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Joy Cornish-Bowden April 2008 Relevant Subject: Art Grade Level 9-12 Lesson Topic: Mandala Art Standard: 4

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Joy Cornish-Bowden

April 2008

Relevant Subject: Art
Grade Level 9-12 Lesson Topic: Mandala Art
Standard: 1.4 Analyze and describe how the composition of a work of art is affected by the use of a particular principle of design.
Key Concept(s): Characteristics of Mandalas:

  • They are one of the oldest forms of design and are found in all cultures.

  • Creating a pattern using repetition of symbols and radial symmetry.

  • Focal point in the center.


  • Teacher Observation: Each student will come up with seven symbols that pertain to their culture heritage or interests and be able to explain what they symbolize to them. They will have drawn them in their sketchbooks. I will assess their understanding and progress by checking each student's drawings as I walk around the room. Students will orally tell me what their symbols are and why they chose them.

  • Learner Self-Assessment: I will have a class discussion to determine that everyone understands the terms focal point and so on.

  • Layout of students' Mandalas: Students' rough drafts of their Mandalas will visually illustrate to me their understanding of using repetition and balance to create a pattern which has radial balance.

  • Students will share their rough drafts with the class using a document camera.

Contextual Clues:

  • Realia: I cut an orange in half and share with the class using a document camera to illustrate how radial design is found I nature. I also hold up a bicycle wheel to illustrate radial symmetry and balance.

  • Visuals: Using a document camera I will share other visuals of radial design found in nature. E.g. snowflakes, crop circles etc. I will also have multiple examples of Mandalas made by former students on display; each student receives a handout that has examples of completed Mandalas (See my handout on the following pages).


  • Teacher directed review of some of the characteristics of Mandalas.

  • Students work in pairs or small groups and share with each other their drawing and orally explain what their symbols and which symbol they will use for the focal point. They also share with the class using a document camera.

  • I monitor students' progress through observation as I walk around the classroom.

Key Vocabulary: Mandala, repetition, symmetry, radial design and focal point.
Graphic Organizer(s): Outline: Students' layouts.


  • Cut an orange in half and ask students if they can tell me what they see. What Principles of Design do they see? How are these designs similar those found in Mandalas?

  • Ask students if they can think of other examples of radial balance and symmetry in nature.

  • Using a document camera I sketch out some possible different ways of dividing a mandala into balanced sections.

  • Ask class for some definitions of Mandalas. Write their responses paper and display using a document camera. Clarify if necessary.

  • Show students example of completed Mandalas made by students that are displayed on the classroom wall and other student samples on power-point.


  • Ask a student to volunteer sharing their chosen symbols with the class. I quickly sketch out the seven symbols on paper and display using a document camera.

  • As a class, we decide where to arrange the symbols on the Mandala that I sketch out on the white board. We decide which symbol will be the focal point and go in the middle of the Mandala.

  • Students will draw images of their symbols in their sketchbooks and sketch out possible layouts for the structure of their Mandala.

  • Students share their layouts with class using a document camera.


  • Prior to clean up using a document camera I will share with the class some of the Mandala layouts on which students have been working.

  • Have students work in pairs to find examples of radial symmetry and balance in magazines provided by me. Students will cut out appropriate pictures and glue them in their sketchbooks.

  • Have students look for examples of Radial Balance and Symmetry in their home and at school. (Use the clock in the classroom as an example.)

Here is a copy of the handout student receives on the Mandala Art Assignment:
Ms. Cornish-Bowden


Mandalas are one of the oldest forms of design and are found in all cultures. A Mandala is a universal symbol of integration and harmony. Mandala patterns are usually based on concentrically arranged elements. In Tibetan Buddhism, a mandala is an imaginary palace that is contemplated during meditation. Each object in the palace has significance, representing some aspect of wisdom or reminding the meditator of some guiding principle. Tradition dictates the shapes, sizes and colors of these objects.

There are many different mandalas, each with different lessons to teach. Mandalas are usually displayed in two dimension, and are commonly made from paper, textiles, and colored sand. In a sand painting, the sand is dyed then carefully placed on a large, flat table. Millions of grains of sand are painstakingly laid into place on a flat platform over a period of days or weeks. When finished, to symbolize the impermanence of all that exists, the colored sands are swept up and poured into a nearby river or stream where the waters carry the healing energies throughout the world.

In general, all mandalas have outer, inner and secret meanings. On the outer level, they represent the world in its divine form; on the inner level, they represent a map by which the ordinary human mind is transformed into enlightened mind; on the secret level, they depict the fundamental perfect balance or the subtle energies of the mind. The creation of a sand painting is said to effect purification and healing on these three levels.


Objective: to design a symbolic self-portrait Mandala.

  1. Make a list of symbols that relate to your:

  1. Make a pencil sketch of your Mandala in your sketchbook. You need a minimum of seven symbols. Remember: mandala patterns are usually based on concentrically arranged elements. Your mandala will have radial symmetry and the arrangement of your symbols will create a unique visual pattern. Your mandala can be based purely of cultural images, purely of personal images or a combination of both.

  2. Start your final Mandala. Draw it lightly in pencil. You may use paint, colored pens or pencils to color it.


1. List and describe the symbols you used to create the motifs for your personal design.

2. Did you use radial balance to organize the motifs? Did you use radial lines to help organize the motifs?

3. What is the expressive quality of your personal Mandala? Does it represent your family heritage?
4. If you were going to do this one more time, what, if anything, would you change?

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