Messerschmidt said this lesson began as the students learned about the African tradition of bean masks. He said in many African cultures, the bean mask represents a child blossoming into an adult.
“The project teaches the students see how other cultures celebrate the coming of age of a teen,” Messerschmidt said. “They see how they celebrate this and can compare it to their culture or lives.”
Messerschmidt said that he thinks it is the perfect time for this age group to learn about this tradition. He said many of his students are eighth graders that will embark on their high school careers soon, so it gives them an idea of how children their age in Africa celebrate this milestone.
“In the African culture that we studied the mask was a symbol of growing older and becoming an adult,” Messerschmidt said. “The tribes would send the youngster in the jungle to survive on their own for one week and upon their return they would have a celebration of that accomplishment, basically going from child to adult.”
Messerschmidt said the process of creating the masks begins by placing papier-mâché on a balloon to form the mask and face shape. After six coats of papier-mâché, the then glue cardboard to the back and add details, like horns or facial details.
“Then they will glue the beans on the mask in a symmetrical fashion,” Messerschmidt said. “The last thing we will do is put polymer on the beans to make them stay in place and make them shiny.”
Messerschmidt said that while students are learning important skills like the art papier-mâché and symmetrical art, he feels that students take away much more than art from this project.
“They also learn about different cultures, how important these masks are to them, and the significance of the mask. They learn to appreciate their culture and hopefully learn something new about the African nation,” Messerschmidt said.
Messerschmidt said that students seem to enjoy this project because it lets them express their individuality as well.
“They seem to enjoy this project, not only because it is hands on, but because they get to create their own style of mask,” Messerschmidt said. “Everyone is different, and no two masks are alike. They think it’s cool how these tribes celebrate the young’s accomplishments.”
Messerschmidt explained that he hopes these students leave his class feeling celebrated for their growth into young adults.
“They know they can accomplish whatever they set their mind to,” Messerschmidt said. “but most of all they know they have a friend for life in me, and that if they ever need anything, they know that I am here for them.”