Teaching Ideas

Early Learning

For Ages 3-5

Art Discussion

  • Print out images of the following nature items: thundercloud, rain, rainbow, cornstalk, fire, sun, constellation, sunflower, seed. Have the children try to find a match in the mosaic. What else do you notice?

  • Explain that this mosaic tells a story. What do you think the story could be? Make up a story together as a group to go along with the images in the mosaic.

  • According to an ancient Mexican myth, the four principal gods each controlled one of the four elements—water, earth, fire, and air. The myth says the world was created and then destroyed four times by each of the gods, when they used their individual elements unwisely. The fifth time the world was created, the gods all worked together, and that is the world in which we now live.

  • Can you find the four gods? (Hint: Look for faces). There are faces on the moon, rainbow, sun, and the creature under the earth. Which face do you think belongs to each god (water, earth, fire, and air)?

  • How do you think this work of art was made? If possible, zoom in on the image so that children can see each individual tile. When an artist makes a design or picture using small stones or tiles such as these, it is called a mosaic. This mosaic is sixty feet long and was made by the Mexican artist Miguel Covarrubias in 1954 for a Dallas building.

  • If you were going to make a mural to put on the outside of a building that tells a story, what would your mural look like?

Art Activities

  • Make your own mosaic using a piece of paper as your base, small pieces of construction paper, and a gluestick. For very young children, provide a simple outline of an object that they can then fill in with the mosaic paper pieces.

  • Choose one of the four elements represented in this mural—water, earth, fire, or air—and draw a picture of what a world made of just that element might look like.

Encouraging Dialogue

For Students K-12

  • Search for representations of each of the four elements (water, air, earth, and fire) in Genesis, the Gift of Life. What imagery can you find?

  • This mural mosaic is sixty feet long. Measure out sixty feet in your classroom or outside, and think about the size of this mural. How might your experience with the mural change if it was six feet long?

  • Look closely at this mosaic. Think of all the images you see and the stories they represent. Think of ideas for a new title for this work of art.

  • This mural mosaic was created for the exterior of a building in North Dallas. Later, it was moved to the Dallas Museum of Art. Think about the environment surrounding the work. How does the placement of this work of art affect the way we experience it? How would this mural change if it were located inside the Museum or inside your house?

  • Mexican muralists of the 1920s, such as Diego Rivera, José Clemente Orozco, and David Alfaro Siquieros, used murals as a way to promote a unified Mexican cultural identity. What does the phrase “cultural identity” mean to you? How would you describe your own cultural identity? What elements or traditions are important to your culture? (Remember, “culture” can refer to ethnicity, geography, language, age, gender, interests, hobbies, etc.)

  • What other myths or stories do you know that tell of the world's creation? Are there any connections between those stories and what you see in this mosaic?

Making Connections

For Students K-12

  • What other myths or stories do you know that tell of the world’s creation? Perhaps you have heard of the Christian and Hebrew story of Adam and Eve or of the Iroquois story of Turtle Island. Research creation stories. Are there any connections between those stories and what you see in this mosaic? Design a mosaic representing one creation story.

  • Choose one of the four elements (water, air, earth, and fire) you found in Genesis, the Gift of Life. Write a haiku inspired by the representation of that element in the mural mosaic. A haiku follows the following pattern:
    First line: Five syllables
    Second line: Seven syllables
    Third line: Five syllables

  • Create a list of all the images you see in this mural mosaic. Choose one of the images to research further. What does this image represent? What other cultures use this symbol? Why do you think Miguel Covarrubias incorporated this symbol? Present your findings to your class.

  • Genesis, the Gift of Life is sixty feet long and was created with thousands of tiny ceramic tiles. Using small, cut pieces of construction paper, create your own mosaic on a piece of cardboard. How does employing the mosaic technique affect your design?

  • What does the phrase “cultural identity” mean to you? (Remember, “culture” can refer to ethnicity, geography, language, age, gender, interests, hobbies, etc.) Create a work of art representing your cultural identity.