Lesson II-17: The Symbols on the Eggs
The lesson is suitable for students in grade 3 through adult.
We’ve been collecting decorated eggs, called pysanky, from countries in Eastern Europe, especially Ukraine. The eggs are a traditional part of the Easter celebration, but the tradition of decorating eggs dates back over 3000 years - long before Jesus. With a history that long, the colors and lines used to decorate eggs are rich with meaning. A whole language of symbols has developed, so skilled egg decorators will use these symbols not just to create a beautiful design, but to create something meaningful as well.
The art lesson introduces students to some of the symbols used in traditional egg decorating in Eastern Europe, and especially in Ukraine. Students learn to draw a large egg shape, and then they will use the symbols they have learned to draw a meaning-filled design of their own on colored construction paper. They will cover the lines they drew with clear glue, which will form a resist for the chalk pastels they use to color the egg. One of the decisions students will make is to choose colors from a variety of color schemes: analogous, complementary, or triadic.
This lesson includes both POWERPOINT and VIDEO versions of the lesson, plus 2 downloadable printouts: an outline of an egg and a printout of symbols used to decorate eggs.
List of Supplies for Each Student:
- A printout of symbols for eggs (included in the lesson)
- A printout of the egg shape (included in the lesson)
- A sheet of colored 9” x 12” construction paper
- A blank sheet of copy paper
- Masking tape
- A pencil
- A scissors
- A bottle of clear school glue
- A set of chalk pastels
- Spray fixative (lacquer hair spray or workable fixative)
Suggestions for Cross-Curricular Connections:
Stories about pysanky:
- Easter Eggs for Anya. An Easter tale that incorporates prayer, thankfulness, faith, and family into a story about the meaning of Easter.
- Cossack Fairy Tales and Folk Tales. Ukrainian folktales.
- Rechenka's Eggs. An old woman who paints beautiful eggs takes in an injured goose. All goes well until the goose breaks the eggs, but then a miracle happens. The story includes lots of examples of painted eggs.
- Chicken Sunday. An emotionally touching story of pysanky, an interracial friendship, and the love and service of some children.
Egg related activities and lessons:
- Plan a week of activities around eggs.
- Create a unit study with Rechenka’s Eggs.
- Use these lessons and activities related to Chicken Sunday to build a unit study.
- Watch a Canadian master artist paint a pysanka. Her work is so exquisite it may be found in museums.
- Watch a simpler method of painting pysanky, called the drop-pull method.
- Watch a video showing beginners how to paint on real eggs.
Approximate Time to Complete the Art Class:
- Introduction through drawing the egg shape: 20 minutes
- Applying the glue lines: 10 minutes
- (Drying time for glue: 3 hours to one day)
- Adding chalk pastel colors: 30 minutes
- Total time for working on the lesson: 60 minutes