This is a short lesson plan that can be used to create a coat of arms, or heraldic sheild, for a classroom or for each individual child in your class. It goes well with a unit on the Middle Ages and would fit into an art class nicely. Enjoy!
A coat of arms, or heraldry or crest, was used in the Middle Ages to help identify people, countries, and organizations. They were simple with things that were meaningful to that person or group to help identify them from a long way off. If the king of England was on the battle field, everyone would know it by his coat of arms, even from as far away as the length of a football field! If your group sold books, you would have a book on your coat of arms. If your group were bakers you would perhaps have some baked bread or wheat on your coat of arms. Colors were also simple, with dark on light, or light on dark so that the shapes were easy to distinguish. If you put a blue on a green, the colors might blur together at a distance. A white on a blue, on the other hand, can be seen clearly at great distances. The shapes, animals or objects always filled the space of the shield or crest so that they were easy to distinguish. Even today people, families, countries, royalty and different groups and organizations use heraldry with roughly the same set of terms and complex rules used hundreds of years ago.
What you will need:
- A template shaped like a shield-you can make one of these by simply folding a standard piece of paper in half and cutting off the bottom folded corners on the open side of the paper, so that it comes to a point. Kind of like cutting out a heart from a folded piece of paper, only you leave half the edge straight and you don’t do the top at all.
- Some ideas of what you want on it.
- Colored pencils or markers.
- Drawing pencil and erasure.
- A black outliner of some sort (like a fine tipped pen)
- Scratch paper to put your ideas on.
- Black construction paper or something similar to mount your finished heraldry on.
1. Write out some ideas of animals or shapes or things that are important to you. Pick one to four items to put on your shield, but not more than four. Remember, keep it simple!
2. Choose two to four colors, half dark and half light colors. For this exercise, white and black count as colors!
3. Draw on your template using a pencil. You can divide your shield in half, or into fourths with a ruler. Measure first to make sure you have the shield in half! You can repeat your design in the sections, if you wish, and your lines don’t have to be straight. They can be wavy or zig-zag, as long as they are neat. You can make one large image in your shield, such as a lion, and then use a line to neatly cut it in two halves on the shield, and then ‘counter-change’ the colors. One half of the lion would be say blue, and the background white, and one half of the lion would be white with the background blue.
- After you are satisfied with how your shield looks, begin coloring. Remember you need to use a dark on light color or light on a dark color. Ask if you are wondering whether a certain color combination would look right or not. You may use markers or colored pencils for this, but make sure you are happy with what you have drawn before you start coloring. Also make sure that the images FILL the shield. You don’t want a teeny-tiny flower in the middle of big white shield. Think big. Only use two to four colors.
- Outline everything in black when you are finished. This will make your marvelous work stand out even more.
- Cut out and display! You can mount it on black paper to make it really cool.
For more information you can also visit:
For some more complicated terms and rules on heraldry for older kids:
Other projects you and your kids might enjoy:
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