Faces of the Community (The)

6, 7, 8

The students examine the motivations and work of the painters Van Gogh and Gauguin who were driven by a need to benefit society through art. The students learn how artwork portrays ethnicity and then draw their own portraits to create a display of the diverse faces of the community.

Focus Question: How does an individual use personal interests and strengths to impact the common good?

Lesson Rating 
PrintOne Fifty-Minute Class Period

The learner will:

  • explore how Van Gogh practiced philanthropy related to his own self-interests.
  • give a gift of art.
  • view the illustrations of diverse ethnicity in a literature book.
  • Books about Van Gogh and Gaugin (See Bibliographical References) or choose some from the public or school library
  • All the Colors of the Earth by Sheila Hamanka
  • Mirrors, one per student is ideal, but one in the room will work
  • Drawing paper
  • Pencils with erasers and multicultural crayons
  • Optional - yarn (hair colors) and white school glue

Reflection plays a very important role in promoting student learning. The following suggested activities are ways to help students reflect on their learning after they have participated in a service event.  Choose one or more of the activities most appropriate to the service event and your students.

ACTIVITY ONE: Give each student four sticky notes. On one of the sticky notes have the students write their response, using one or two words, to the question, “How did you feel about participating in the event prior to actually being involved?” On the second sticky note have the students write their response to the question, “How did you feel while being involved in this event?” On the third sticky note, have the students respond to this question, “How did you feel after the event was over?” And on the fourth sticky note have the students respond to the question, “What could I do differently in the future?” 
Place the following headings on the display board: Before, During, After, Future. Have students come and place their sticky notes under the appropriate heading on the display board.  Allow time for them to walk around to view and read the comments of others. Encourage them to note similarities and differences.  Involve the class in a discussion using the prompt,”What did you learn from reading everyone’s comments?”

ACTIVITY TWO: Give each student three sheets of multi-colored construction paper, one sheet of white construction paper, a pair of scissors, and a black marker (assorted colored pens are optional).  Using one of the sheets of multi-colored construction paper for each shape, ask each student to draw and cut out the following shapes: 1) a head, with a “light bulb” drawn in it; 2) a body, with a “heart” drawn in it, and; 3) limbs-two arms and two legs.  Ask the students to think about what the “light bulb” and “heart” might represent. (NOTE: The ‘light bulb” is an icon often identified with “ideas”. The “heart” as an icon is often identified with “feelings.”) Ask the students what they think the “arms and legs” might represent. (NOTE: Arms and legs are often associated with going places and doing things.) Now have the students use their sheet of white construction paper to cut out three “word bubbles.” (See Example) Have them write words or phrases that represent how their head (mind), their body (heart) and their arms and legs were involved in the event.

Said another way, one ‘bubble’ for the head (what they thought about the event),
one “bubble” for the body (how they felt about the event), and one ‘bubble’ for the limbs (what they did for the event).  When completed, call the first student to the bulletin board-type display area entitled  “Join the Crowd” (or some similarly appropriate title).Have each student, in turn, pen his/her designed cutout head along with its “bubble” on the display board. Share some of the responses. Now have each student come and pen his/her cutout body beneath their head along with its bubble. Share some of the responses. Finally, have each student pen his/her designed cutout arms and legs on their body along with the “bubble.” Share some of the responses. Have students walk past the ‘crowd’ and read the “bubble”. Discuss findings, comparisons, and final thoughts.

ACTIVITY THREE: Assign the students to one of four groups and distribute a white sheet of square paper, preferably 21.5” x 21.5” (the official size of 1st, 2nd, and 3rd base in Major League Baseball), a pair of scissors for each student, a glue stick/paste and a variety of magazines and newspapers.  Tell them that they are to go look through these magazines and newspapers to cut out pictures and /or words that could be used to describe their involvement in the recent service project. Once they have cut out as many pictures or words as they can, in the allotted time, as a group they are to decide which pictures and/or words will be included on their group base. Tell them to glue the pictures and/or words to their base.  When completed they are to offer their base for display in the area marked “Let’s Play Ball” or “Covering All the Bases,” etc (Note: You may wish to display the base in the traditional diamond shape to add more realism and invite interested students to complete the ballpark design. If time allows, ask the students how participating in this service projecct is like playing baseball/participating in sports.)

