Tribal Masks Art Project for Fourth Grade


This lesson is adapted from a lesson in Dynamic Art Projects for Children by Denise Logan. It’s a great book filled with exciting and doable lessons for elementary kids.

I have used many and reserve the Tribal Mask project for my upper grade students. Fourth grade students loved this lesson and I’m sure older children would as well.

The lesson as I’ve done here, might not be as successful for younger kids.

– Markers
– Black tempera paint
– Styrofoam
– Wooden dowel or pencil
– Feathers, beans
– Glue
– Tissue paper
– Liquid starch

To begin with, I photocopy the handout Denise includes in her book.

Tip: Anytime you can pass around a handout, it makes the project all the more accessible. Just make sure the handout has several ideas, or sketches. You don’t want to limit the imagination of the kids.

With a marker, begin drawing a tribal mask. Try not to start with a pencil. It’ll take forever especially with fourth grade perfectionists!

After drawing the basic shapes, the mask should look like a coloring book drawing. Black and white with lots of shapes.

Drawing the Tribal Masks


Next color in smaller sections, adding details to enhance the mask. I use Crayola markers and hand out a tray to each table to share.


Coloring the tribal masks


For the large areas, we use tissue paper and liquid starch. Place a piece of tissue paper over a shape in the mask (horns, mouth, head piece, etc.) and trace the shape with a pencil. Then cut out tissue paper. This is tricky so make sure to tell the kids that it’s okay to get frustrated!

Using liquid starch, brush the liquid onto the shape on the white paper then set the cut-out tissue paper on top. The tissue paper should lie nice and flat but if it doesn’t, run the brush over it to smooth any wrinkles away.


Stamping the tribal masks


To add decorative details around the perimeter of the paper, I place a tray of Styrofoam on everyone’s table. I pre-cut the Styrofoam into 2″ squares. Then, using wooden dowels or dull pencils, draw motifs or designs into the foam. Brush with black tempera paint and place stamp along the border of the paper


Stamp tools for the tribal masks project


For a finishing touch, place a tray of white and black beans and feathers on the tables. If they chose to, the kids can add these details using regular school glue.


Beans and feathers for the tribal masks


Overall, this lesson took us 4 @ 45-minute class times to finish.



Tribal Masks Art Lesson Gallery


What do you think?

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  • Jessica

    Instead of spraying them with dye like the book suggested, I used a tempera paint and water mixture. Turned out GREAT!!

    The kids really loved this lesson!

  • Esther

    This week I´ve done African Masks with my 5-6 years old, and they make a great job, we work with colour feathers, ropes, and different materials to decorate them.
    You can check here http://artecontusmanitas.wordpress.com/2013/06/10/mascaras-africanas-para-ninos/

  • Betty

    I was looking for something to begin the period in history following the fall of the Greek Golden Age ( Western Europe, Ireland, Roman Empire, Africa, Iraq, Saudia Arabia and Middle East)…these mark will be a fun way to start art with cultural influence during this time.
    Still looking for simple Illuninared letters (Monks and Nuns), and traders, Africa Kingdoms and tribes.)
    Having catagories to choose from is wonderful!

  • Tony Vermeer

    Since I am on a “Covid Cart” this year, I am keeping things simple. I used this lesson to replace my paper mache mask lesson. The students were engaged from the start but what really made a difference is that we went outside and looked for nature objects to add to the authenticity of our tribal masks. They added sticks, pebbles, pine cones, flowers.

    • Melanie Fidler

      Like, Tony- I, too, am on a “covid cart.” We typically spend most of the winter term making papier-mache construction masks. They’re big and beautiful. I now need to adapt that project (which the kids love) to a smaller, more management, less-material heavy project that can fit on their individual desks with individual materials. I love the idea of going outside into nature to collect some objects for decoration later on. What other materials did you use to design the mask? Do you give each of your students their own materials in covid-times? I’m hesitant to give out a hand out, because many students will just copy. BTW, this is adapted for 2nd grade. Thanks for the tips!

      • Patty

        Have you considered using recycled paper? I think to simply this is the best possible way for kids at home is to introduce the WHY behind the masks and have students draw a version of their own masks on paper bags, copy paper or whatever they have on hand. I can’t wait to hear what you do!

  • Jeanine Colon

    This is an awesome lesson. My students will love this to start next week.

  • Melisa joe

    Going to try it.

  • Mery

    Thanks for sharing the interesting experience. I really liked the project, I would love to use it with my 1st, 3rd and 5th grades

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