Friday, September 16, 2011

Make a Symmetrical Cuna Mola

Due to my recent transfer to new schools, I'm a little behind in starting my first project of the year.  I spent the last week getting my two new classrooms setup (I'm now split between MLK, Jr. Learning Center and H.S. Thompson Learning Center), but now we're in full swing and starting our first full project.  We're making a paper version of a Cuna (or Kuna depending on who you ask) Mola for Hispanic Heritage month.

The Cuna people live on the San Blas island off the eastern coast of Panama.  Mola is the Cuna word for cloth, and these beautiful panels of hand-stitched fabric are often sewn into blouses and dresses or used as wall hangings. The designs are thought to have originated with body painting and often include geometric patterns and images of birds, animals, and plants in a symmetrical design, although many contemporary molas depict urban themes like cities and cars. 

We're using a poster from the Harcourt Art Everywhere set titled "Pananmanian Cuna Mola with Iguanas and Birds" as our inspiration for this project.  I found a bunch of plastic sun catchers at Wal-Mart for about $.50 each that we're using as templates for our shapes.  We looked at several examples of molas, and then using our poster as a starting point we came up with a list of steps to make our own mola:

     1. Create a Line of Symmetry by folding your paper in half.
     2. Choose a shape to work with and trace the outline of it on one side of your paper with a pencil.
     3.  Draw in the lines and details on the inside of the shape you traced.
     4. Flip the shape over and move it to the other side of the paper.
     5. Trace the shape in the new location.
     6. Repeat steps 2 - 5 for as many shapes as you want in your design.
     7. Add a border stripe around each shape on your paper.
     8. Fill in the empty areas with geometric shapes and designs.
     9. Trace your drawing with a black marker.
    10. Add color with oil pastels.

I think these are beautiful, and it's a great opportunity to teach line, shape, and symmetrical balance (including the difference between a rotation, a translation, and a reflection.)  This project would also be great using cut paper shapes instead oil pastels.  This is a very colorful project that has a very high rate of success and accomplishment for just about all of my students.  With the younger students we use a small piece of paper and only one shape, while the older grades (3rd - 5th) use a larger format at least three different template shapes in their designs.

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