Art-Reach Pre-Visit Activity: Art Talk

Please view the two reproductions with your class and lead a discussion using the following questions as guidelines. There are no “right” answers. The questions are meant to guide the group discussion. Students will re-visit and discuss these works as well as others during the ArtReach visit. The vocabulary in this packet will aid discussion.

Research and experience have shown that students feel more comfortable when they can connect with something familiar when the Museum educator conducts the program. The students enjoy sharing their insights from the pre-visit discussion with the educator.


This visit investigates BAM’s Permanent Collection through different perspectives and ideas of home and community across cultures. Students will view and discuss artwork from many cultures then create artwork related to their community.


  • what colors do you see?
  • Do you see any repeated patterns?
  • How would you describe the shape of thsi artwork? Is it a regular geometric shape (square, rectangle, trapezoid, cube) or an irregular shape?
  • Can you tell by looking at it what it might be made of?
  • How big do you think it is in real life? Smaller than you are, the same size as you are, larger than you are?
  • This artist sees many patterns in his native community of japan. What patterns do you see in your community and in your home?

    Jun Kaneko
    Untitled, 1987
    Glazed stoneware, 6” x 11 ½” x 8”
    Permanent Collection, Gift of Wilfred Davis Fletcher



  • List one thing you see inside this home.
  • Do you see any people?
  • Who do you think lives here? How can you tell?
  • What do you think the person or persons who live here find important?
  • Can you tell what the artist’s interests are by looking at this artwork?
  • Can you see the outside of the building?
  • Where do you think this home might be located? How can you tell?
  • Can you tell anything about the community from this work of art?

    Eric Desmaziéres (Day-maw-zee-air)
    Intérieur Rue Payenne, 1986
    Etching, 24 5/8” x 39 5/8”
    Permanent Collection, Gift of M. Gary Bettis



Medium A specific kind of artistic technique or means of expression as determined by the materials used or the creative methods involved: the medium of lithography. The materials used in a specific artistic technique: oils as a medium.
Media The plural of medium.
Community A unified group of individuals; people with common interests living in a particular area; an interacting population of various kinds of individuals in a common location; a body of persons or nations having a history or social, economic and political interests in common
Cross-Cultural Comparing or dealing with two or more different cultures
Home The physical structure within which one lives, such as a house or apartment;
an environment offering security and happiness; a valued place regarded as a refuge or place of origin; a family’s place of residence; the native habitat, as of a plant or animal; the social unit formed by a family living together
Perspective A mental view or outlook; the capacity to view things in their true relationships or
relative importance


