Marvellous Minstrels

Term: 2 Year: 2014

From Orchard Park Primary School:

What better way to herald the entrance to a brand new Performing Arts Centre than with a group of colourful minstrels and flock of eye-catching birds?

In 2013, the Year 5 and 6 students at Orchard Grove Primary School were privileged to work alongside artist, Elizabeth Armstrong, to create these welcoming pieces.

The project began with an exploration of paper. Elizabeth brought a variety of papers for the students to examine. Italian Florentine designs, William Morris highly patterned papers, old musical scores and dictionary pages all had the students describing the texture, pattern and line they were appreciating. The smell of old text pages had many remembering word study! Elizabeth went on to share her own work diary pages full of sketches, designs, thoughts, colour patches and swatches.

She then revealed her finished papier mache bird and posed the questions, “How do you think I made this?” and “What steps do you think were involved?” The students discussed the drawing of the design, the cutting and how to papier mache, but they all missed the making of the coloured paper. Spray bottles and watered down acrylic and fluoro paints were then distributed and the students thoroughly enjoyed the freedom of creating their own vibrant paper designs. Some just enjoyed using the sprays whilst others created patterns using stamps and foam pieces. Keeping the colours in warm or cool combinations had the students considering the colours and they avoid making dull or murky colours.

After the freedom of the coloured paper making activity, attention was turned to creating a bird. The students looked at the simple form of a bird and first drew their designs on paper and then transferred them onto foam core board. These were then cut out and a mixture of watered down PVA was applied. Newspaper had to be pasted on smoothly and wrapped right around the bird to keep the form of the cut out.

While the birds were drying, the students then tore up the coloured paper, dictionary pages, music scores and wrapping paper into small, thin and tapered pieces. They had to use control when tearing to ensure the pieces had a feather like appearance so they learnt about the grain in paper fairly quickly! These coloured pieces were then pasted on the birds from the base to the top to create the appearance of feathers. The birds were then laid on larger paper pieces, the head traced and glued in place with a glass bead eye and metallic pen detail added to complete each artwork. Mixing acrylic with metallic paint gives the paint a sheen and this was painted on the edge of the birds. Lastly, old atlas pages were cut to size and shape to complete the birds. It was a nice touch for the students to choose where in the world they would like their birds to fly to or from!

Our attention then turned to the Minstrels. Brian Wildsmith’s illustrations inspired the creation of the figures. Elizabeth demonstrated her drawing style on the foam core board and students papier mached the figures using the same PVA mix. The newspaper layer was allowed to dry. It is important to dry these flat as they can warp quite easily. The remaining paper was used to cover the figures and card circles were layered to create their costumes. Each figure reflects an element of performance: one holds a musical instrument; another is singing and has song sheets in its costume; one is a dancer; the fourth figure is an actor with play scripts hidden in its costume.

The faces of the figures were the last feature to add and Elizabeth explained to the students that her inspiration is drawn from old dolls and puppets. She has a simple, yet very expressive design style and with delicate water colours filling the features of the face, the Minstrels were complete.

Unit: Birds & Marvellous Minstrels
Year Levels: 5 & 6
AusVELS level: 5 & 6
Duration of Unit:  5 weeks
Term: Two
Year: 2013

Learning Focus from AusVels Level 6:

As students work towards the achievement of Level 6 standards in the Arts, they investigate a range of traditional and contemporary arts forms, styles, media, and materials.

They experiment with imaginative and innovative ways of generating ideas and manipulating arts elements, principles and/or conventions to explore the potential of ideas, gaining inspiration from a broad range of sources, including arts works from different cultures, styles and historical contexts

Students learn to evaluate their own and other people’s arts works showing some understanding of selected arts forms and their particular techniques and processes as well as an emerging understanding of the qualities of arts elements, principles and/or conventions. They independently and collaboratively explore and experiment with different ways of presenting arts works and consider appropriateness of presentation for intended audience.

Unit Learning Focus:

Students will gain invaluable experience working alongside a professional artist. The aim is to create an impressive entrance to a performance space using familiar materials and techniques in an innovative way. An appreciation of design process, of art language associated with art principles and of working collaboratively on a project are aims as is developing some deeper understandings of the history of paper and papermaking and design.

Unit Assessment Standards Level 6:

Creating and making

At Level 6, students independently and collaboratively experiment with and apply a range of skills, techniques and processes using a range of media, materials, equipment and technologies to plan, develop, refine, make and present arts works. They investigate a range of sources to generate ideas and manipulate arts elements, principles and/or conventions in a range of arts disciplines and forms as they explore the potential of ideas. In their arts works, they communicate ideas and understandings about themselves and others, incorporating influences from their own and other cultures and times. They evaluate the effectiveness of their arts works and make changes to realise intended aims. They consider purpose and suitability when they plan and prepare arts works for presentation to a variety of audiences.

-Students apply a range of skills, techniques and processes through the drawing, painting, tearing and creating of the birds and Minstrel figures.

Students manipulate arts elements and principles in combination to covey an idea.

Students refine their art works during the creative process to realise intended aims

-Students experience creating and making guided by a professional artist who ensures all experience success.

Exploring and responding

At Level 6, students discuss traditional and contemporary arts works using appropriate arts language to describe the content, structure and expressive qualities of their own and other people’s works from a range of arts disciplines and forms. They interpret and compare key features of arts works made in a range of times, places and cultures. They identify and describe influences on their own works and discuss the purposes for which arts works are created in different historical and cultural contexts.

-Students use appropriate arts language to describe art works or techniques

-They compare art works that have been created during a range of times 

Teaching & Learning Activities

Week 1:

Exploring & Responding

Explore the art work of famous paper makers and designers from the Italian Florentine to William Morris designs.

Compare these with functional papers of the dictionary, atlas and musical scores.

What do you notice?

What questions do you have?

Creating & Making

Decorating papers using spray bottles, stamps paint and brushes

Week 2:

Exploring and Responding

Look at the created papers, group them into cool colours, warm colours, discuss pattern, texture created.

Examine Elizabeth’s bird, how was it made, what was involved, what do you notice?

Creating and Making:

Bird designing, using simple forms students design their birds ready to be cut from core board then prepare watered down PVA glue mixture to apply to birds.

Week 3:

Exploring and Responding:

Re-examine birds and comment.

Creating and Making:

Students add coloured layer to birds by adding torn tapered paper pieces from the base of the bird to the top.

When drying, trace head of bird on larger coloured piece of paper, trace and adhere.

Add glass bead eye and detail with metallic pen.

Complete with metallic edging paint and back with a traced atlas page.

Week 4:

Exploring and Responding:

Examine the illustrative style of Brian Wildsmith.

What do you notice?

What questions do you have?

Creating and Making:

Students use skills learnt individually on their birds to complete the Minstrel figures.

Elizabeth completes the project by drawing and painting faces on the minstrels.

Resources and Materials

Old yellowed texts
Spray bottles
Acrylic paint
Fluoro paint
Cartridge paper
Foam stamps

PVA glue
Core board
Metallic pens
Metallic paint
Old atlases

Brian Wildsmith Circus story

Cross Curricular Priorities


We re-used old atlases and dictionaries and wrapping papers to create new and innovative pieces

Link with Personal, Social and Physical Domain

Interpersonal development:

-Interaction with peers

Working to create coloured papers for general use

Personal Learning:

-Having contact with a professional artist and learning together

-Practising arts language 

Developing and refining skills

Link with Interdisciplinary Domain

-Linked to Performing Arts with the creation of the four figures, each representing an arts discipline

-Literacy, the importance of paper and print to convey information