Instead of shelving a bag of balloons, waiting for the next student's birthday, transform them into a creative preschool globe-making project. Although your little learners may think of balloons as simple party decorations, you can show them how they can these brightly-colored inflatables can transform into a 3-D masterpiece. With a coating of paper-mache, a touch of paint and a few ready-made shapes, preschool students can create a mini model Earth.
There's no question that balloons will eventually deflate, leaving behind a shrunken shell. Instead of seeing the disappointment in your students' faces when this happens, use the balloons as a sort of skeleton to hold up a paper-mache mold until it dries. Give each student one balloon, or work together as a class to create a group project. Have the children cover the balloons entirely with strips of blue construction paper, dipped in paper-mache paste. Allow the balloons to dry for one or two days, depending on how wet the paper-mache paste gets. Give the students pre-cut continents, helping them to glue them to their globes. Finish the project by adding white tempera paint to the top and bottom for the polar ice caps.
The most obvious materials that this lesson requires are balloons. You will also need a non-toxic paper-mache mix, unless you are planning on making your own by mixing flour, water and school glue. Always follow the directions on a ready-made paste mix to get the most out of the product. Use an art-only plastic bowl for the mixing process. Other items that are necessary to cover the balloons are white tempera paint -- and thick brushes -- and continent shapes. You can use continent templates or stencils to trace onto construction paper, thin craft foam sheets or craft felt. There's no need for glue, as the shapes will stick to the wet paste.
You can adjust your lesson goals, depending on what concepts you want to focus most on. For example, if you're using this as a science lesson you may want to include goals for learning about the balloon's inflation and deflation along with earth sciences. If you're going more in a social studies direction, you can set objectives for the students to learn about world cultures by way of understanding that there are different countries all over the planet. Other goals can include art objectives such as exploring the sculpture process of paper-mache, naming the colors that are going onto the globes or identifying the three-dimensional shape of the project. Add in developmental types of goals such as increasing fine motor skills and building self-regulation through the proper use of the art materials.
The Safety and Mess Factors
According to the pediatric professionals at the KidsHealth website, balloons pose a choking hazard for young children. Never allow the students to help you to blow up the balloons, avoid leaving deflated balloons in the students' reach and instruct the children to keep the balloons out of their mouths. When it comes to keeping the mess at bay -- and the slippery paper-mache paste off of the floor -- cover your entire work surface with newspapers and make sure the children work over a table.
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