ACTIVITY FOUR: Using the name of the service project, have students brainstorm words or short phrases, the letters of which when properly placed, form some sort of crossword puzzle-like creation.  These words should ‘describe’ the activity, the feelings, and/or the impact of the event for the individual student involved.   

When the students have each completed their own crossword puzzle, instruct them to draw an outline of the pattern around their words (See above), have them shade-in the interior of the form with a light color pencil or crayon, so as not to cover up the words, and then cut out the form along the outline. Display these crossword puzzles forms in an area entitled, “The Shape of Our Service” or “We’re in Great Shape”, “Join the Crowd” or etc.

  • Anholt, Laurence.  Camille and the Sunflowers: A Story about Vincent Van Gogh. Barrons Juveniles, 1994.  ISBN: 0812064097
  • Hamanaka, Sheila. All the Colors of the Earth. New York: Morrow Junio Books.1994. ISBN: 0-688-17062-5
  • International Child Art Foundation. http://www.icaf.org/about/ accessed 1.21.2011
  • Van Gogh and Gauguin: The Studio of the South
    by Douglas Druick & Peter Zegers


  1. Teacher Note: This would be a great lesson to co-teach with an art teacher.

    Anticipatory Set:

    Show the students pictures painted by Vincent Van Gogh and Paul Paul Gauguin from a library book or found at: https://www.vangoghgallery.com/painting/ and http://www.ibiblio.org/wm/paint/auth/gauguin/. Ask the students if they are familiar with either of these painters and their works.

  2. Through exploring a variety of resources about Van Gogh and Gauguin, teach the students about the philosophies of the men. There are many issues related to their selflessness, their sense of community and their lack of financial success due to personal choices. Choose what interests you to share with the students.

  3. Show the students several examples of the self-portraits and portraits of Vincent Van Gogh and Paul Gauguin. Explore and discuss how Van Gogh and Gauguin interpreted faces in self-portraits.

  4. Show the students the book All the Colors of the Earth by Sheila Hamanka. This is a wonderful picture book that emphasizes the variety of skin colors and celebrates that ethnic diversity. Read the book to the students, asking them to especially note the faces of the children. Ask the learners why they think the author produced this book.

  5. Tell them they are going to produce a display of artwork to foster an appreciation of diversity in their school/community. The display could be called “The Faces of (Name of City, School District or School)”. This display will be a gift of art to the community (school or greater community) promoting ethnic diversity.

  6. Hand out mirrors to each student, or allow the students to look in a mirror. Ask them to note what they see about their facial features, placement of eyes in relationship to ears, and their skin tone and hair color. Then have them begin their preliminary sketch with pencil.Teacher Note: Having the students begin to “sketch” with the pencil eraser, rather than pencil lead, will allow them to experiment with shape and placement of facial features and then “erase” by just brushing off the paper. When they are satisfied with the general outline of the face using the eraser, they can trace the eraser lines with the pencil lead.

  7. After a preliminary sketch, give each student a final paper. They begin with a pencil sketch and then fill in the face with color. Discuss how to create the appropriate colors and values using at least four colors. Discuss and show examples of how Van Gogh and Gauguin explored color in their portraits and how the faces are colored in the literature book.

  8. Review the meaning of philanthropy: giving time, talent and treasure, and taking action, for the common good. When students give their artwork, they are giving their talent. They are giving something that took a lot of time and careful work. That is the opportunity cost to them.

  9. Ask the students to make suggestions for a place where this display of the diverse faces of the community might be appreciated. Have them brainstorm how the display will look and text to explain its creation and purpose.

Cross Curriculum 

Art from the heart: Celebrate students artistic talents and find a way to share these talents with others. Follow your students’ voices to find an organization or group of people who would appreciate a poem, greeting card, or homemade piece of art to brighten their day or let them know someone cares. This may be soldiers, veterans, elderly people in a retirement home, or a local child with a serious illness.

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.I Definitions of Philanthropy
    1. Standard DP 01. Define Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark MS.1 Define philanthropy as individuals and organizations providing their time, talent, and/or treasures intended for the common good throughout history and around the world. Give examples.
  2. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 05. Philanthropy and Government
      1. Benchmark MS.10 Give historic and contemporary examples of a voluntary action by an individual or a private organization that has helped to enhance a fundamental democratic principle.
  3. Strand PHIL.III Philanthropy and the Individual
    1. Standard PI 01. Reasons for Individual Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark MS.4 Identify and describe the actions of how citizens act for the common good.