The Aztecs left behind a rich legacy of artistic creations, including pottery, sculpture, pictographs and carvings. Most Aztec art had a religious purpose, although some items, such as pottery, were more utilitarian. Classroom activities can help students appreciate Aztec art while developing their own artistic talents.
Take various types of dry pasta--macaroni, bow ties and shells--and dye them a variety of bright colours using rubbing alcohol tinted with food colouring. Place the pasta on paper towels to dry. Provide the students with examples of Aztec art for inspiration. Have students draw an Aztec-themed picture on a small piece of cardboard. Tell them to keep it simple, since they will "colour" it with pieces of pasta. Once the pasta is dry, have students glue it to their cardboard "tiles" to form designs.
Have students create an Aztec diorama using a shoebox or another type of box. Suggest they choose a theme, such as Aztec religion, village life, city life or agriculture. Invite students to try to represent as accurately as possible Aztec architecture, clothing and/or farming methods. Ask students to write a short paragraph explaining their dioramas and why they chose the particular topic. Place the finished dioramas around the room and give all the students time to view them.
Give each student a paper plate. Have them paint it a shade of gold, orange or brown using watercolours or acrylic paints. While the plates dry, show the students examples of Aztec art. Have students draw an Aztec-inspired design on scratch paper. Designs can be based on the sun or on Aztec animal gods and goddesses, including deer, rabbits and lizards. Once the plates are dry, have students paint their designs on top of the base coat using brown or black paint and add a geometric border.
Aztec Sculpture and Pottery
Explain that Aztec art was used mainly as a religious tool. Aztecs worked in clay to produce pottery and masks and in stone to make large sculptures, calendars, pictographs and small carvings of people and animals. Assign each student to produce a piece of art in the Aztec style. Provide materials, including styrofoam, plaster of Paris and salt dough, that may be substituted for clay and stone. Have students explain their projects to the class and then display them in the classroom.
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