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TeachNet NYC: Lesson Plans

Spiraling Through the Guggenheim: 
Exploring 20th
Century Masterpieces

Project URL:

How it works:
Students experience original works of art through an online tour of the Guggenheim Museum in New York City. They value and appreciate the unique architecture of the building as well as develop an understanding of its design and relationship to Central Park. The architect Frank Lloyd Wright and the building's history are researched and discussed. Students are introduced to Wright's spiral design that allows visitors to walk on the gentle slope of a continuous ramp. They analyze and evaluate this design from the perspective of a visitor to the museum and note how this contrasts with other museums that have interconnecting rooms. Students have the opportunity to visit the Guggenheim's permanent collection online, in addition to participating in a teacher-created slide presentation and follow-up discussion. Using teacher-led visual literacy questioning strategies, students tap into their critical thinking skills to spark interest and curiosity about selected paintings in the museum and have their reactions move from personal opinion to informed judgment. They focus on a single painting of their choosing, which they interpret in acrylic paint on canvas, and they lead a class discussion of their chosen painting. A classroom museum is set up for the school community to see.

Standards addressed:  
This unit fulfills the New York State Learning Standards for the Arts, Language Arts, Social Studies, and Technology. Students actively engage in the processes that constitute creation in the visual arts, are knowledgeable about and make use of the materials and resources available for participation in the arts; respond critically to a variety of works, connecting them to other works and to aspects of human endeavor and thought; and develop an understanding of the personal and cultural forces that shape artistic communication and how the arts in turn shape the diverse cultures of past and present society. Students read, write, listen, and speak for information and understanding, literary response and expression, and critical analysis and evaluation. They use a variety of intellectual skills to demonstrate their understanding of major ideas, eras, themes, developments, and turning points in history, and of the geography of the interdependent world--local, national, and global--including the distribution of people, places, and environments over the Earth's surface, and they apply technological knowledge and skills to design, construct, use, and evaluate products and systems to satisfy human and environmental needs.

Materials used: 
A computer with Internet access is used, along with picture postcards of Frank Lloyd Wright, the Guggenheim Museum, and Central Park. Other necessary materials include notebooks, pens, pencils, sketchpads, acrylic paint palettes, 9" x 12" canvas boards, easels, water containers, brushes, paper, pencils, erasers, and a sampling of museum reproductions of paintings. The CDs "A Walk in the Garden" and  "Jackson Pollock" can be played while the students are working.

The students:
Spiraling Through the Guggenheim was created for an eighth grade major art talent class. However, it is easily adaptable to all age groups: K-12, after-school classes, community organization and senior citizen groups, and college-level courses.

Overall value:
Through the use of technology and the Internet, students visit the modern art collection at the Guggenheim Museum in New York City. They explore www.guggenheim.org, which allows access to a variety of artists and paintings. Internet visits to their favorite artists' homes, galleries, and museums provide valuable information on the lives and works of many artists. This is a wonderful motivational tool for students to explore the Web on their own and it enables them to design their own contemporary paintings, following these modern masters.

To arrange a class visit, receive slides, or attend workshops, contact the Guggenheim (
www.guggenheim.org) or museum education department (Education@guggenheim.org).
The museum is located at Fifth Avenue and East 88th Street in New York City.

About the teacher:
Lori Langsner is in her 25th year of teaching art to middle school students in the New York City school system. She has always worked with wonderful professionals who have encouraged her to follow her passion for art. Her students have been very responsive to all that she has brought to them, and the use of the Internet has provided them the opportunity to visit artists in museums and galleries throughout the world. 


Subject areas: 
Language Arts

Grade levels: 



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