Mississippi River Gateway Arch

Water: From the Shadows of the River – Idea File

Students examine the influence of water in the Mississippian cultures and relate the scientific properties of water to the principles of design in visual arts.
Grades: 6-8

Outdoor Installation

Teaching Concepts:

  • Wickliffe Mounds is a sacred Native American site in Western Kentucky that gives clues to the settlement and history of the Mississippian people.
  • The work of artist Truman Lowe includes several pieces inspired by water.
  • Water can be analyzed using principles of design and scientific properties.

Academic Content

  • Science: properties of water
  • Social Studies: social structures, settlement patterns, civilization prior to 1500 AD
  • Visual Art: elements of art and principles of design
  • Purposes of Art: ceremonial, narrative

Lesson Idea
Note: The “Introduction to Truman Lowe,” Contemporary Native American Artist and At Wickliffe Mounds videos provide background for this lesson.

Open: Holding a glass of water, discuss how water has influenced and continues to influence civilization today. Provide an example relevant to your area.

View: Show the excerpts about artist Truman Lowe and his work at Wickliffe Mounds.

Respond: Students write “Water Is …” as a heading. Creating two distinct columns for art and science, they then record observations and knowledge about water based on what they learned from the video excerpts. The observations about art require students to consider why Lowe chose water as inspiration and how his work represents the properties or qualities of water.

Discuss: Students examine the importance of water to Mississippian cultures—specifically those who lived at Wickliffe Mounds.

Expand: Students research Wickliffe Mounds using text and web resources:

Students should answer the following questions from their research:

  • What period of time does Wickliffe Mounds represent?
  • Why is the site important today?
  • What is known about the people who lived there and their lifestyle?

Explore: View the “Outdoor Installation” excerpt and discuss the process of constructing a work on the site of Wickliffe Mounds.

Author: Mary Henson

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K-12ScienceThe Arts