Drawing on the past

25th February 2000 at 00:00
Art from the Past series. By Gillian Chapman. The Aztecs. The Egyptians. The Greeks. The Romans. Heinemann pound;10.50 each.

So what's a Grecian Urn? Okay, you know the answer, but can you make one using a balloon, school glue, thick card and newspaper? If you haven't a clue, you can learn how to glue and make do using Art from the Past.

These books are aimed at children, so they are packaged in a child-friendly way with hard covers, large print, and short sentences. But they also target the teacher through the child, or perhaps vice-versa, a familiar and, in this case, crafty tactic that works very well. Although most of these ideas could be executed unaided by children, they are much more likely to be attempted in classroom conditions under a teacher's direction. The ideas are not particularl original, but being gathered together by historical topic (national curriculum compatible) in a single volume is a boon to teachers. Convenience is not an attribute to be sneezed at, although you do not get a great deal for your money - there are only 14 ideas in each book.

I quite liked the Grecian urn, and the Aztec picture writing is simple and effective, both ideas providing ways for children to examine closely aspects of the past. But many of the suggestions lack purpose.

I am probably missing the point - perhaps these books are just for keeping children occupied on cold winter evenings - but the Roman ruin desk tidy and the cardboard mummified cat are not history and I cannot see them as art either.

Paul Noble is head of St Andrew's primary school, Blunsdon,Wiltshire


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