While studying traditions from around the world, our pre-Kindergartners learned about the detailed ephemeral sand mandalas carefully created by Tibetan monks. We theorized about how long it takes to make to make them, and what methods the monks used.

I had a feeling my students would be into it as colored sand is always such a big hit when they get to experiment with it on the light box table. When presented with the idea of making our own mandala they were eager to start planning and creating!

We saw examples of radial symmetry and discussed how those ideas might translate to our working surface (a 36x36” foam core board). A new tool (a T square) found it’s way to our table and the kids watched as I divided the board into sections, making horizontal, vertical and diagonal halves with light pencil marks.

While most sand mandalas are temporary, site specific installations, we created a more permanent version. Using their decision making skills, students choose cups and empty containers as stamps, dipping the lids into watered down glue and finding the perfect spot on the board. Once the glue was down, sand was carefully poured from a squeeze bottle onto the wet glue. The same stamp was used in the next section of the divided board, and the process was repeated to create symmetrical patterns. After we had six or eight piles of sand, we’d dump the excess sand off the board revealing our progress - which was very exciting!

After all the outlined shapes were created and covered with sand, students painted glue onto the remaining spaces and covered these small expanses with colors of their choosing. Other students used pencil erasers to stamp small dots of glue to make polka dots in various colors. We collaborated on this project for around a week in our choice based studio, each class making additions and reveling at the changes that had been made since they last saw it. It was an awesome experiment in collaboration, and we were able to sneak in lots of math concepts while making this super colorful mandala!

SAND MANDALA                                Grade Level: Pre-K, Kindergarten

Objectives

• Students will experiment with collaboration and explore a historic tradition
• Identification of shapes, lines, colors
• Create texture using non-traditional materials
• Investigate radial symmetry and elements of design (contrast, positive/negative space)

Vocabulary

• Symmetry/symmetrical: the same on both sides
• Mandala: a geometric symbol representing the universe in Buddhist or Hindu symbolism
• collaboration: working together towards a creative goal

Materials

• 32” sq foam core (divided w/ light pencil marks into 8 “slices” to aid in symmetry)
• glue, paintbrush (for glue)
• Sand in squeeze bottles
• containers with various sized openings (for stamping glue)

Demonstration

Show slides or time lapse of Buddhist monks creating and deconstructing mandala. Students will identify shapes, lines, colors. Introduction to techniques and history. Question and discussion about the ephemeral nature of sand mandalas.

Teacher led demo on creating glue geometric shapes, and applying sand to glue. Find symmetrical spots for same-sized shapes.

Procedure

Find center of square, work outward from the center adding stamped, traced, and hand drawn shapes in glue. As each shape is completed, a student will add sand to that shape. Periodically, sand will be dusted or shaken off the board.

Experiment with different ways of line making, Identify tools used, and evaluate pros and cons of different methods. Photograph work (or time lapse if possible) throughout project - pause to discuss work at various stopping points.

Closure/reflection

• watch footage or view still photos of work in progress and compare to finished mandala.
• discuss outcome, challenges and victories.

Standards

9.1.V PK.A Know and use basic elements of visual arts.

9.2. PK.D Explain that (instruments or) art forms represent cultural perspectives.

9.3. PK.G Formulate and share an opinion about others’ art products.