The Science of Geology is taught in sixth grade. The science textbook used follows a typical STEM format where each type of rock, whether igneous, sedimentary, or metamorphic, is described, and each type of rock’s uses are discussed. We learn how humans have used powdered rocks for myriad uses throughout the history of civilization. One use is as pigments for cosmetics and paints.
We follow with History/Language Arts questions- who might have used these paints, and why? One answer would be the people who painted the caves in Lascaux in Southern France, who used powdered rocks such as reddish-orange iron oxide. Did they use the drawings for some sort of religious purpose? What did the fact that they could spare enough manpower to have artists and shamans say about how advanced they were as a community?
Technology is next, with a virtual tour of the caves. Students can explore the caves as though they are there in person, and the Art teacher will guide them through the techniques used to create the drawings. She will point out drawing techniques, and they will analyze the images and make decisions about what they would draw if they lived at that time.
Engineering comes into focus when the students think about how high up some of the paintings are- how did they build scaffolding that high? What kinds of materials might they have used? How did they bring a light source with them to see, and how did they carry their tools through the dark, cramped spaces?
And finally, the Arts; what tools might the artists have used to draw with the powdered rocks? Their fingers? Did they intentionally try to use natural bulges in the rock to emulate the shapes of animal bodies? And were the handprints significant? Were they the way artists signed their work back then?
Once the students have enough information, they begin to draw their own images with actual powdered rock pigments on crumpled brown paper, and the results are quite impressive.