ArtReach Curricular Connections

Teachers can adapt the following curricular connections to meet the needs of any grade level.
  • Create a multi-cultural home design on the computer. Use Adobe Photoshop or another computer program to combine two images of different dwellings in a harmonious manner.
  • Research and discuss how advances in technology have changed home design and construction. What elements of home design do architects have to consider now to keep technologically savvy clients happy?
Language Arts
  • Have students determine where their homes are in relation to a landmark. Have each student give directions from his or her home to the landmark. Have students draw a map of the area surrounding their home that includes landmarks, the school, their friends’ homes, etc.
  • Discuss with students the following questions: “What are the different meanings the word home can have?” “How do we describe home, personally, culturally, socially?” “What are the different roles a home can serve?” “What are the different objects, emotions or individuals that create
    the feeling of home?” “What are the things that are necessary in a home?” Ask students to create a list of answers to the question, “What is a home to you?” Ask students to then create
    a poem using the items from the list.
  • Debate the question of form vs. function. Discuss the importance of homes and objects that
    look beautiful vs. those that are functional. Is one more important than the other? Why or why not?
  • Design a home for a character from a favorite story or fairy tale. Have students choose a character and describe a home perfectly suited to that character. For example, the Little Mermaid may have a home that sits partially in the ocean, with furniture shaped like shells and curtains made of seaweed.
  • Write an advertisement for a home that would fit the needs of a modern middle-class family. What elements does the home possess to make a comfortable lifestyle? How will the advertisement entice people to buy the home?
Social Studies and History
  • Investigate the idea of circular or domed homes, which are and have been used throughout the world. Which societies live in these kind of homes? (The yurts of Central Asia, igloos, wickiups, tipis, earth lodges, hogans, etc.) Which traditions, environments or beliefs led them to design this style of home? What are some advantages to this style? Disadvantages? Look up the “Homeless USA” project – – where a number of Los Angeles’ homeless population now live in a dome village. Make a math connection by using the lesson plan for Geodesic Domes at
  • Research the artists Do-Ho Suh, Kerry James Marshall, Andrea Zittel and Pepón Osorio. How do their images of home differ? Are the differences related to their cultural background? What else could influence how these artists view home and community? Information on the four artists is available from PBS’ “Art in the 21st Century” series,
  • Discuss the book or movie Harriet the Spy and the reasons the character made the observations she made, how the community felt about the observations she made and how the character’s relationship with her community changed over the course of the story. Then equip students with notebooks and pens and have a brief discussion about conducting live observations. “What do you notice as walk through your neighborhood or through the school hallway or through the mall?” “Do you see people, activities, the business interactions, weather, advertisements, litter, art, hear sounds, etc.?” Brainstorm three different times students will have a safe opportunity (in a group, with family members, etc.) to sit quietly and make observations. Assign a time for all three observation periods to be complete. Follow up with time to review the three entries and to discuss them in pairs or in groups. Finally, assign a writing exercise so students can draw conclusions from their notes. “What new things did you learn and what did you confirm about your community?” “What are the important issues in your community?” “How will you use this knowledge and the observation skills you’ve learned to benefit your community in the future?”
  • Discuss architecture through the ages. Find images of homes throughout history and compare and contrast how home design has changed from ancient times to the present. What elements are similar throughout the ages? What are some of the major differences?
  • Create a visual timeline of architecture. Use images of structures throughout history to
    represent different time periods. Make a game by challenging students to place images along
    the timeline in the correct position.
  • Research an architectural style or famous structure from a particular time period. Have students pretend to be modern architects re-creating the structure today. What would the students change, and what would they keep the same?
  • Challenge students to design a home for a multi-cultural family. What elements from the different cultures will the students combine to create a unique dwelling that fits the needs of all family members?


  • Determine the amount of building materials needed to build a home of a certain dimension. Use the lesson plan at for specifics on the amount of concrete needed for foundations or boards for flooring.
  • To reinforce the idea that families and concepts of home are diverse, create a wall-sized bar graph with students’ names along the bottom (the x-axis) and the number of people in a family along the side (the y-axis). Give students squares of paper that are the same size as the squares in the graph (2-4”). Students will draw a small portrait of each member of their family. Glue the portraits vertically to the graph above the students’ names. The portraits will create the bar that indicates the number of people in each student’s family. Research other cultures and how many family members reside in their typical homes. Have students graph this information in a different color. Compare and contrast students’ graphs. For more information –
  • Calculate the square footage of homes based the measurements of different floor plans. Use these calculations to determine the quantity of supplies and amount of money needed to tile floors, carpet rooms, and paint walls.
  • Measure your own classroom as a class project. Calculate its square footage. Practice taking measurements by recording the size of windows, doors, and other elements within the room. Use these measurements to draw an accurate floor plan of the classroom.
  • Create patterns using shapes of specific sizes. For example, use circles that have 2 inch, 4 inch, and 6 inch diameters to create a pattern, or right angle triangles of different sizes. Students can go on to calculate other measurements of their shapes, such as circumference or the length of the hypotenuse of triangles.


  • Study the ways in which animals adapt to their environments and use their different physical abilities to build homes that suit their individual needs. Suggestions: beaver lodges, different kinds of bird nests, rodent tunnels, tortoise shells, spider webs, bee and wasp nests, crustaceans, etc. Consider reading Bobbie Kalman’s “Animal Homes” from the literature list as an introduction. Consider watching the PBS NATURE videos, “The Body Changers,” “The Secret World of Sharks and Rays,” “ Earth Navigators,” “Springs Eternal,” “Great White Bear,” and / or “Obsession with Orchids” and using the online Teacher’s Guide that accompanies this series.
  • Research and study the use of recycled materials in modern construction. What are the pros
    and cons to using these materials?
  • Discuss different architectural elements that might be important in different climates. For example, a steep pitched roof may be practical in a climate with heavy snow.
  • Create shapes and forms using toothpicks and mini-marshmallows. Which shapes and forms are structurally the strongest? Which forms are most difficult to construct?
  • Use the study of human anatomy to design ergonomic furniture that is also beautiful in form.
  • Research environmentally friendly structures and buildings. How can an architect create a building that helps to protect our natural resources? Some examples could be solar-powered homes, homes made of reconstituted materials, or energy efficient designs.


