Yad B’Yad: Mixed Media Art

By: Rabbi Emily Meyer, Bibiana Powell
from Seattle Jewish Community School

Interdisciplinary Integration

Subject(s) of entry:

Experiential Education

Grade(s) to which this was taught:
5, Elementary school

Grade(s) for which this will be useful:
K, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, Elementary school

Through observation, students explore the beauty of Jewish ritual objects. Through creation, students can make these objects their own, a true reflection of the beauty and power within themselves. In this lesson, students create mixed-media Yad sculptures for ritual use.

Entry Narrative

Hand in hand, we can change the world. This unit brought students on a journey from observation to awareness to creation, integrating the study of Jewish objects with the development of art skills. 5th graders created beautiful mixed-media Yad sculptures, which we hope will inspire and guide their Jewish learning and identity for years to come.

We began this unit by working on our observational and descriptive skills, while at the same time building our community. Then, we tackled the challenge of hand-drawing using specially designed grid templates. Students used their new observation techniques as they challenged themselves to represent their hands visually.

Transferring and enlarging images hones spacial skills and students expressed artistic choice in their hand placement and coloring. Providing guidance for successful artworks lies primarily with imposing limitations and offering plenty of opportunity for exploration within the boundaries. Students imposed their own limitations to have the piece hold together as a cohesive idea. Students used baked plastic paper and colored pencil to create the hand and wood, acrylic paint, yarn, wire, beads, and other materials to create the stem of the Yad.

To deepen our understanding and inspire creativity, we explored the history of the Yad, looking at images of the objects from around the world and  across time.  Students viewed images of Yadayim in the historical context from the Jewish Museum in Vienna. The variety of sizes and decorative elements gave students an idea of open-ended design possibilities.

Hands represent a powerful metaphor for the difference our students can make in the world. Through this project, students recognized the beauty that is within their own hands, and were able to imagine the power that their hands can have in the impact they make and the people they are.  In the words of Anne Frank, “The final forming of a person’s character lies in their own hands.”

Entrant Bio(s)

Rabbi Emily Meyer and Bibiana Powell are teachers at the Seattle Jewish Community School in Seattle, WA. They are partners in integrating Judaic Studies with the visual arts in the elementary classroom.