1st Grade – Insects under a Magnifying Glass

1st Grade – Insects under a Magnifying Glass

Description of the Unit – A simple yet delightful exploration of symmetry and color, students will create their very own bugs as seen under a “magnifying glass”.

1st grade student examples of insects under a magnifying glass made by collaging colored construction paper with an emphasis on symmetry and contrasting colors.
1st grade student examples of insects under a magnifying glass

Activity statement – First grade is a big year for learning the elements and principles of art. As we learn one, we continue to revisit it in further units. This unit reinforces understanding of the color wheel and complementary colors, while introducing students to symmetry.

For many people when thinking about symmetry they think about butterfly wings. The patterns found on a butterfly’s open wings especially contributes to the sense of symmetry we see in them.

photograph of a peacock butterfly
©Mark Searle, Peacock Butterfly

I first learned about this art lesson many years ago while observing another fellow art teacher teach it to her kindergarteners using butterfly images as examples. Given how much students’ fine motor skills develop between kindergarten and first grade, I decided to adapt this to first grade. I also liked the idea of looking at all insects and not just butterflies after finding a deck of bug cards in the art room I teach in. Butterflies are a great way to introduce students to symmetry, but I find many insects to be excellent examples of symmetry, and some have wondrous colors to boot. Again, patterns, especially on insect wings, can contribute to an overall symmetrical effect.

I wanted to use interesting insect images as examples for my students. One artist who has captured this magical world is photographer Levon Biss. His microscopic images of a variety of insects have amazed and entertained my students while guiding them towards understanding symmetry by observing these insects fully symmetrical bodies, for not only are the wings symmetrical, but their heds, legs and antennae as well. Their vivid coloring also encourages students to think about contrasting and complementary color as it can appear in nature. I encourage anyone interested in macrophotography to visit Levon Biss’ intriguing website: https://levonbiss.com/

macrophotography of various colorful insects
©Levon Biss

Inspired by Biss’ fascinating insect photos, students imagine and design their own insect, along with magnifying glass, using colored construction paper. Students are asked to make the insect symmetrical, as well as using contrasting colors. Students may want to create patterns on the insect as a way of emphasizing symmetry.

Goals – Students should…

Understand:

  • The principle of symmetry
  • How patterns can emphasize symmetry

Know:

  • The difference between symmetry and asymmetry

Be able to:

  • Name the primary and secondary colors, as well as the complementary color pairs
  • Create symmetry using shapes

Objectives – Students will employ their understanding of symmetry and contrasting colors to the collage of an insect under a microscope.

Resources and materials –

  • Images of insects
  • Colored construction paper
  • Scissors
  • Glue
  • Pencils
  • Erasers

Questions – (While observing insect imagery)

  • What do you notice?
  • Do you see any patterns? Show me.
  • What do you notice about the colors? Describe.
  • What do you notice about the left side of the insect versus the right? Describe.
  • Does anyone know what we call this?
  • How big are these insects really? How do you think they ended up looking so big?

Evaluation – Did students:

  • Use vocabulary (i.e. ‘symmetry,’ ‘pattern’, ‘complementary color’) in appropriate context?
  • Express symmetry in their art work?
  • Use color in an interesting way?

Informal:

  • Student questions
  • Group discussions
  • Oral responses to essential questions
  • Elaboration and risk-taking
1st grade student example of an insect under a magnifying glass made by collaging colored construction paper with an emphasis on symmetry and contrasting colors.
1st grade student example of an insect under a magnifying glass
1st grade student example of an insect under a magnifying glass made by collaging colored construction paper with an emphasis on symmetry and contrasting colors.
1st grade student example of an insect under a magnifying glass
1st grade student example of an insect under a magnifying glass made by collaging colored construction paper with an emphasis on symmetry and contrasting colors.
1st grade student example of an insect under a magnifying glass
1st grade student example of an insect under a magnifying glass made by collaging colored construction paper with an emphasis on symmetry and contrasting colors.
1st grade student example of an insect under a magnifying glass
1st grade student example of an insect under a magnifying glass made by collaging colored construction paper with an emphasis on symmetry and contrasting colors.
1st grade student example of an insect under a magnifying glass
1st grade student example of an insect under a magnifying glass made by collaging colored construction paper with an emphasis on symmetry and contrasting colors.
1st grade student example of an insect under a magnifying glass

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