Related Websites

For Teachers – general architecture information, links to teacher aids, books, etc. – Incredible Art Department – links, lesson plans, resources, history of architecture – Center for Understanding the Built Environment – teacher resources and interdisciplinary lessons – Architecture in Education – activities and ideas, student gallery – History of Architecture Guide for teachers and parents – PBS TeacherSource – lesson on community geometry – DiscoveryChannel Lesson Plans – middle school lesson using ratios and scale to create models

For Teachers and Kids – Archkidtecture: Architecture for Children – vocabulary, projects, architecture general information – Architecture Through the Ages – history of architecture for students – Inside Architecture – discusses different styles of architecture – A Digital Archive of American Architecture – images and explanations of American styles of architecture – Carmine’s Introduction to Architecture – an introduction for younger students – History for Kids: Ancient and Medieval Architecture – overview and images for students


Post-Visit Activity: MAKE IT!

To extend the ArtReach experience and connect the visit to your curriculum,
please consider using or adapting this suggested lesson.

Dream House Floor Plan


To expand upon the ArtReach hands-on activity, have students continue the discussion about the ideal/dream home. “Where would it be located? Who would live in it? What would it look like? How big would it be? What would it have inside? What would it say about you?” In this activity students will design floor plans representing their ideal homes. Students can brainstorm a list of elements that would be present in their perfect homes and how their homes will make their everyday lives more enjoyable and practical. For example, what type of furniture will the homes possess? How many bedrooms will you need? How many bathrooms will there be? Students may also discuss the location of the homes (Hawaii, Alaska, etc.) as that may affect the design of the houses.


  • Graph Paper
  • Pencils
  • Rulers or other straight edge tools
  • Floor Plan Symbols
  • Markers


After students have completed their lists of home elements, they should start by making rough sketches of their house plans on scratch paper. Students should start with the basic layout of the houses and the rooms within them. They can use either an addition or subtraction method. In the addition method, students should draw one room in their house, and then add other rooms to it. For the subtraction method, students may start with one large shape, and divide the interior into smaller rooms.


Once the basic plan is in place students should transfer their designs to graph paper using rulers and pencils. Next, they can decide the placement of doors and windows. Students should consider how a person would travel from room to room and how each room will be used. After the doors, windows, and hallways have been marked (see architectural symbols handout) students can start adding furniture and designs. Frank Lloyd Wright believed the furnishings and decorative elements should harmonize with the overall design of the house, so students may wish to consider how the shape and layout of furnishings or floor patterns fit with the design of the home. Once the furniture and other elements have been added, students can add color to their design with markers. Carpet or rug designs can be added and should harmonize with the overall theme of the house. Students may also include outdoor features like trees, patios, swimming pools and garages. Remind students to think about how their home fits into the natural landscape.


Applications and Extensions

Reading and Writing

  • Write a descriptive paper or paragraph about the dream home. Include descriptions of furniture and decorations, and remember to discuss why this house makes every-day life more practical or enjoyable.
  • Have students write a story about their lives “20 years from now”. What job do they have? Do they have their dream home? Where do they live? What is their family like? Have students try to relate their lives to their built environment (home, neighborhood, city, etc.)
  • Students can write a letter to their architect, discussing the construction of their ideal house. They should include descriptions of their lifestyle (an interest in cars could mean a large garage), the types of materials they would like the architect to use, and the basic elements the house needs to have (4 bathrooms, a pool, views to nature, etc.). Students can also research architectural styles and describe the style they want in their own home.


