Being a middle school teacher, especially for the arts, takes a lot of backwards thinking. Usually it’s the messiest projects that yield the best participation and thusly sometimes, the best behavior, despite the greatest potential for misbehavior. Basically, when the kids want to do the work, they will stay on task. Engagement is the key. However, nothing is foolproof, especially with huge classes like I have, so I did this very messy process with my small after school care group. The project they were working on is papier mache “busts” of famous figures in black history. I like doing papier mache because it is very accessible to a wide range of age and abilities. The newspaper strips get torn, dipped in some type of adhesive (I used wheat paste), and applied to a form (balloons, in this instance, but you can use almost anything, wire or rolled up paper work well too). My students always think it’s hilarious that the phrase papier mache means “chewed paper”, they love getting grossed out at the thought of chewing up newspaper.
Papier Mache Time!