Over time I have developed different unit studies for each grade level based on art, culture, and celebrations from around the world. In fifth grade we looked at Latin America and art forms such as; amate painting, huichol string art, etc. (you can see the previous post here).
In third and fourth grade we are looking at art from Asia, with an emphasis in third grade on India and Pakistan. We started our third grade unit looking at architecture of the region.
After studying the Taj Mahol and other examples of Mughal architecture students learned about the tradition of Mehndi that is typically applied to bride's hands and feet by people practicing Hindi and at high holidays for people that are of the islamic faith.
"Mehndi is the application of henna as a temporary form of skin decoration in India, as well as by expatriate communities from the country. Mehndi decorations became fashionable in the West in the late 1990s, where they are sometimes called henna tattoos. Henna is typically applied during special occasions like weddings and Hindu festivals like Karva Chauth, Diwali, Bhaidooj and Teej. In some Hindu festivals, every woman tries to have Henna done on her hands and feet. It is usually drawn on the palms and feet, where the color will be darkest because the skin contains higher levels of keratin which binds temporarily to lawsone, the colorant of henna. Henna was originally used as a form of decoration mainly for brides."
Students traced their hand on a heavy sheet of paper and carefully painted the negative space around their hand with metallic paint. We spent a good deal of time studying and practising traditional mehndi designs. I use a practice "worksheet" that we complete as a class as a warm up to learning some of the basic designs that are typically found in Mehndi artwork. Students move on to creating their own compositions by working within the perimeters of traditional mehndi patterns and shapes. The students are doing a great job of using the basics of design to make cohesive compositions that show off their knowledge of mehndi.