Many people have heard of Leprechaun Traps as a festive STEM lesson that excites students with holiday spirit while also encouraging the engineering process. But what about other mythical creatures?
From the dawn of time, there have been stories of many different kinds of creatures: monsters, beasts, even supernatural beings. Some were horrid and repulsive, while some were compassionate and caring towards mankind. (And depending on who you ask, some believe they still roam our earth!)
So how can we use the A (Art) together with STEM to create a STEAM lesson using mythical creatures and engineering based off of iconography and references from Art History?
In this lessons, students will use works of art to study characteristics of a selected mythical creature in order to design a trap that will capture the creature for scientists to study and release back into the wild.
List of Possible Mythical Creatures
Possible Outline Example: Unicorns
Brainstorm and Chart Characteristics
- Looks like a horse
- Has a horn on the top of their head
Ask and Answer Questions
- What do they eat?
- Are they fast?
- Is their horn able to detach?
- Can they make themselves invisible?
- Do they act like horses?
- Art: The Unicorn in Captivity from the Unicorn Tapestries found HERE.
- Literacy: The Unicorn in Harry Potter Lexicon found HERE.
Sketch Ideas Using Findings and Create
This can be done using pencils and paper and reflecting on available construction materials. Think of your research. If Unicorns eat hay, will you have some in the trap? In contrast, what will you use to lure your Sprite?
So with this intention, let’s begin building!
Reflection and Assessment
This could take many forms as long as the research, visual art references, and process are represented.
- Write a description of their trap and describe how they addressed specific characteristics of their mythical creature.
- Present their traps to the class.
- Create a replica of the mythical creature and test the trap on video.
- Create a slideshow of the process and the result.
- Pencils and Paper
- Boxes of all sizes
- Milk Cartons and takeout containers (cleaned)
- Cardboard and Paper Scraps
- Scissors, Glue, and Paper Punches
- Popsicle Sticks
Links for Art History Visuals
Special Note: When asking students to search for images, there may be some inappropriate imagery or nudes included. So if this is a concern with younger students, I suggest pulling some images of each mythical creature and print them out for students to reference.
- Metropolitan Museum of Art: A wonderful resource for finding art that has captured these mythical creatures throughout art history.
- American Museum of Natural History: Type into the Search feature and see some amazing exhibits, resources, and lesson ideas.
- The Smithsonian: There is a wonderful search section that includes articles, images, and videos.
- National Gallery of Art: Search section allows for easy access to images.
Mythical creatures have delighted people young as well as old for centuries. Why? Because their mystery, links to history and literacy, and art history, and this makes them the perfect topic for Arts Integration and STEAM lessons. So try trapping one today!
How can visual art change your STEM lessons? Let us know in the comments below!
Lauren Hodson is a middle school visual and computer art educator in Plymouth, Massachusetts. As a mentor teacher and professional development presenter, Lauren is passionate about creativity and making art accessible for everyone. Her passions in STEAM and Arts Integration are at the root of her goal to collaborate with classroom teachers everywhere.