can buy it for the class.

  16. I don’t teach middle school nor have kids in middle school but these are great ideas for those who are looking for such projects!

  17. Awesome! I think that art teachers are so underrated. Yet, they are some of the teachers that stick with you into adulthood! Art teachers require such a specific level of expertise and knowledge. I have so much respect for them!

    1. Post
      Author

      That is true. And most art teachers I had were just amazing people. I feel like they also invest more personally into the students as the students are learning to express themselves through art. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, Candace!

  18. arts and crafts are so important for kids. Hands on allows them to be creative and express themselves differently.

  19. Art class was always my favorite while I was in school. I remember doing paintings, making things with clay, and drawing in general. I think art classes are so important, not only for creativity but as an outlet.

  20. I will have to send this over to my niece and nephew, as they are big into art and crafting. This will also be a fun little project for me to participate in, when I see them next.

  21. The crafts class used to be my favorite in school. The teacher had this big book from where she chose the projects we would do. I still remember the turtle I made out of walnut shells.

  22. Your articles are always useful for the teaching world and especially for parents that are home schooling too x

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