SCALE The relative size of an object when compared to others of its kind, to its environment, or to humans.

Who am I?
My name is Ned.
I do not like
my little bed.
This is no good.
This is not right.
My feet stick out
of bed all night.
And when I pull them in,
Oh, dear!
My head sticks out of bed
up here!

One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish, by Dr. Seuss

How do kids learn the concept of scale? How can we teach it? When should we introduce it in art class?

Had an interesting discussion with my students ages 6-10 about scale and making the relative sizes of things agree Thursday afternoon. My efforts to explain the concept verbally were total failures. I couldn't even "get it" myself, so how could they?

Because my younger classes were doing a fish collage, I have been reading A Fish Out of Water for a week. This is one of the few books that I am just as delighted to read aloud the eighteenth time as the first. (I especially like adding sound effects!) You remember the story. A boy feeds his fish too much. The fish grows and grows, as the boy keeps trying to put it in a large enough container. Thank heaven Mr. Carp is able to save the day!

The kids (and I) get the concept best when an image has a scale problem. Showed them some funny magazine ads--a stinky sneaker dwarfing a living room chair, a woman appearing to pick an apple bigger than the planet Jupiter from an orchard tree, a high-heeled shoe taller than the Eiffel Tower, a man golfing on a lily pad.

How could a shoe be taller than a building? The kids patiently explained that a photographer had photos of shoes and of buildings. The photographer cut out the images and pasted them together to make the picture. "That would be a collage like the one we made last time," they told me. Whoa, skippy. I was impressed.

How else could we make that picture? One student took off his shoe. I moved the papier mache jaguar to the far end of the hallway. We took turns laying our heads down on the rug to squint past the stinky shoe to see the teeny jaguar jumping out of the giant shoe.

The first time Barbie invited Tiny Tears and my Gordie doll over to her Dream House for shish kabobs I got an inkling of scale. That would have been in first grade. About fourth-fifth grade kids get interested in scale models and train sets. I'm not sure they really grasp the concept before then.

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