Teacher Feature: Three Year Old Classroom Explores The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

It’s Teacher Feature Thursday!

This week we are featuring Tina Brimo. Her three year old classroom was learning about super heroes before heading into a unit on art. Tina and her co-teacher decided to use the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles as a way to transition. Below you will find a reflection from Tina and images from some of her lessons.


What were your topics of exploration?

After learning about superheroes, my co-teacher and I asked our class what topic they would like to study next. Among the many answers were “Ninja Turtles”. So we thought why not study art! We used the artists that the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are named after as a bridge from superheroes to art. I was very excited for this unit mainly because I knew the topic could easily connect something familiar to the children to the unfamiliar art of Michelangelo, Donatello, Raphael and Leonardo.

What were your learning objectives? (What did you want your children to take away from the lesson?)

I had a few objectives not only for this particular topic but for our entire unit. First, being a school in a museum, I wanted my class to continue to build their knowledge of art history. I especially wanted them to be able to recognize familiar works and artists.  Second, I incorporated various techniques and tools used to create the art so that the children could experience the process of art making.  I wanted them to start learning to appreciate the journey.

What was most successful about your lesson?

The entire unit was a success!  Personally, I loved visiting the Capitol and seeing the art in the ceiling with my class and fellow teachers. It was amazing to see the looks on their faces after demonstrating to them how Michelangelo would have painted the Sistine Chapel and they had the opportunity to do their own “ceiling” paintings. At the end of our art unit, we had a gallery show.  We had many VIP guests, including parents and the Officer who gave us the tour of the Capitol. It was beautiful. Reflecting back, I think I have met my objectives. The children love being able to recognize paintings in books and in the museums. On a recent visit to Air and Space a child even exclaimed, “Tina, look it’s da Vinci’s Flying Man.”

What could you have done differently? What recommendations would you have for another teacher trying out this lesson?

Had I known that my class would be so interested in this topic, I would have expanded a bit more on each artist. I also would suggest having them build one of  Leonardo da Vinci’s inventions together. The children could come up with the materials needed and the steps to build their creation. It would be a great team work exercise.

Here are a few images from their unit on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles:

DSCN1827Tina started the unit by visiting the National Gallery of Art. She wanted an art rich environment to help introduce the different artists. DSCN1832Tina brought along metal bowls to represent the shells of the turtles. She then explained that each Teenage Ninja Turtle was named after a different real-life artist. Tina printed images of the artist and coordinating turtle. The group took turns looking at different images that these artists created. Including, Ginevra de’ Benci by Leonardo da Vinci they were sitting in front of in the National Gallery.

DSCN1851Each day Tina introduced a new Turtle. For her lesson on “Mikey” or Michelangelo she focused on his Sistine Chapel. She showed the group how he would get high on a ladder and paint the ceiling.

DSCN1854Tina projected an image of the Sistine Chapel on the ceiling of the classroom so the children could have the experience of looking at the work from below. 
The class had a chance to try out drawing on the “ceiling” by laying down under a table with markers and paper.
DSC00066 (1)The group then went to the U.S. Capitol to see the Apotheosis of Washington on the ceiling of the rotunda. (http://1.usa.gov/1C1Qmmm)

DSCN1939For Tina’s lesson on “Leo” or Leonardo da Vinci she took the group to the National Air and Space Museum to see a life-size model of the Flying Man. 

DSCN1949Tina reminded the group that da Vinci was well known for his paintings but explained that he was also an inventor and made many sketches of his ideas.

DSCN1984Under the flying man, the children took turns looking through some of da Vinci’s illustrations and creating their own models. 

This class had a wonderful time learning about the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and the artists they’re named after! Be sure to check back for our Teacher Feature next week!