  • Use ratios and scale to create an accurate dream house design. For example have students use the ratio of 1/4 inch = 1 foot. The design of the rooms in their home, the furniture, and the landscape should all fit into this ratio.
  • Students can use basic geometric shapes in the design of their homes. Use one geometric shape as a theme and create design elements (furniture, rooms) that include or build on that shape. For example, create a round house that has furniture and decorations that use arcs and circles.
  • Students can calculate the square footage of their homes based on the ratio they used in their design. Take this idea one step further and have students calculate for construction costs (for example, if they want carpet that is $2.00/ square foot, how much money will it take to carpet a house that has 1600 square feet?)

Visual Art

  • Create a group floor plan with the entire class. Draw a large grid on butcher paper and allow each student to add elements of the design. The class could decide on a certain shape for the plan or theme together, or the plan could be built as each individual adds to it. Paper cutouts of architectural symbols and furniture could be taped to the floor plan and moved around as the work develops.
  • Use cardboard, paper, and glue to build three-dimensional models of the home plans.
  • Students may be nervous about drawing directly onto their graph paper with markers as they may decide to change the arrangement of elements within their dream home. Use layers of tracing paper over the top of the graph paper to add furniture and decorations to the home. Students will be able to see the basic outline of their plan through the tracing paper, and with each layer can add different characteristics. If they are not satisfied with their first attempt, the tracing paper can be removed and other layers added. This would also work with transparency film or acetate.
  • Have students make a drawing of the outside elevation of their home. This could be combined with the floor plan as part of a single poster advertisement for the home.
  • Use simple wood or plastic blocks in a variety of forms and sizes to create structures.

Geography and History

  • Have students choose an historical location and time period (for example, ancient Greece or Medieval Europe). Students can research the architecture and lifestyle of that time period and design a floor plan for a home to fit in with the culture and location.
  • If students choose a particular location for their dream homes, have them research building materials that are found in that locale which could be used in the construction and design of their homes.



For Teachers

The Annotated Arch: History of Architecture by Carol Strickland; McMeel Publishing, April 2001. ISBN: 0740710249

Architecture in Education by Marcy Abhau; Foundation for Architecture, January 1990. ISBN: 0962290807

Architecture is Elementary by Nathan B. Winters; Gibbs Smith, September 2005. ISBN: 1586858297

The Art of Constructions: Projects and Principles for Beginning Engineers and Architects by Mario Salvadori; Chicago Review Press, March 1990. ISBN: 1556520808

The Art Teacher’s Book of Lists by Helen D. Hume; Prentice Hall, 1998. ISBN: 0135177561

A Blueprint for Geometry by Brad S. Fulton, Bill Lombard; Dale Seymore Publications, February 1997. ISBN: 1572322780

Children’s Special Places: Exploring the Role of Forts, Dens, and Bush Houses in Middle Childhood by David Sobel; Wayne State University Press, March 2002. ISBN: 0814330266

Creating Caring Communities with Books Kids Love, Nancy A. Chicola, Eleanor B. English, Fulcrum Publishing, 2002.


Architecture, Animals by Michael J. Crosbie, Steve Rosenthal; John Wiley and Sons, June 1995. ISBN: 0471143588

Architecture, Colors by Michael J. Crosbie, Steve Rosenthal; John Wiley and Sons, August 1993. ISBN: 0471143596

Architecture, Counts by Michael J. Crosbie, Steve Rosenthal; John Wiley and Sons, August 1993. ISBN: 0471143618

Architecture, Shapes by Michael J. Crosbie, Steve Rosenthal; John Wiley and Sons, August 1993. ISBN: 0471143669

Pre-K to 3rd

Animal Architects by John Nicholson; Allen and Unwin, April 2006. ISBN: 1741142636

Animal Homes, Tammy Everts & Bobbie Kalman, Crabtree Publishing Company, NY, 1994. Available at

Arches to Zigzags: An Architecture ABC by Michael J. Crosbie, Steve Rosenthal; Harry N. Abrams, October 2000. ISBN: 0810942186

Architects Make Zigzags: Looking at Architecture from A to Z by Diane Maddex; John Wiley and Sons, August 1986. ISBN: 04711435X

Castle by David MacCaulay; Houghton Mifflin/Walter Lorraine Books, October 1982. ISBN: 0395329205

Cathedral: The Story of Its Construction by David MacCaulay; Houghton Mifflin/Walter Lorraine Books, October 1981. ISBN: 0395316685

City: A Story of Roman Planning and Construction by David MacCaulay; Houghton Mifflin/Walter Lorraine Books, October 1983. ISBN: 0395349222

Come to My Place, Bobbie Kalman, Crabtree Publishing Company, NY,1985.

