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Creating Art That Celebrates the Culture and Climate of Places Around the Globe


Published June 29, 2021 at 10:00 a.m.

"Mongolia" by Childe S.,age 14
  • "Mongolia" by Childe S.,age 14

This spring, as part of a cross-curricular "learning expedition," Winooski middle schoolers explored the impact of location on different cultures around the world. This lesson on the power of place will provide you with the tools to explore this concept on your own.

A region's location on the globe affects countless aspects of life there, from the crops grown and the food eaten, to holidays and celebrations defined by the seasons, to the different styles of clothing people wear over the course of a year or at different elevations.

After learning about the powerful impacts of climate on cultures around the world, each Winooski student studied a particular place and the ways in which location affects its culture. These places included Japan, Mongolia, Peru and Greenland, spanning Earth's hemispheres.

Students who chose Japan learned about the country's four seasons — similar to those we experience here in New England — and the celebrations that come with them, such as the country's spring cherry blossom festivals. While studying the impact of place on culture in Mongolia, students learned about the harsh, colder climate of the Mongolian mountains, as well as the warm clothing and sturdy, wind-resistant houses Mongolian people utilize to protect themselves against the elements.

Even here in Vermont, it's easy to see how our location influences our way of life, from the clothing we wear to the houses we live in to the types of food we grow and eat.

For your own Power of Place project, consider the impact of place on culture here in Vermont, or choose a region in another part of the world. Use Google Earth's This Is Home tool and other resources listed here to learn about different places and cultures. Once you've picked a place, use the steps provided to guide your learning and your artwork!

Art Materials

"Lily Pond" by Mea Ree J., age 14
  • "Lily Pond" by Mea Ree J., age 14

Suggested materials: pencil, colored pencil, drawing or painting paper, watercolor paint

Other possible materials: crayon, marker, oil pastel, acrylic paint

Step 1: Brainstorm

"Peruvian Night" by Ashlyn P., age 14
  • "Peruvian Night" by Ashlyn P., age 14
  1. Once you have researched your chosen place, write a list of important parts of the culture that you learned about.
  2. Sketch or doodle ideas of pictures to represent those different parts of the culture. For your brainstorm, you can sketch these randomly all over a page.

Step 2: Plan your Composition

"Peru" by Eliza W., age 13
  • "Peru" by Eliza W., age 13
  1. Next, think about how you'll organize all of these images and aspects of the culture into one work of art.
  2. Consider the layout and focal piece of your artwork. Will you create a portrait of a person wearing typical cultural clothing? Will you draw a landscape showing the landforms and architecture of this place? See the examples shown here for inspiration. If you choose to draw a portrait, you can use the June Kids VT Art Lesson to help with drawing steps and techniques!
  3. Don't limit yourself to a realistic scene. Infusing your artwork with surrealism or a bit of fantasy can allow you to be more creative with how you organize your picture.
  4. Be sure to include a foreground (things that appear closest in the picture), a middle ground (parts of the picture that appear mid-distance from the viewer), and a background (the part or "layer" of the picture that appears farthest away). Drawing things in your picture so that they appear closer or farther away will create a sense of depth.

Step 3: Create!

Japan" by Aung B., age 14
  • Japan" by Aung B., age 14
  1. Draw neat, careful outlines using pencil. Try to represent each of the most important parts of your place's culture through the images you draw.
  2. Carefully color and paint in your picture! Consider using colored pencil on the smaller details for greater control and precision — and using paint to color larger spaces in the image.


"Mongolian Dreams" by Winner M., age 14
  • "Mongolian Dreams" by Winner M., age 14

Before you can create your artwork, you'll need to choose a place you are interested in studying and that you find inspiring! You might decide to choose from the four places that our Winooski students studied. Or you can choose a different place — including Vermont! Find detailed cultural information about tribes or groups of people in each of these four places using Google Earth's This Is Home tool.

Other Tools

"Mongolian Beauty," by Albina R. age 13
  • "Mongolian Beauty," by Albina R. age 13 can also be a great place to find video resources about the location and culture you have chosen to study. And if you're striving to spend less time on screens, you can always visit your local library.

Art Resources

This article was originally published in Seven Days' monthly parenting magazine, Kids VT.

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