The African Animals Diamond Art series presents a unique approach to learning that combines diamond art projects with unit studies. The series consists of four projects that each feature a different African animal and four companion unit studies. The kits for each project are simply labeled Lion, Giraffe, Zebra, and Elephant. You purchase a diamond art kit to create a beautiful image of one of these animals, then you can download a free unit study by providing proof of purchase.
The publisher’s website says that the unit studies are “directed at middle and high school students but can be adapted for younger or older students.” I think that students as young as fourth and fifth grade can easily do most of the unit study activities with some assistance, although I would say the ideal audience for the unit studies is students in grades five through eight. The diamond art can be done by even younger students (and enjoyed by older students and adults), but the challenge is most likely to be one of attention span.
Diamond art is like painting by numbers, but in this case, you apply shiny, colorful, flat-backed resin beads (sometimes called drills) to individual squares on a pre-glued canvas. The effect is similar to pointillism in art or counted cross-stitch needlework where small dots of color visually blend together when viewed from a distance. Each kit comes with a pre-glued canvas that has every tiny square marked with a number or letter identifying the color of bead to be applied.
The kits were designed with many different colors, including close gradations of some colors that blend for a lovely effect—25 to 30 different colors in each kit. Kits also include an application tool with a pen grip, a bead tray, a sticky pad (that helps beads stick to the tool as you work), and plastic tweezers.
Many other diamond art kits provide the beads in hear-sealed cellophane packets. Once you open them, it's difficult to reuse the bags. These African Animals kits provide the beads in small zip bags that are identified by number. This saves having to come up with a way to store your open packets of beads in something else. (It might not sound like a big deal, but with so many packets, it really is a big help to have the beads come packaged in the zip bags!)
If you’re new to diamond art, you might want to watch a “how to” video such as this one. The tool that comes in the African Animals kits has one end for placing one bead at a time and the other end for placing up to six beads at a time. This video demonstrates working with a tool that places up to three beads at a time. Being able to fill in large sections at a time is a real time saver, but there are no instructions with the kit showing how to do it. The video is helpful for tips such as this.
Other videos show how to use a heavy rolling pin or a brayer to make sure all of the beads are firmly set into the glued surface when you are finished. You can also coat the finished project with Mod Podge® or a spray-on sealant to make sure the beads stay affixed for years.
I had more than one kit to complete, so I had more than one set of tools available. That allowed others to work on a project with me at the same time. Keep this in mind if you have a child that likes to work alongside others. (You can also purchase extra tools as in this kit that includes tools, trays, a brayer, and a bead storage container.)
Many children and adults might enjoy creating these diamond paintings without doing the unit study.
The PDF unit study for each kit offers a substantial amount of activity with over 30 pages each. Students are to create a notebook with the printable pages provided in the PDF. You can use one of these unit studies for at least a few weeks of science if students watch some of the videos, research information, create their notebook, and present what they have learned in a creative format.
Each unit study has the same five sections: Introduction, Investigate, Activate, Communicate, and Notebooking Pages.
Investigate provides information about the featured animal, and it also has students research, write, draw, and complete puzzles (a crossword and a word search). Sometimes, the Investigate section poses questions, but it also urges students to come up with their own questions to investigate. It has lists of "Investigative Resources" that include links to websites with specific pages about the animal (such as those at NationalGeographic.com and the African Wildlife Foundation—awf.com), links to YouTube® videos (sorted into those for younger and older students), and videos that teach how to draw the animal. Some websites and activities focus on conservation. Students can record some of the information they glean from their investigations using the notebooking pages.
The Activate section has students engage with the information and learning process through activities, choosing one of several designed for different learning styles. Many of the suggestions in this section are similar in each of the four unit studies. Among the possible activities are observing the animal at a zoo, creating a make-believe safari at home, hosting a family-fun night with the animal as the theme, and rewriting a children’s story with the animal as a character.
The Communicate section of the study explains how to create a notebook with writing, drawing, photos, charts, and illustrations. The Notebooking Pages include some designed for particular information and others that are decorated but can be used for whatever the student wants to add. The unit study offers suggestions for using the different types of formatted notebook pages.
Using arts and crafts to draw students into learning can very effective. If you have students who might not want to complete an entire diamond painting themselves, consider having two or more children work on one together. They can still each create their own notebook for the unit study, and you can select the learning methods that work best for each student.