Homes Around the World, Bobbie Kalman, Crabtree Publishing Company, NY, 1994. Available at

Houses: Shelters from Prehistoric Times to Today, Anne Siberell, Holt, Rinehart and Winston, NY, 1979.

How a House is Built by Gail Gibbons; Holiday House, March 1996. ISBN: 0823412326

Life in the Old West: Homes of the West, Bobbie Kalman, Crabtree Publishing Company, NY, 1999. Available at

Native Homes, Bobbie Kalman, Crabtree Publishing Company, NY, 2001. Available at

Roberto, the Insect Architect by Nina Laden; Chronicle Books LLC, September 2000. ISBN: 0811824659

Roxaboxen by Alice McLerran, Barbara Cooney; Harper Trophy, April 2004. ISBN: 0060526335

What is a Community?, Caroline Arnold, Franklin Watts Inc., NY, 1982.

What is a Community from A to Z? (AlphaBasiCs), Bobbie Kalman, Crabtree Publishing Company, NY, 2000.

What it Feels Like to Be A Building by Forrest Wilson; John Wiley and Sons, June 1995. ISBN: 0471144339

4th to 6th

Animal Societies, Karen Gravelle, Watts Franklin Inc., NY, 1993.

The Art of Construction: Projects and Principles for Beginning Engineers and Architects by Mario Salvadori; Chicago Review Press, March 1990. ISBN: 1556520808

Communities, Lisa Trambauer and Gail Saunders-Smith, Pebble Books, 2000.

Ecology Alert!: Communities, Stephanie Turner, Raintree Steck-Vaughn Publishers, Austin, TX, 1999.

Homes, Fiona MacDonald, Crabtree Publishing Company, NY, 2001.Available at

Houses: Habitats and Home Life, Fiona McDonald, Franklin Watts Inc., NY, 1994.

On the Job With An Architect: Builder of the World by Jake Miller; Baron’s Educational Series, September 2001. ISBN: 0764118676

Under Every Roof: A Kid’s Style and Field Guide to the Architecture of American Houses by Patricia Brown Glenn; John Wiley and Sons, August 1993. ISBN: 0471144282

Watsons Go To Birmingham – 1963, Christopher Paul Curtis, Random House Children’s Books, 2000.

7th – 12th

160 Ways to Help the World: Community Service Projects for Young People, Linda Leeb Duper, Facts on File Inc., 1996.

Architecture: The World’s Greatest Buildings Explored and Explained by Neil Stevenson; DK ADULT, September 1997. ISBN: 0789419653

Biomes and Habitats, Macmillan Reference USA, Gale Group, 2001.

Breaking Through, Francisco Jimenez, Houghton Mifflin Co., 2002.

City Works: Exploring Your Community: A Workbook, Adria Steinberg, David Stephen, The New Press, 1999.

Communities of Dissent: A History of Alternative Religions in America, Stephen J. Stein, Oxford University Press, 2002.

Community Builders: From the End of Reconstruction to the Atlanta Compromise
Darlene Clark Hine & Clayborne Carson, Chelsea House Publishers, 1996.

Community Service for Teens / Helping the Ill, the Poor and the Elderly, Bernard Ryan Jr., Facts on File Inc., 1998.

Coping with Special Needs Classmates, Sherri N. McCarthy-Tucker, Rosen Publishing Group Inc., 1993.

Identifying American Architecture: A Pictorial Guide to Styles and Terms: 1600-1945 by John H.-G. Blumenson; W.W. Norton and Company, February 1990. ISBN: 0393306100

Round Buildings, Square Buildings, and Buildings that Wiggle Like a Fish by Phillip M. Isaacson; Knopf Books for Young Readers, September 2001. ISBN: 0394893824

Visual Dictionary of Architecture by Francis D. K. Ching; Wiley; New Ed. Edition, November 1996. ISBN: 0471288217

A World History of Architecture by Marian Moffett, Lawrence Wodehouse, Michael Fazio; McGraw-Hill Professional, September 2003. ISBN: 0071417516