Middle School Students Create Land-Art Sculptures Highlighting Principles of Design

Stone cairns, a fern- and flower-wrapped tree, and a snaking trail of leaves on the forest floor, were just a few of the environmental “land-art sculptures” that Mount Madonna School middle school students created this week.

“In this sculpture project the sixth and seventh graders were inspired by British artist Andy Goldsworthy,” explained art teacher Angela Willetts. “He creates sculptures within natural environments, using only the materials he finds there. We studied his work to understand how he employs the Principles of Design in his deceptively simple works. Students then worked in pairs to meet the dual challenge of using only materials they could find outside, and creating a sculpture that demonstrated at least one design principle.”

Students gathered natural objects, including twigs, stones, branches, leaves, flowers, plants, feathers, bark and small sections of logs, with many of the finished sculptures incorporating several of the Principles of Design – movement, emphasis, contrast, balance and repetition. 

“The Principles of Design are central to the way artists think about arranging the parts of any visual project,” said Willetts. “They describe different choices an artist might make to help create more dynamic, eye-catching works with an underlying visual structure. Students are introduced to some Principles of Design in the elementary years, but in sixth grade they become a key focus of every project. This question of ‘How am I using the principles of design’ continues through middle and high school art, including in our digital art class.”


Contact: Leigh Ann Clifton, director of marketing & communications,

Nestled among the redwoods on 375 acres, Mount Madonna School (MMS) is a diverse learning community dedicated to creative, intellectual, and ethical growth. MMS supports its students in becoming caring, self-aware, discerning and articulate individuals; and believe a fulfilling life includes personal accomplishments, meaningful relationships and service to society. The CAIS and WASC accredited program emphasizes academic excellence, creative self-expression and positive character development. Located on Summit Road between Gilroy and Watsonville. Founded in 1979.

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