Most of us identify masks with Halloween, Mardi Gras, Día de los Muertos, and New Year’s Eve. Masks, however, date back to 7000 BC and were used primarily for rituals, hunting, and ceremony. Just like today, they all came in different sizes, shapes, and materials.
Early masks were constructed of wood, leather, and natural materials such as bark and bone. Depending on the skill set of the creator, some of these masks were extremely intricate in design. Many cultures believed by wearing a mask you could communicate with both human and animal spirits. Masks enable your imagination to take on another character.
With the creation of man-made materials, mask design and their usages expanded. You will find masks made from cloth used for theatre and opera disguises as well as ceremonies. Metal helped to create masks for safety and ornamentation. Imagine wearing a metal armor mask from the Dark Ages. The most famous glass masks come out of Venice, Italy and were used to disguise one’s social class. Today masks are made from a variety of materials and are used for ornamentation, ceremony, disguise, medical and military safety, construction, and building trade safety.
This lesson uses Roylco Wild Animal Paper Masks as the base for mask exploration. The animal theme is present in all historical masks and regions. Students can research masks and select an animal of their choosing. Let your creativity and imagination take you to their habitat. Once selected, the student should research their animal either online, in books, or at a zoo. Have the student sketch out their animal and pay close attention to those features that stand out like nose, ears, eyes, mane, fur, hide, or feathers. These sketches can help the student determine how to enhance and exaggerate these characteristics on their paper mask. Starting with the mask flat, have students use paint, crayons, or markers to lay down the animal’s base color. Have them pay attention to textures such as fur, feathers, or hide. Found materials can be used to show off the animal’s special characteristics and features. Consider using shredded paper for a lion’s or horse’s mane. Feathers can adorn a bird mask, while paper or felt cut outs or buttons can be used for a leopard’s spots. These all can be glued into place and allowed to dry. Once decorated, fold along the indicated mask lines and pleats and tape into place. A ribbon or string can be attached to each side of the mask to hold it in place over the face.
Peaceable Kingdom Masks Objectives
Students will design and create masks inspired by animal characteristics.
Students will visually interpret and re-enact animal stories and folktales from around the world.
Tips & Ideas
Write a description of the animal or a short story, poem, or play about it. Wear the mask while performing the play or reading the stories/poems.
Read and perform native stories, folktales, and legends about animals.
Create a diorama that includes the animal, its habitat, and surroundings.
Sing songs about the animal and play music from the culture in its native region.
Enjoy movies like The Lion King, Madagascar, Happy Feet, Zootopia, and Kung Fu Panda.
More Mask Art Lesson Plans & Ideas
Want to try something else? Be sure to check out these other art lesson plans and view our Art Lesson Plan collection for even more.
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For Nadine, art education has been her life’s work, including an Ohio teaching license, 5 years teaching elementary art, and 19 years in higher education (teacher prep). She has served Sax for 25 years as a Category Account Manager, Art Consultant, and Subject Matter Expert. In the latter capacity, Nadine has presented at various national, state, and local conferences.
After 24 years as a college admissions director, Mary crossed over to provide the materials for art education as a member of Sax, first as manager of Inside Sales, then as National Sales Manager. Mary has overseen a team of 15 art consultants. In 2000 Mary and her team created Sax Lesson Plan Book partnerships with prominent art supplies vendors. Meanwhile, she has refined her own artful style of presentation at various national, state and local conferences.