Friday, July 6, 2012

Adaptive Art Snowmen

Yes it was a balmy 98 degrees yesterday, 91 degrees is expected today and I’m thinking snowmen! My Adaptive Art class made these in January. I knew this was an interesting lesson worth sharing, so I made sure I took pictures before sending them home. The heat has chased me out of the garden and into the house. It’s a good day to think cool thoughts so here we go!

I should probably note here that in the Adaptive Art class I teach with 2 support aides in the class and we work with 4 students.

This year, because of my student’s skill levels I’ve been visiting a lot of early childhood sites. The idea of using “coconut” on artwork came from one of those sites. I apologize that I’m not listing the name of the blog; if I come across it again I’ll post the site address here.
Can you see the coconut flakes glued to the snowman to simulate textured snow? It’s a great look.

Here is what we did;
Day 1:
• Students started by rolling white Crayola Model Magic into two balls. One ball is smaller than the other. The smaller ball is the head, the larger one is the body.
• As students rolled the balls I cut popsicle sticks to fit inside the snowman. The popsicle stick does not have to be pushed into the snowman all the way through, but well over half way is good.
Students stick one end of the popsicle stick into the head so it looked like a lollypop. The bottom half of the popsicle stick was then pushed into the bottom ball of the snowman.
• Have students put effort into standing the snowmen up… balance them if you can, before they leave class.
• At this point the snowmen have to dry until the next class period, but you are going to get some gluing done on them before the next class. I was not expecting this next step and was surprised when I picked one snowman up and found the head loose on the body after it dried. Before your next class with the students you will want to slide the popsicle stick out, coat it with Tacky Glue and reassemble it. You’ll want to do this as its drying or is dried so you do not alter the shapes the students have made. Give it time to dry now.
The next day see if the snowman head and body are loose where they come together in the middle. I’m guessing it will be. Give it a good shot of hot glue just to be sure it’s secure. (I was REALLY surprised that the Model Magic did not stick together by itself, but it could be because of all the handling by the students.)

Day 2:
• The next class period have students use a paint brush to paint glue all over the snowman. You can do the whole thing at once or only paint one section at a time. When you have the thick glue on the snowman, start rolling it in coconut that is poured in a bowl. If you find some bare spots add more glue and do it again. Keep going til the whole thing is covered.
Now the snowman needs to dry again. Stand or lay the snowman on a sheet of plastic and let it dry.

My adaptive students work very fast so at this point I pull out a basket that has supplies ready for another project… for example; paint the background paper for a new project and let it dry, and/or start cutting or ripping out shapes to go on the painted paper (house shapes, large petals for flowers, sailboats, geometric shapes, etc. –whatever the next lesson will be… at the end of class wet paintings go in the drying rack and paper shapes get paper clipped together and I write the student’s name on their paper shapes. )
If only a small amount of class time is left I pull out the Playdoh or get beads and pipe cleaners out, maybe draw with marker and paint the paper with water when they are done... something short but very interesting.

Day 3:
• The snowman gets completely assembled in this class; Have students match two pompoms for earmuffs, and choose a color of pipe cleaner for the top of the earmuffs. Also, students choose the color of the felt scarf they would like. (I had precut a bunch of felt strips before class.) While I am doing a quick hot gluing getting the earmuffs on, students are tying their scarves on, and then start to put their paint details on. Scarf first, paint after. Often if students put the face on first, the scarf covers a lot of it up. Get the scarf on first so they can more clearly define the space they have to work with. The eyes, mouth and buttons of the snowman are tempera paint dots. Students use the handle end of a paintbrush, dip it into black paint and place dots of paint onto their snowman.
• When all is done there is one more visit to the hot glue and we glue the snowman onto a stiff board –in this case I think it was scrap matte board. In this lesson I think I squirted hot glue under the scarf too so it couldn’t be ripped off by the students and put in their mouths.

• The paint completes the snowman. I decided not to add an orange nose or arms with pipe cleaners, etc. because I was worried that it might be something that would pull off the snowman easily and end up in the student’s mouths.

You will probably have a lot of class time left so we continue the project we started at the end of the last class.

*Will I do this lesson again? Yup, BUT I think it needs a fine tuning so the “snowballs” do not come apart when drying. I think I’ve seen popsicle sticks with notches cut out of the sides… I wonder if those notches would hold the Model Magic securely so no extra gluing is needed…?
*When making paper mache snowmen with first graders I have cut the toe area off of a small sock and students use this as the hat…(you can leave it as is or turn the sock tip inside out) a little pompom on the top finishes it off nicely. (That would avoid that hot glue earmuff step…)
*Even using fabric, with several students still working on “grasping and squeezing” their scissors, cutting their own scarf is out of reach. I wonder if there is some sparkly netting material that looks wintery. I think they could cut through netting…

Do you have any suggestions?


  1. I've taught a lot of Special Education in my teaching career, and I love what you are doing here - The snowmen are gorgeous and I also love your turtles and ladybird.

  2. I've made snowmen with styrofoam balls but didn't cover it. I've made snowballs and covered with white feathers. Both activities were done at a one day event where children came through craft stations fairly quickly so I had to adapt things to accommodate the short time.

    What I'm wondering is do you think styrofoam balls could be used for the snowman body. I never thought of using cocoanut flakes.

  3. Thank you Dreampainters, your comments mean the world to me! This is all new territory working with students at this skill level. I think I've taught an Adaptive Art class for the last 18 years, but for the first time ever I have been searching through preschool activity websites to find lessons that I can adapt so they are within reach for my students. I appreciate your feedback - it makes me think I'm headed in the right direction. Thanks! :)