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                                Lesson Plan: Junk Sculpture

Teacher: Mrs. Suzy Weber and Mr. Essex Garner, Saint Joseph Catholic School, Jefferson City, Missouri
Cooperating Teacher: Mrs. Suzy Weber

Unit: Making Art – Three Dimensional Sculpture and Painting - Math/Science, integration Grade Level: Elementary and Middle School (6 and 9) - Adaptable to higher and lower grades.


Missouri Standards for Teacher Education Programs (MoSTEP) Strengthens prior knowledge with new ideas. Engages students in the methods of inquiry used in the subject(s). Encourages student responsibility. Engages students in active learning that promotes the development of critical thinking, problem solving, and performance capabilities. Connects instruction to students' prior experiences and family, culture, and community.

The Swing: 6th Grade Junk Sculpture, Saint Joseph Cathedral Art Student (Right)




Performance Indicators: Selects and creates learning experiences that are appropriate for curriculum goals, relevant to learners, and based upon principles of effective instruction (e.g., encourages exploration and problem solving, building new skills from those previously acquired). Manages time, space, transitions, and activities effectively.
Uses resources available for professional development. 

Strand (Know about Art), (Making Art) and Elements of Art

Students will be working on three goals: 1) to plan a sculpture so that decisions are made that help to achieve a result the student has chosen, 2) using basic elements of economy to get supplies needed and sold (if necessary) and 3) to create a finished sculpture that could be called art.

Supplies Needed
Fake Money (any small pieces of paper with 4 different colored stickers on them; ex: yellow = .25, red =.50, green = $1,

Statue Of Liberty: 6th Grade Junk Sculpture, Saint Joseph Cathedral Art Student (Right)

Orange =$5), a plastic grocery bag for each student (they need to decorate the bags with yarn, etc. to tell one from the other), 3oz of Sculpey clay per each student doing the project, wire cutters, wire, and lots and lots of junk (you may want to start collecting your junk about a year before starting the project – pieces should be no bigger than the size of your hand).


I have found that metal, wood and glass junk works best for baking the projects in the oven– many plastics lose their shape or luster in 250 degree heat (Suzy Weber).

Steps 1. Begin with a discussion on our disposable society and how much of what we dispose of is just lying around, bottle caps, spark plugs, nails, lost earrings, etc. I usually add on information on how long things take to decompose– like that lost earring will still be on the earth in 1000 years. This leads to a discussion on Alexander Calder and the spectacular art he created from junk. I also found pictures of student artwork on the Internet created from junk. At this point, they are asking when they get to "buy" junk.

John Deer Tractor: 6th Grade Junk Sculpture, Saint Joseph Cathedral Art Student (Right)



Step 2. Before passing out their "money" and bags, I write the code on the board, which tells them how much each sticker is worth. Each student gets a bag, a $5 bill, a $1 bill, 2 $.50 bills and 2 $.25 bills. Many will write the amounts right on the bills or will find it written on there already by previous students– even the money in recycled.

Step 3. Students are taught how to buy items by bartering. I tell them I am out to make back my money, and will charge as much as I can for each item. If that price is not acceptable, then the student should argue for a price he feels is fairer. I make it clear I will not buy back any junk. If a student realizes he needs some extra money, he can sell to other students or do odd jobs for me for Very Little Money. Students are also told that, at the end of the project, all extra pieces of junk, clay and money are returned to the classroom for other projects.

Pink Angel: 6th Grade Junk Sculpture, Saint Joseph Cathedral Art Student (Right)



Step 4. How To Basics– we begin discussing how to bond all these eclectic pieces together. I tell them they can buy a small, golf ball size piece of Sculpey clay for $1, but only one ball per customer. They can also buy wire and I will rent my wire cutters for 5 minutes if needed. They can also buy toothpicks and run them up through items like wine corks. After the baking process, glue is also an option.

Lady In The Pink Dress: 6th Grade Junk Sculpture, Saint Joseph Cathedral Art Student (Right)




Step 5. Selling the Junk! By the time I begin selling, the students are very excited to buy my bottle caps, broken necklaces and spark plugs. I don’t sell wire or clay until the 2nd or 3rd day because I want them to have a chance to "wade through" the junk a bit first. Some students will buy a few things very quickly and try to get started, and others will come back and keep buying until they are all out of money, then will try to sort through it all and come up with something. This is a project that demands a certain amount of individuality from the student and that definitely comes through in the resulting artwork.

Step 6. As the project progresses, 3 trays are needed; one for works in progress, one for projects ready to be baked, and one for finished projects, ready for a grade. Everything else is put back in the bags at the end of each class, and stored away for the next class. If a student is short on cash, I will pay someone $1.50 to
carry the tray down to the cafeteria for baking.

Step 7. Once the projects are baked, students can embellish the works by painting. I remind them, though, not to work too hard to disguise the junk in the project, because that is part of its charm.





This takes about 10 forty-minute class periods to complete with a class of about 25 students. The results can be very exciting!


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