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Learning outcomes

The student will study the art of chip carving in 18th century America. The student will use the knowledge gained to create a rosette design using radial symmetry with their ruler and compass.

Teacher planning

Time required for lesson

3 hours


  • compass (I use flat safety compasses.)
  • rulers
  • paper: 9-inch white squares for project, larger colored squares for mounting artwork can also be useful
  • pencils
  • erasers
  • colored pencils
  • pencil sharpeners
  • Books:
    • Brown Bag Ideas by Irene Tejada, 1993
    • Colonial Hex Designs - pages 84-87 examples of chip carving rosette design
    • Chip Carving Techniques and Patterns by Wayne Barton has examples of his work and also historic examples.

Technology resources

A computer with internet access will help students see how the craft of chip carving is still current through web sites and to research chip carving for historic examples.

There are also drawing programs that create symmetrical designs by repeating the student’s drawing around in a circle.


  • Show students examples of chip carving. Let students explore Wayne Barton’s web site and others listed below to see how the artists work. Invite a chip carving artist to the classroom to share his/her craft.
  • Briefly introduce the history of chip carving. The craft of chip carving came to America with the immigrants. Look at examples of chip carving from Europe and compare them to examples of 18th century American work, such as Colonial Hex designs from the Pennsylvania Dutch. Discuss how the patterns traveled from Europe to the colonies and how they’ve changed.
  • Define radial symmetry. Radial Symmetry is found in kaleidoscopes. I pass one around the classroom while we are doing our art history lesson. Draw examples on the board to show how to create radial symmetry.
  • Look for examples of radial symmetry, such as rosette designs, rose windows, kaleidoscopes, Native American designs, flowers/plants.


Demonstrate steps to students as directions are given.

  1. Set the compass at 4 inches to create an 8 inch circle. The teacher may need to explain the use of a compass to students if they have not used them in their classroom. (I plan this lesson with the 5th Grade teachers to make sure they will have covered compass use in their math classes.)
  2. Place the compass in the middle of the white square paper and draw an 8-inch circle. I will sometimes fold the square twice to find the center if students need help.
  3. To create a 6-petal design, leave the compass at 4 and place it on the circle. Draw an arc from one side of the circle to another. Place the compass on the ending point of the arc and draw another. Repeat this process five times to create six petals. This is the simple flower design.
  4. To add more to their design, students can set their compass at another point and draw more arcs to add interest. Impress on students that symmetry creates a pattern, and they need to keep drawing the arcs until they meet and go all the way around the circle. Students can also add other circles to their design, like a bull’s eye, by setting their compass at smaller intervals, placing it back on the middle and drawing circles within circles. Remember - the more drawing done, the smaller and more numerous the shapes become. Too many lines can clutter the design.
  5. To show students how to color their design, review rose window examples and Native American radial design. The colors create patterns also. Students can color their design using colored pencils. Demonstrate how to blend colored pencils to create colors and value. If time is available, this is a good time to teach/review color theory and have students plan how to color their design.

Since this takes several art periods, I break it up into several lessons.

  1. Art history and design creation (Students draw their symmetrical design)
  2. Color theory and value (Students color design. Have students write their color plan on the back to remember the lesson for next week.)
  3. Finishing up (Students hopefully finish coloring and complete design by mounting it for display on colored paper.)


Essential Question: How does a chip carving design have radial symmetry?

Reflective questions for assessment:

  • Is the student’s design symmetrical?
  • Did the student follow directions in drawing and coloring his/her design?
  • Did the student use his/her compass & ruler appropriately?
  • Can the student name a chip carving artist and/or tell how chip carving came to the United States?
    • Supplemental information

      • Chip Carving, Techniques and Patterns - Wayne Barton, 1984
      • Chip Carving Patterns and Designs - Ivan H. Crowell, 1977
      • Basic Chip Carving - Pam Gresham
      • Brown Bag Ideas - Irene Tejada, 1993


      I have seen this radial design project done many different ways integrated into math, social studies, and literature. I have attached and adapted it to chip carving through a workshop I participated in. The chip carving designs are very geometric and resemble the radial designs I was doing with my students. Many students are familiar with carving but do not recognize it as an art form because of its familiarity. I would not attempt to do chip carving with my 5th grade students, but maybe at the secondary level it would be more feasible to pass out the necessary materials (knives!). The best way to expose my students to chip carving would be a guest artist, demonstrating his/her craft.

  • North Carolina Essential Standards
    • Visual Arts Education (2010)
      • Grade 5

        • 5.CX.1 Understand the global, historical, societal, and cultural contexts of the visual arts. 5.CX.1.1 Understand how the visual arts have affected, and are reflected in, the culture, traditions, and history of the United States. 5.CX.1.2 Recognize key contributions...
        • 5.V.3 Create art using a variety of tools, media, and processes, safely and appropriately. 5.V.3.1 Evaluate how to manipulate tools safely and appropriately to reach desired outcomes. 5.V.3.2 Use appropriate media for the creation of original art. 5.V.3.3...

North Carolina curriculum alignment

Visual Arts Education (2001)

Grade 5

  • Goal 2: The learner will develop skills necessary for understanding and applying media, techniques, and processes.
    • Objective 2.01: Use additional art media, techniques and processes, which may include:
      • Drawing - charcoal
      • Printmaking - easy cut, mixed media, collographs
      • 3-D - wire
      • Photography - pin-hole cameras
  • Goal 4: The learner will choose and evaluate a range of subject matter and ideas to communicate intended meaning in artworks.
    • Objective 4.01: Compare and contrast the work of various artists' styles and cultures.
  • Goal 7: The learner will perceive connections between visual arts and other disciplines.
    • Objective 7.01: Identify similarities and differences between the visual arts and other disciplines.