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Assemblage Sculptures


This unit is an exploration of how to use everyday materials to make expressive face sculptures. Students will learn about found objects and assemblage sculpture as a form of expression. They will develop techniques and skills for making sculpture, and a sensitivity to the materials that exist around them.

Grade Level




Theme/ Big Idea

Artists can express ideas by using different materials to make lines, shapes, and forms.

Essential Question

How can artists use everyday materials to make expressive face assemblages?

  • Teaching Guide
  • Teaching Tools


Materials and Tools

  • Found household objects
  • A piece of paper or cardboard
  • Scissors
  • Collected objects
  • Transformed objects
  • Materials for attaching

Alternative Materials

If zip ties are not available for students to use to attach materials, any of these can be substituted:

  • Wire twist ties that come with bread
  • Pieces of wire
  • Tape
  • String

If paint is not available for students, encourage them to find materials with similar colors such as cardboard/packing materials.


  • Students will find and collect a variety of materials and experiment with attaching them together
  • Students will transform and arrange materials to convey meaning and explore facial expressions
  • Students will document their work to compare and contrast each experiment

Student Outcomes

Students will understand that:

  • Selection is a powerful tool of expression that demonstrates preferences and identities
  • By arranging and rearranging materials, multiple meanings can be explored
  • Artists evoke emotion through their use of materials

Students will be able to:

  • Gain sensitivity to materials and identify uses for them beyond their original functions
  • Demonstrate how to change the meaning of objects within different contexts
  • Apply knowledge about materials, attachment strategies, and transformation to create expressive faces using nontraditional materials


Metropolitan Museum of Art 
Siah Armajani: Follow This Line exhibition overview:

Kohl Children’s Museum
A simple paper sculpture art lesson

Center for Architecture and Pedagogy, NYC
Free, online architecture and design activities for K-12 students

Museum of the City of New York
New York City skyscraper lesson

Imaginary Playgrounds
A playground equipment system that is made for building


For Students with Disabilities

  • Modify material and tool choices: offer two to three simple ways to attach different materials. Consider offering tape, glue, Velcro, or other easily managed options
  • Ask students to make choices and facilitate technical processes with them
  • Use technology such as an iPad or Google Classroom for students to manipulate photos of objects, experiment with planning a sculpture, or make a digital collage instead of a three-dimensional sculpture
  • Use audio with visuals in the student-facing Google Slides

For Multilingual Learners

  • Emphasize repetition of new art vocabulary. Spiral new art concepts and vocabulary
  • Activate students’ prior knowledge
  • Use images of techniques paired with vocabulary words to help with meaning
  • Chunk information and keep instructions concise
  • Have multiple entry points: speak, show, and do
  • Use audio with visuals in student-facing lesson guides
  • Pre-teach vocabulary and concepts (see content-specific vocabulary)
  • Signpost: give clear directions for each step, and let students know what comes next
  • Use different modalities such as sound and movement. For example, create a voice for the different facial expressions that students create


Memory and Assemblage

Joseph Cornell: https://americanart.si.edu/artist/joseph-cornell-995

Students explore assemblage sculpture with an emphasis on memory. Students work with found personal materials and photos to explore personal history. If no photos are available, students can work with sketches.

Exploring the Readymade

Marcel Duchamp: https://www.theartstory.org/definition/readymade-and-found-object/history-and-concepts/

Students learn about the history of the Readymade and the artist Marcel Duchamp. Students focus on assemblage sculpture by combining/transforming manufactured objects. Students could be tasked with transforming two mundane objects from a dollar store by combining them.

Exploring Monochromatic Assemblage

Louise Nevelson: https://www.tate.org.uk/art/artists/louise-nevelson-1696

Students create a monochromatic assemblage of found materials inspired by the artist Louise Nevelson that inspires an awareness of shape, line, texture, and composition as well as color as a unifying principle in design. If paint is not available for students, encourage them to find similarly colored materials such as cardboard/packing materials.

New York Teaching & Learning in Visual Arts Standards

Art Making: 8th Grade Learning Indicators for Sculpture

Create a sculpture that demonstrates:

  • Attention to scale
  • Unity through purposeful selection and manipulation of materials such as clay, plaster, paper pulp, wire
  • Expressive use of texture and form
  • Inventive organization of positive and negative space
  • Symmetrical/asymmetrical balance

Literacy in the Arts

  • Looking at and Discussing Art
  • Developing Visual Arts Vocabulary
  • Reading and Writing About Art
  • Problem Solving: Interpreting and Analyzing Art

Making Connections

  • Recognizing the Societal, Cultural, and Historical Significance of Art
  • Connecting Art to Other Disciplines
  • Observing and Interpreting the World

Community and Cultural Resources

  • Cultural Institutions
  • Online Resources and Libraries
  • Community-Based Organizations (CBOs), Local Artists, and Studios

Careers and Lifelong Learning

  • Awareness of Careers in Visual Arts
  • Art for Enjoyment and Lifelong Learning

NYS Learning Standards for the Arts

Artistic Process: Creating

Anchor Standards:

  • Anchor Standard 1:  Generate and conceptualize artistic ideas and work
  • Anchor Standard 2:  Organize and develop artistic ideas and work
  • Anchor Standard 3:  Refine and complete artistic work

Artistic Process: Presenting

Anchor Standards:

  • Anchor Standard 4: Select, analyze, and interpret artistic work for presentation
  • Anchor Standard 5: Develop and refine artistic techniques and work for presentation
  • Anchor Standard 6: Convey meaning through the presentation of artistic work

Artistic Process: Responding

Anchor Standards:

  • Anchor Standard 7: Perceive and analyze artistic work
  • Anchor Standard 8: Interpret meaning in artistic work
  • Anchor Standard 9: Apply criteria to evaluate artistic work

Artistic Process: Connecting

Anchor Standards:

  • Anchor Standard 10: Relate and synthesize knowledge and personal experiences to inspire and inform artistic work
  • Anchor Standard 11: Investigate ways that artistic work is influenced by societal, cultural, and historical context and, in turn, how artistic ideas shape cultures past, present, and future


Writing Team                                              
Nick DeMarco, Jamie Powell, Robin Holder, Tim Thyzel

Project Team
Belinda Blum, Nicola Giardina, Paul Urevitch, Andrea Burgay

Studio in a School NYC Team 
Julie Applebaum, Senior Director
Hasna Muhammad, Ed.D., Chair, Board of Directors, Studio in a School Association
Alison Scott-Williams, President, Studio in a School NYC

NYC Department of Education OASP Team 
Karen Rosner, Director of Visual Arts 
Amber Lodman, Arts Program Manager                     
Kaitlin Trammell, Remote Arts Learning Partnership Project Coordinator 

NYC Department of Education Visual Arts Teacher Team 
Maria Bonilla, Amie Robinson, Susan Bricker, Lara Tyson

These educational materials were created through a partnership with Studio in a School NYC and The New York City Department of Education Office of Arts and Special Projects (OASP) and made possible by the generosity of The New York Community Trust. 

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