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Meditative Mandalas

My favorite way to write lesson plans is start with the Big Idea. Obviously it is good for students to learn technical skills like the elements and principles of design. However, it is more important for them to learn how to think creatively, think bigger. This is a huge reason why art education has moved to TAB (teaching for artistic behavior) Strategies and Choice Based Strategies. This particular lesson is limited in it's choice offered to students but has large benefits in having students understand the therapeutic qualities of their artistic process. I did this lesson with 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders. However, it can be adapted and modified for other levels.

Main idea: "Balance".

At the end of the lesson, students will understand the restorative possibilities of art and the need for balance in one's life.

Extra knowledge and skills learned:

  • Using a compass to draw a circle

  • Finding center of a circle

  • Using a ruler

  • Watercolor techniques


  • Radial symmetry

  • Diameter

  • Repetition

Start with a discussion about why we need balance in our life. I like to talk about all of my different roles in life. I am a teacher, mother, wife, daughter, friend, artist etc. I tell stories about when my life gets unbalanced. Maybe I pour myself way too hard into my work as a teacher and then drop the ball with the groceries I was supposed to buy for dinner. I have even funnier stories like how one time I met my husband at the grocery store to shop together afterwork and I was so burned out that I accidentally left my car on and running with the keys in the ignition the entire time I was in the store! We then talk about their roles and I let the kids share similar stories of when they might feel off balance. I then move the discussion into ways we can solve this problem. I share with them that part of what helps me is making sure I have some alone time to read my Bible or journal. I need some time to relax as well. Creating patterns in mandalas is a great way to give your brain some recharge time. Your mind isn't totally off because you're drawing and creating patterns, however, the repetitive drawing and painting of those patterns lets your mind fall into a dazed relaxed state.

  1. Start by drawing out a large circle that fills your page. Cut it out so you have a circular piece of paper!

  2. Find the center of your circle. Use your ruler to draw the diameter of the circle four times. First cross like a t, then across like an x. This will give you 8 equal parts or "wedges".

  3. Start with watercolor. Whatever pattern or shape you paint in one wedge has to be the exact same in all 8 wedges. The kids will have so much fun watching larger shapes and designs form as you repeat something all the way around the wheel.

  4. After dried, use sharpies and pens to do zentangle like designs around the wheel. Follow the watercolor design in some parts but create new ones in other areas. However the rules stay the same. If you draw something in one wedge of the circle, you need to repeat it all the way around!

They can turn out so different even without a ton of freedom and choice! You can see a lot of their personalities come out by the patterns they draw alone!

Student Examples:

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