Symmetrical Pattern Racing Turtles

by Pam Carpenter
Mark West Elementary
Grade Level: 4th grade

Objective: To create visually pleasing, symmetrical designs on oaktag turtles. Patterns will integrate study of Native American designs (CA History), as well as the concepts of symmetry and geometric shapes (Mathematics).

Visual Arts Content Standards:

Materials: String Procedure:
  1. Show samples of Native American art. Talk about repeating patterns, geometric shapes, and patterns from nature.
  2. Explain the concept of symmetry. Find examples around the classroom, in the Native American art samples, and/or use cards with alphabet letters, which can be folded and examined for symmetry.
  3. Tell students that they will have the opportunity to create a game of “racing turtles.” The turtles will be designed incorporating the ideas they have explored regarding Native American art, symmetry, and geometric shapes.
  4. Show some finished turtles. Explain how they “race.” Show the correct proportion of the shell, head and legs. Discuss use of color, contrast between light and dark. Use of complementary colors could be encouraged as well.
  5. Distribute materials to students, reminding them to start by sketching the turtle with pencil, then check for correct proportions. Encourage them to use the whole paper.
  6. Next students come up with a design using the ideas discussed regarding Native American art, geometric shapes, and symmetry.
  7. After drawing the design, students choose colors paying attention to light and dark contrast and complementary colors. Fill in the spaces in the design with the chosen color scheme.
  8. As students finish, have them punch a hole in the top of the turtle's shell. Then tie a ten-foot length of string to their desk, or a table leg. Put the string through the hole in the turtle's shell. The turtles are able to “stand up” when the string is pulled taught. They will flop forward when the string is slackened. Early finishers can “race” their turtles moving them along tightening and loosening the string alternately.
  9. When all students have finished, lay them out on display. Allow students time to analyze each other's art, and complement quality work.

Assessment: Check student work for evidence of symmetry, geometric shapes, and use of color. Consider understanding of Native American art, and whether it is evident in student work.


©   Deborah Padrick   2003