Implementation of “Meme-ing the Great Masters of European Painting” (SOI-HR-397)

Author: Nataša Tram, Art teacher

School/Organization: I. gimnazija Osijek

I was looking for a way to bring the work of art closer to the students and make it a part of everyday life. This LS seemed to me to be the perfect choice to surprise students in a completely new experience of a work of art. The idea of using memes as the most widespread form of entertainment for today’s generations is interesting to me. I used the meme as an introduction to the Art and power topics from the curriculum of Art.

The learning scenario was implemented during Art classes in two different fourth grades. In total, 40 students aged 18-19 years were involved in the implementation. I adapted the original scenario and shortened it to a 45-minute lesson because all the students had prior knowledge of the Europeana resources , which they have been using for the fourth year in almost every Art lesson. They also had experience making memes. Although I shortened the implementation time a lot, I set aside enough time for the students to think about the topic.

Sketches from my own life

As an introduction to the topic, I used a word cloud in the app Mentimeter. I motivated the students to activate their prior knowledge from everyday life about why people use memes? I asked them about the reasons for using memes and a discussion developed in the class. They shared their opinions and experiences, and most of them enjoy sharing memes with their friends.

Students answer in the word cloud

Baroque painters

In addition to Johannes Vermeer and Rembrandt van Rijn, I added two more representatives of the Baroque, Diego Velázquez and Caravaggio. I divided students in groups of three and assigned each group one painter. Students looked for brief information about the painters on Wikipedia. They used the Europeana Collections  to search for works by these artists. They chose one picture in agreement with their friends and downloaded it to their mobile phone.

Researching artwork from Europeana

Making memes

They turned the images they downloaded from the Europeana into memes.

I suggested two tools for creating memes ,

A few students chose one of these tools out of curiosity, while the majority worked in familiar applications that they have on their mobile phones. In the conversation with the students, I found out that they mostly use their own photos to create memes and that they have never used a work of art before to create a meme. They got so involved in creating memes while exploring the Europeana gallery that some created more memes than I asked for.

Memes made by students

Presenting memes

They shared their work on the common Microsoft Teams platform. Each student gave a heart emoticon for the meme that made them laugh the most. They presented their memes, explained why they chose a certain work of art and how they connected it with a life situation.

A meme that made a student laugh

Learning outcomes

Implementing this learning scenario allowed my students to express their creativity and critical thinking by coming up with memes. In creating humorous memes, they honed their search skills in the Europeana collections, looking for an artwork of their choice. They also learned a lot about copyright through art. They practiced their collaboration skills . This scenario gave the students an opportunity to express their thoughts through a piece of art. The students had so much fun that most of them  did more than I asked. This was the motivation for them to discover even more works on Europeana.

Outcomes for the educator

I have been using Europeana as a base for my Art classes for many years. I discovered a lot of interesting ideas using Teaching with Europeana blog resources. From the Europeana gallery, you can bring numerous works of art closer to students through popular memes and connect them with current events. Photos from Europeana are also an inexhaustible source to unleash the creativity of your students. I created a good atmosphere in the class with lots of laughter and experiential learning.

Some possible materials for making memes from Europeana resources

“Caravaggio” – Search | Europeana 

“Diego Velázquez” – Search | Europeana 

Photography | Europeana

Did you find this story of implementation interesting? Why don’t you read about the related learning scenario? Meme-ing the Great Masters of European Painting (LS-GR-109) created by Maria Skiadelli

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Public Domain Mark 1.0: the featured image used to illustrate this article has been found on Europeana and has been provided by the Rijksmuseum.

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