Sculpture Background Information for Teachers and Parents

Grade Levels: K-3

This page contains information to support educators and families in teaching K-3 students about sculpture and art. The information is designed to complement the BrainPOP Jr. movie Sculpture. It explains the type of content covered in the movie, provides ideas for how teachers and parents can develop related understandings, and suggests how other BrainPOP Jr. resources can be used to scaffold and extend student learning.

Sculpture is a powerful and versatile art form that can be used to honor someone or communicate ideas. This movie will explore different sculptures, such as statues and mobiles, and the materials and techniques that can be used to make them. The movie will also explore a few examples of sculptures by noted artists and the ideas expressed in their work.

What is a sculpture? How is sculpture different from a painting or photograph? Discuss with children. Remind them that the image in a painting, drawing, or photograph has two dimensions: length and width. A sculpture, however, has three dimensions: length, width, and depth. Ask children where they have seen sculpture. What did it look like? How were the various sculptures alike and different?

Broaden children’s understanding and explain that sculptures can be larger than a house or small enough to fit in the palm of your hand. They can be displayed on their own, or be a part of buildings or fountains. Although many sculptures are modeled after something recognizable, abstract sculptures are not. You may want to share a few examples of abstract sculptures and compare them with statues or other clearly representational artwork.

A statue is a sculpture that is modeled after someone or something. Ask children where they have seen statues. Many memorials often feature statues to honor an important person. Churches, temples, and other houses of worship often feature statutes to honor important people or figures.

Review with children that a medium is a material used by an artist. Sculptures can be made from a wide variety of materials, including clay, stone, wood, metal, paper, or a combination of different mediums. Some artists use found objects or materials that come from nature. Some even use sound and light to create sculptures. Explain that practically anything can be used to create a sculpture!

Several techniques can be used to create sculptures. Manipulation is the process when material in place is shaped and pressed, as in molding clay to form a sculpture. Subtraction is the process of taking material away to create a shape or form, as in chiseling away marble to create a statue. Addition is the process of adding more of the medium to the sculpture. Substitution is the process of replacing parts with something else. Many artists combine different techniques to create their work. You may want to practice each of these techniques together using clay, paper, or other materials that are easy to form and change.

Explain to children that sculptures communicate feelings and ideas. Visit a museum or gallery together or research different sculptures on the Internet and discuss the ideas or feelings they share. The Thinker by Auguste Rodin (1840-1917) shows a man who is deep in thought and struggling with an internal conflict. The sculpture communicates a feeling many people have experienced. Alexander Calder (1898-1976) studied math and worked as an engineer before he became an artist. He created mobiles, or sculptures that hang in the air. He explored the ideas of force, motion, and balance through his work. Robert Smithson (1938-1973) explored land art. In one sculpture, he partially buried a woodshed to explore how time and nature can change things built by humans. Louise Bourgeois (born 1911) created very large sculptures of spiders to experiment with scale. The spider is symbolic of people’s fears and Bourgeois’ sculpture explores the ideas of vulnerability and fear. Remind children that a symbol is something that stands for something else. For example, a heart stands for love, and a dove stands for piece. Artists often use symbols in their work to convey ideas.

Art is about exploration and expression. Encourage children to create sculptures to communicate their ideas. Explore different examples together and have children create their own artwork. Guide children to think about color, shape, form, and texture (or how something feels) as they create their sculptures. Invite children to experiment with different materials to help them communicate their ideas.