RESOURCES for Creative Mandala and Curiosity Project Teacher Workshop

Resources for Teachers

Starting With Art and Geometry to create Mandalas and Curiosity Projects (Workshop Notes Part Two – Resource Page)

Central Okanagan School District

Professional Development Day
February 23rd, 2018

With Susan Neilson


Resources for teachers:  This page provides resource information as a follow-up for our workshop. 



Back to main lesson

Click on the button here, when you would like to return to Part One



Experimenting and Asking Questions about Geometry and Art

Often teachers might feel obligated to start with detailed history, specific rules, guided measurements, or other complicated requirements. I am suggesting quite a different approach that is much more child-centred, experimental, exploratory, hands-on and open-ended.

Starting with art and curiosity; children learn to take initiative.  They research, play, think and discover, rather than just following instructions.

TED Talk
Teaching for creativity in schools “where ideas are king and curiosity reigns.” (Cindy Foley)
Teaching art or teaching to think like an artist– Cindy Foley TEDxColumbus


“Mandala” Pronunciation

The Sanskrit word “mandala” can be loosely translated to mean “circle,” and can represent unity, infinity, life cycles, circles of friends or family,  and the universe as a whole. Circle designs and symbolism can be found in many cultures. Traditional mandalas may have very specific requirements and symbolism. However, for the purposes of our very basic activities with children, we will start with creative explorations, designing with a compass or string, a straight edge, and some awareness of heritage and possibilities.

It would be an interesting project for another time, to consider creating traditional healing mandalas, but for now we will focus more simply on creative, playful, and pleasantly calming connections between art and geometry.



A design might also be called a “kaleidoscope” when it has patterns that remind us of looking in the traditional toy with glass prisms or mirrors and coloured glass.  When one changes the position of the ring on a kaleidoscope toy, coloured pieces between glass layers may be able to move, creating endless variations.


Considerations of radial symmetry and reflections would be part of a lesson involving kaleidoscopes.



(Here is a cool link showing how one photographer in New York made his own kaleidoscope with gemstones. )



When I think of mandalas I think of focused and calming radial designs, often created with slow careful repetitive processes . When I think of kaleidoscopes I think of something bold and colourful with reflections, fractures and transitions.



Tessellate” or a “tile”  a pattern by repeating shapes based on polygons, without gaps or overlaps.


Famous examples of tessellations can be seen in the art of Maurits Cornelis Escher (1898-1972)  



There are many ways that repeat patterns, flips and reversals are used in design. Consider for example, wallpapers, fabric designs, and more . . .

There are many resources available for DIGITAL mandalas and other forms of geometric art . . . This would be another lesson on its own. One favourite is provided here, as an example. 

If you are working with tech-savvy students and you like Photoshop, you will love the playful little tutorial videos posted on Vimeo by 5th grade teacher Nicole Dalesio, Photoshop for kids (of all ages).


Mandala – Definition and introduction by Cristian Violatti for the Ancient History Encyclopedia
The Art of Islamic Pattern – UK children’s workshops with Adam Williamson & Richard Henry – This site has excellent visual examples and resources



The Wade Photo Archive – Patterns and design features from Islamic decorative arts


Routines and Lesson Planning

Theme and lesson planning templates have been included in digital folders for workshop participants. Participants who did not receive this may request these by using the contact form on this website, or by leaving an email address with the instructor.

Theme Choices – Big picture for current work in your class, plus opportunities within this

(for personal input and decisions by children)

Connect personal experiences and other learning
Link to a quick sample plan for a week on the theme of kindness, from a UBCO student – This has a different lesson focus but it is a good example of a quick theme plan for daily drawing


Mix explorations, starting with . . .

(including observational drawing, but also other senses)






Creative Play

Example process reminders from our previous workshop, and activity sample links for geometry/art play.


and unexpected mark making tools

Pull Words from a hat, Question Cards, Collage combinations, “Blind” partner challenges or even the classic “Blind Contour” drawings to get started. Then cut wedges or flip sections, etc.

Make mandalas from real objects, including plants, stones, etc. Make large collaborative mandalas outdoors or at large tables – or starting with an “exquisite corpse” shared approach

  • or as you listen to music. . .
  • or in response to words, poetry, stories,
  • or in silence

Theme connections, poems, stories, word games . . .

The beauty of combining art and geometry is that you can balance structure and playful exploration.

Questions lead to research and experiments which then lead to surprises and discovery!

There are many ways to start art activities, but the key is the playful surrender.

Random possibilities, freedom and lack of judgement encourage possibilities.
  • What kind of mark can I make with this tool, or with too much water in this paint?
  • What if I try looking very closely at an object and draw the contour without ever lifting the pen?
  • How can I fold or cut this page to lead to the next one?
  • What happens if I just listen to music or to a story while I paint a colourful background?
  • What happens if I just hold brushes, pens or other tools loosely and follow the wandering line, letting it twist turn and play across the page? Then what happens if I start adding patterns, colours or shading?
  • What happens if I cover part of a dry first layer with masking tape, paint another layer and then remove tape to reveal colours below?


Quick and Dirty Drawing: Mandala Style Rosette Design – Video on Vimeo by Kristyn DeRosa – This little video shows how kids can make quick seven circle rosettes if you don not want to use compasses.
(This rosette is almost the same as the seven circle set-up we will also try in class with a compass)





Use a compass and a straight edge to draw a regular hexagon starting with just one side (Math Open Reference)


Silk: Interactive Generative Art – Fun on the Smart Board or computer.




Use a compass to construct a Golden Rectangle




Paper Snowflake processes can also be used to start experimenting with radial symmetry. These simple clear photos could be helpful to make six points instead of the usual four (shared by “ReadsinTrees” on Instructables).





. . . and places where you might like to look for inspiration later


  • Instagram and Current Local Artists’ Network Treasure Hunts – Artists supporting Artists ・Try the hashtag #geometricart
  • Teaching Resource Networks like ACCESS ART U.K.
  • Pinterest for bookmarking, but a bit of caution about wading through diverse unfiltered content quality, some cookie cutter recipe approaches, copyright issues, and complications to search engine priority listings

Don’t forget about NATURE as a principle source for inspiration . . . ?Sometimes it is really important to disconnect, and put the phone away . . .



Exploring the Math and Art Connection: Teaching and Learning Between the Lines

by Daniel Jarvis and Irene Naested

Published by Brush Education Inc.


StARTing With . . .

Fourth Edition

Edited by Kit Grauer, Rita L. Irwin & Michael J. Emme


Other Helpful Art Education Resources, including books and B.C. Ministry Links

General Art Education Resource Page 

-from a previous post on this site.

Comments are closed

© 2006 - 2021 Susan Burnham Neilson

Visit Us On TwitterVisit Us On FacebookVisit Us On Instagram