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Studying Art of Ancient Civilizations
6th Grade Roman Mosaics


The sixth graders have been learning about different types of art during the Ancient Civilizations study unit. Creating mosaics, using cubes of stone, ceramic, or glass known as tesserae, was a decorative art perfected by the Romans, and used widely in the interior walls and floors of ancient Roman houses and temples. A mosaic is made by taking small pieces of stone or tiles and placing them together to create a picture. Roman mosaics are considered treasures of the ancient world, and are as brightly colored today as they were 2,000 years ago. Ancient mosaics mainly featured animals, scenes from daily life, or gods and images from Roman mythology. A signature feature of Roman mosaics is a motif, or frame, that enclosed the picture, usually with a geometric or naturalistic design.

The students viewed a slideshow of all kinds of very detailed Roman mosaics, often involving thousands of tiles. Using these images as inspiration, students then created their own paper mosaic of an animal of their choosing. First, they outlined their animal and motif. Then, they cut very small pieces of paper, and glued them together to fit inside their outlines. “It was hard work which required focus, dedication, and design thinking,” exclaimed Social Studies Teacher Julianne Bretan, “and took 5 days! While not quite like using thousands of tiles, the students got a small understanding of the way to build a mosaic. And—just as importantly—they had loads of fun!”

“I made a cat with a circular motif [border]. It was hard to get all the details right, but I loved doing a hands-on project.”
Hailey R. ’30

“My first animal, a dog, didn’t turn out, so I started over with a penguin. My mom and I make ceramic mosaics at home, too.”
Grace S. ’30

“Mine was the orca jumping out of the water. The glue made my hands sticky, so I switched to using a toothpick to place the tiles for the sky and the sunset.”
Varun K. ’30

“Doing the curves of my cat was my biggest challenge. I love cats.”
Cameron K. ’30