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Intro to Art History for High School IV (Indigenous North and South America)

Molly McGill, M.A.
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Ten-week art history class for high schoolers, exploring the artistic traditions of the Americas, including the Aztec, Inca, Maya, and native North American communities from the ancient period to today! Taught by a College Professor!

Class experience

US Grade 9 - 12
Beginner - Intermediate Level
Follows Teacher-Created Curriculum
Aligned with National Curriculum Standards for Social Studies (NCSS)
10 lessons//10 Weeks
 Week 1
Lesson 1
Early Pre-Columbian Art
Students will be introduced to early peoples of Central and South America, discussing how people likely migrated onto the American continents, including theories of the Bering strait or oceanic crossings, and Indigenous creation stories and perspectives of the arrival of the first peoples. We will be focusing on some of the earliest groups in this region. Students will discuss glyphs and communication of these groups, focusing specifically on the Nazca and the infamous Nazca lines of Peru.
 Week 2
Lesson 2
Maya Art and Architecture
Our second week of class focuses on the Maya people of southern Mexico and Central America. We will discuss the hierarchical structure of their society and how we see this reflected in stoneworks of the period that employ hierarchical scaling. In relation to stoneworks, we will also discuss how the Maya created pigments, which were used to paint the many stone sculptures and stucco works of the society. We will discuss monumental architecture, specifically, pyramid structures
 Week 3
Lesson 3
Aztec Art and Architecture
When discussing the Aztecs, we will discuss the production of Codices and how they are similar and different to books we read today. We will also talk about the use of metals to create art and how difficult it was to work with metal at this time, discussing a brief evolution of metalworking from the Maya to the Aztecs! An emphasis will be placed on special materials, specifically jade and feathers, and how they were utilized.
 Week 4
Lesson 4
Inca Art and Architecture
We move into South America to discuss the Inca communities of Western South America. We will discuss the close connection the Inca people have to their surroundings, discussing the concept of Huacas and mummification in the Incan world, as well as stone-stacking, or huacas. We will discuss textiles and their significance in the varied environments of this group, and how the Inca communicated without written language with Quipus. There will be an emphasis on gold works and body modification.
 Week 5
Lesson 5
Indigenous Brazil
Students will focus on the arts of pre-colonization Brazil, highlighting the large number of groups still living within the country today. First, we will evaluate the differences between ceramics here and the cultures we have discussed already, looking primarily at Marajoara pottery, which is known for its complex figural imagery. We will discuss the creation of masks across the region and the varied uses, from performance to religious practices, such as Ticuna masks. of the Rainforest region.
 Week 6
Lesson 6
Early Indigenous Art of North America and the Plains
After a discussion of early arts of the North American continent, this class focuses on the plains communities of North America. We will start class by discussing appropriate terminology for Plains Tribes and their artworks, focusing specifically on the Lakota, Arapahoe, and Comanche for our class. Students will get a brief overview of the nomadic lifestyle of the Plains Tribes and the importance of Buffalo to these communities, as it was the primary source of materials
 Week 7
Lesson 7
Indigenous Tribes of the Southwestern United States
We travel to the Southwestern United States and explore communities such as the Navajo, Hopi, and Zuni. We will discuss basketry in this class, watching a video of weaving methods and discussing different patterns and themes in baskets of these communities. We will similarly discuss varying types of pottery and different glazes and patterns used. We will discuss Kachina dolls, including their significance for infant girls and children, as well as silverworking and turquoise.
 Week 8
Lesson 8
Indigenous Tribes of the Pacific Northwest and Hawai'i
We will start in the Northwest Pacific, looking at Indigenous Tribes who operate in that area to this day, specifically the Haida, Kwakiutl, and Tlingit Tribes! We will look at objects like totem poles and discuss specific visual characteristics unique to these communities, such as symmetry and curvilinear lines. We will also jump to the islands of Hawaii, where we talk about Indigenous arts to that region. We will look at how tattoos are important forms of art in that region, as well as hula.
 Week 9
Lesson 9
Art and Colonization
We will start with an overview of European colonization in the Americas, discussing how they impacted Indigenous communities. We will discuss the forced removal of Native Americans in North America and Native American boarding schools and their horrific legacy. We will also discuss the violent takeover of the Aztecs and Inca. We will discuss how this colonization process changed Indigenous artworks and how art was used for resistance.
 Week 10
Lesson 10
Contemporary Indigenous Artists
We will wrap up our class with a discussion of contemporary Indigenous artists operating today, highlighting how these communities are thriving and incorporating art practices we have discussed with a contemporary spin. We will discuss performance artists James Luna, Kent Monkman, and Gregg Deal, and how they expose injustices committed upon Native American communities and stereotyping. We will also discuss well-known artists like Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera .
This class is taught in English.
  • --The characteristics of art of different movements and cultures
  • --How to think critically about art and images that are presented to you
  • --How art fits into a larger historical context and how world events shape art production
  • --How institutional structures marginalize certain voices within the art historical narrative
  • --How to talk about and describe art, both verbally and in written form
I have been teaching art history for seven years now. I started my career teaching at the university level and in museums and have been teaching art history on Outschool since 2018. I developed this introductory series for middle and high schoolers so that they could have a foundation for talking about the arts earlier than at the college level and be exposed to history in a new way! Further, this course is particularly important, as we are covering art and communities that are traditionally ignored by art historical study. I have been studying art history for nearly a decade and want to teach students that there is more to art than European voices. I have taken a large number of courses in my own Graduate studies covering these topics from a decolonized perspective and from experts in the fields of non-Western art historical study. I have a Masters's degree in Art History, where I focused on the exclusionary nature of Art History and use my knowledge of the structure of the discipline to decolonize my approaches for my students. These lectures are adapted from lectures that I taught at the university level. 
Homework Offered
Each week, students will respond to questions that correlate with the week's topics in 1-2 paragraphs. There are two larger writing assignments--one visual analysis where the student describes a work of art in detail and one short research paper where the students select an art form from a community we will explore and write a five-paragraph exploration of the art form.
1 - 2 hours per week outside of class
Assessments Offered
Learner progress is assessed through in-class discussions, online discussions, and written assignments. Grades are available upon request.
Grades Offered
This class is ideal for those with unique learning needs. Students will be provided with study guides after each class for continued support and have access to all recordings for each week. Students can opt out of assignments if preferred.
Additional resources will be available to learners in the classroom following each class.
Learners will not need to use any apps or websites beyond the standard Outschool tools.
Some art may be violent in nature, depict nudity, or religious imagery. Colonization, racism and stereotyping, and Native American removal will be discussed in class. 
Students will be provided with outside resources after every class to elaborate on our lessons, available online. Sources used include university lectures, art historical textbooks, including Gardner's Art Through the Ages and Stokstad's Art History, cultural center websites from these regions, and museum information. Whenever possible, information will be pulled from institutions grounded within these areas, to inform the discussion from a decolonized perspective. When available, primary sources from the time period and area are used to include these voices prominently.
Joined September, 2018
Star Educator
Teacher expertise and credentials
Master's Degree in History
Hello Outschool families! My name is Molly McGill and I am so excited to be teaching on the Outschool platform and sharing what I love with students from all over the world. I earned my Masters in art history from the University of Colorado, where... 
Group Class


weekly or $160 for 10 classes
1x per week, 10 weeks
50 min

Completed by 20 learners
Live video meetings
Ages: 13-18
5-10 learners per class

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