3 Great Art Projects that Teach Kids History

Ode On a Grecian Urn

Grecian Urn (Photo credit: pcurto)

With all of those facts and dates, teaching history to children can be a bit of a challenge. After all, most kids want to go out and play, not memorize the names of America’s past presidents! Fortunately, there are ways to make history fun and exciting for kids—and it starts with art. In the second installment of MakIt Blog’s series on educational art projects, prepare to be blown away by how much fun kids can have creating history-inspired arts and crafts!

1) Paint like a Grecian

Black permanent marker (fine / extra fine tip)
Plain terracotta flowerpot
Resources on Greek vase art

Before diving into this art project, delve into the history of Greek art. Take a look at pictures in books, videos, and on the Internet to discover the recurring symbols the Greeks painted on their vases. Since they frequently took inspiration from history, mythology and literature, this can be a great opportunity to introduce kids to some of the amazing people, stories, and characters from the Classical period.

Once your students are thoroughly interested, help them to trace a design in pencil on the terracotta pot. They can copy Greek vases to start, but encourage them to experiment, bringing inspiration from their own lives and stories. Before you know it, your students will be doing more than painting Grecian pots—they will be enjoying learning about Greek history!

2) Smell You Later

Masking tape
Orange with no blemishes

Because of their spicy, pungent smell, pomanders (a kind of ornament made of perfumes) are great for the fall. But they’re even better for teaching kids about how people lived in the past. During the Middle Ages, people carried pomanders with them to ward off infections and to keep themselves smelling nice. Creating them with young students is a great way to bring hygiene—a topic all kids are familiar with—into the conversation around history, bring the past alive by making kids see that personal health was a real concern then, too!

Once you’re ready, wrap masking tape around the orange’s middle. Rotate the fruit 45 degrees and wrap it again with tape. Next, stick the cloves into the orange, avoiding the tape; you may need to use the fork to create holes that you can insert the cloves inside. When your child has finished, replace the tape with ribbon, being sure to leave enough space at the top to create a loop to hang your pomander. Your students will enjoy this little reminder of history, and you’ll love the fresh aroma they bring to the classroom!

3) Postage Fit for a King

Black marker
Colored pencils
White paper

Martin Luther King, Jr. was a major figure in American history, but unfortunately many students are not as familiar with him and the strides he took for the African American community as they should be. With Black History Month just a week away, now is the perfect time to teach kids about him—through the power of art!

After discussing MLK Jr.’s influence on the U.S. and the world, take out some stamps and teach your students how stamps have reflected American’s history and culture throughout the nation’s past. Then, give them a piece of white paper and encourage them to design their own Martin Luther King-inspired postage stamp. History and culture will collide to create a poignant memorial for a great American hero.

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Nona Taut

Nona Taut is Sales Director for Makit Products, located in Dallas, Texas.

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