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Magnificent Mandalas

Lesson Plan, Grades 5-12, Social Studies, Math, Sax, School Smart


It is intriguing to observe the art of many cultures and find parallels. One design format that is found across many cultures, often created with a similar purpose, is the circular type of design called "Mandala" in Sanskrit. Similar designs are created in Navajo sand paintings and basketry, in Islamic mosaics, circular Celtic knot designs, and in many types of art from other cultures. "Mandala" means "healing circle" or "whole world." In many cultures, this circular design is used to express what is believed to be the oneness of all creation or the endless repeating of the life cycle. The designs in mandalas, or similar works from other cultures, are arranged around a center point. The line of symmetry, where the design repeats in a mirror image, can cross the midpoint at equal intervals in infinite numbers. Because the design radiates out along axis from a center point, this is called "radial symmetry."

Before you begin the project, share prints of the type of mandala you wish to focus on with your students and make clear in discussion the points you wish to emphasize. If you can't find pictures in library books, the Internet is a good source for images.


  • Students will recognize the principle of radial symmetry and be able to apply it in their own mandala design.
  • Students will demonstrate understanding of the various functions of mandalas in different cultures by discussing them in class.

Supplies Needed

Sax® Watercolor Paper, 90-Lb., 50-Sheet Pkg., 18" x 24"
Sax® Tracing Paper Pad, 50 Sheet Pad, 9" x 12"
Sax® True Color® Liquid Watercolors, 10-Color Set, 8-Oz.
Art Utility Cups, Pack of 125, 3.25 oz.
School Smart® Plastic Paint Palette, Pkg. of 12, 10-Well
School Smart® Watercolor Brushes, Set of 72

Things You May Also Need:
Plastic containers for water


CONTENT Standard #2: Using knowledge of structures and functions.
  Grades 5-8: Students select and use the qualities of structures and functions of art to improve communication of their ideas.
CONTENT Standard #3: Understanding the visual arts in relation to history and cultures.
  Grades 5-8: Students know and compare the characteristics of artworks in various eras and cultures.
CONTENT Standard #4: Understanding the visual arts in relation to history and cultures.
  Grades 5-8: Students know and compare the characteristics in various eras and cultures.



Cut enough sheets of the watercolor paper into quarters (9" x 12") so that each student has a piece.


Give each student a 9" x 12" tracing paper. Fold it in half the length of the paper and in half the width of the paper. There will be four equal sections, each 4.5" x 6". The point where the fold lines cross will be the center of the design. The same design will be repeated in each of the four quarters as described below.


Cut enough tracing paper sheets into quarters (4 .5" x 6") so that each student has a quarter sheet as well as the 9" x 12" sheet.


On the smaller piece of tracing paper, mark the bottom left corner with a red dot. This is your center point. Mark the bottom right corner with an "A". Mark the top left corner with a "B". See diagram #1.


Using organic or geometric shapes, draw a design that originates from and is connected to the bottom left corner.


Paperclip the design behind the top right corner of the large tracing paper and trace. Flip the design down, match up center points and "A"s and trace on the bottom right quadrant. Flip the design over to the left and match up center points and "B"s and trace in the bottom left quadrant of the large paper. Flip the design up, match center points and "A"s and trace in the top left quadrant.


Go over the lines on the large design with a dark colored Sharpie®. marker on one side of the tracing paper. See diagram #2


Cover the side of the tracing paper without the marker lines with a coating of pencil (graphite).


Place the tracing paper, graphite-side down, over the piece of watercolor paper and paperclip into the desired position. Using a colored pencil or ballpoint pen, trace over all of the Sharpie® lines. This will result in transferring the design as pencil lines on the watercolor paper.


Paint the design symmetrically, repeating the colors in the same way that the lines and shapes repeat. Be sure to clean your brush with water between colors.

 Instructions Diagram