“Play’s The Thing”: Mask Making and Authenticity

“Play’s The Thing”: Mask Making and Authenticity

Working with the fifth grade ethics class at the Silverlake Independent JCC was an opportunity to use the activity of mask making to explore identity, and the issue and challenge of authenticity.

We started with questions…

What does it really mean to be “authentic”?

Do we wear masks to hide or reveal our identities?

What purposes do masks serve?

We shared about why we might wear a literal or figurative mask, how masks can protect, fool, transform and create, how they can offer us means to explore our identities, perform and present, hide, share, and even become a tool of self-discovery.

We looked at samples of masks and books were on hand filled with images of masks from other countries, societies, cultures and his/herstories.

Fueled by this preparation, students sketched out ideas for their mask characters on paper with pencils and markers.

One later added this drawing to his mask…feeling that he had what he wanted!

Students then made the form, or structure of their masks, seeing how a two-dimensional piece of bright tagboard

can become a three-dimensional wearable piece!

They used the top and bottom areas of the mask for for beards, crowns, ears and hats.

Color choices were made…

Eye holes were cut.  Students worked in pairs to gently mark out where their real eyes were under the masks,

then adults punched a small hole through those marks, so that the students could use scissors and make their eyes any shape and size they chose. Some chose two shapes!

Students then developed their mask characters through embellishment with a range of materials!
They used feathers, “googly eyes”, markers, washi tape, pom poms, shoe laces, ribbon, pipe cleaners, beads and more…

This young artist cleverly used his glasses as part of his mask persona.

Here, a  single googly eyes is centered between two eye holes which bloom with washi tape petals and patterns.

This maker used a paper plate and wooden sticks to build out his half-mask.

A creative choice is made here by crisscrossing the purple feathers at the top.

Great us of lace at the bottom, and washi tape at the top of this creation!

As we donned our masks at the end of class, and gathered once again in a circle,

students had the opportunity to once again introduce themselves, and perform their mask characters…Or were they performing themselves?

Students left class masks on to share with family and friends.

Through the act of becoming someone or something else for a time, the hope is that they are empowered to become more themselves.

And have a blast in the process!



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