Second-graders, more aware of the varying abilities of their peers and older siblings, have reached an age where many may feel that they cannot draw and they will need lots of encouragement and praise as they are led through this series of lessons.
The following lesson-plans begin with a look at the basic lay-out of a mosque. The investigation of some of its ‘colors, shapes and spaces’ will be a simple vehicle for the introduction of the students to some elements of Islam and Muslim rituals and practices as well as basic aspects of Islamic design by means of instantaneous discussion. From there, in lesson-plan two my students will gain some historical perspective as they learn of the Islamic Empire and listen to a tale taken from the famous “Arabian Nights,” whose illustrations are filled with Islamic design. Using a ruler, pencil, and grid, they will be free to fill the designated spaces with their own design-creations, combining lines and shapes in a variety of ways and experimenting with color. In the third lesson-plan we will move to an exploration of symmetry. The simple objective will be to really peak their curiosity as they are led through a series of “hands-on” activities suggested in our new mathematics text on the second-grade level (“Addison-Wesley Mathematics,” 1993, pp. 259-260). Children best learn by doing and it is in this way that they will gain a better understanding of the role that symmetry plays in design.
My students are quite familiar with the triangle, square and hexagon as a result of creative pattern block-play and it is in the fourth lesson-plan where they will begin experimenting with the creation of interesting geometric patterns. These three regular polygons are considered by Ardalan and Bakhtiar as ideal for creating space-filling surface patterns which grow side by side where the vertices add up to 360 degrees (op. cit., p.40). In a series of activities the students, equipped with a pencil, ruler, circle template and grids, will learn to create geometric patterns using one or a combination of these polygons, overlapping or connecting them side by side in three regular lattices: diagonal, right-angled and circular. The viewing of slides and plates of Islamic design will further guide and inspire their attempts to create interesting designs.
In lesson-plan five the objective will be to free the students’ imagination to fanciful design as they move from experimentation with the rigid, frozen geometric patterns to the more frolicsome and free-flowing arabesque. Since the objective is exposure to rather than mastery of the arabesque, the activities will be simple and will guide the students through the experience starting with simple exercises in completing arabesque-designs. From there, they will be free to experiment with the intertwining lines, symmetry and color as they create their own versions of the arabesque. At this point, we can try interspersing arabesques with calligraphy as is done is Islamic design.
As a culminating activity within this unit, I can foresee a possible application of our observations of the mosque and its ornamentation to an informed discussion of the symbolic significance of our own classroom. We could consider such questions as: What are the geometric shapes found in the classroom, what is the function of the interior space, what do the windows signify, and is the blackboard not like the qiblah of knowledge?
The following strategies will be employed to achieve the unit’s objectives:
1.) Creating a model of a simple mosque using cardboard and wood based on the simple layout of a mosque presented in class.
2.) Using readings and illustrations from three children’s books, “Moslems and Islam,” by Leonard F. Holly, “The Muslim World,” by Richard Tames, and “Muslim Festivals” by M.M. Ahsan to familiarize the children with some of the Islamic customs and traditions.
3.) Gaining some historical perspective on the Islamic Empire and listening to and discussing the story, “Aladdin and the Magic Lamp,” whose illustrations include many beautiful examples of Islamic design.
4.) Viewing slides of Islamic objects (such as are provided in the teacher’s packet, “The Mathematics of Islamic Art”), to gain an idea of Islamic geometric patterns and arabesque designs. In addition, samples of Islamic design taken from “The Grammar of Ornament,” by Owen Jones, “The Decorative Art of Arabia,” by Prisse D’Avennes and “Renaissance of Islam: Art of the Mamluks,” by Esin Atil will also be viewed.
5.) Using a circle template and ruler, students will construct simple geometric pattern-designs using basic shapes: triangles, squares, hexagons. Following this, students will be taught how to make designs on a triangle and then a circle-grid increasing the complexity of the designs. “The Mathematics of Islamic Art” provides a series of activities which teach basic design to students, preparing them later to create arabesque designs. Students will also practice calligraphy and adding it to a design similar to the combinations typically found in Islamic ornament.
6.) Using pattern blocks to identify basic geometric shapes, and creating patterns with them that can be recreated on grids. Samples taken from Keith Critchlow’s “Islamic Patterns: An Analytical Cosmological Approach” will serve as inspiration for the creation of geometric patterns.