A group of young people sitting at an art exhibition on the floor. The girl sitting in the middle of the picture listens intently.
Photo: Ville Malja

Art assignments for schools

Designed by the Ateneum Art Museum, these assignments use images of art to inspire discussion in the classroom. After viewing the images, it’s time to get to know art hands on through the assignments. The assignments are designed for four age groups, but the materials can be adapted for other grades as well.

Thinking and doing together! 

Pre-school and grades 1–2 

Feeling colours 

Many artworks in the Ateneum collections illustrate emotions. Often they also tell something about what the artist is thinking and feeling. 

Choose one art image. Discuss it using the following questions: 
  • What do you see in the picture? 
  • Do you see things that you recognise? Is there something surprising or strange in the picture? 
  • What colours are there? Can you find your favourite colour in the picture? 
  • Choose a human figure in one of the works, and take the same pose. 
  • What is the feeling in the work? Is there joy, sadness, love, fear or anger? 


Feeling colours 

What does joy look like? What colour is sadness? Play with colours and paint on paper the feeling that you have right now. 

You will need: Strong paper, a bag of frozen blueberries, three jars of mango puree, and a bag of cranberry powder. 

Here’s what to do: 

Start by drawing on the paper with the frozen blueberries. Next, colour your drawing with mango puree. Use either your fingers or a brush. Finish the drawing by sprinkling cranberry powder on top. What colours have you created? How are you feeling right now? You can keep your eyes closed at first, so that the colours will surprise you when you open your eyes again. We recommend the use of protective clothing. 

When the work has dried, you can work on it with crayons to draw how you feel or add details to the picture. 

About colour workshops and sensory workshops: Colour workshop is an art activity for children that focuses on a vivid experience of colour. All materials used in the workshop can be perceived by more senses than one. The method often includes a preparatory stage that sets the mood for the workshop. In this case, the mood is set by the viewing of art images. 

Rafael Wardi: Still Life, 1959. Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Hannu Aaltonen
Rafael Wardi: Still Life, 1959. Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Hannu Aaltonen

Grades 3–4 

Theatre of objects – stories told by things 

There are many still lifes in the Ateneum art collection. A still life is a picture that usually shows nothing but natural or man-made objects. 

Choose one of the art images. Discuss it using the following questions: 
  • What is happening in the picture? 
  • Use your imagination. If you could enter inside the picture and listen carefully, what would the objects be talking about? 
  • Use word balloons to write a conversation between the objects. 


Theatre of objects – stories told by things 

In the theatre of objects, things come alive. Instead of persons or puppets, all roles are played by objects that start a conversation with other objects. 

You will need: Pen and paper and objects in your surroundings. 

This assignment can be done alone or in pairs. 

  1. Create a short play or a sketch.
  2. Use objects that you can find near you.
  3. Write a dialogue for the objects.
  4. Consider where the audience is sitting when they watch the play.
  5. Perform the play for others in the class.
  6. If you like, you can make a short video or a slide show of your play. You can even use stop motion animation.

You can make eyes for the objects so that they seem more alive. 

Pointers for writing the text: 

  • Who or what are the main characters of the play? Are there any supporting roles? 
  • Where does the play take place? Write down everything that happens in the play. 
  • What happens first? 
  • A play always has a turning point. Think of a surprising event and include it in the script. 
  • What happens after the turning point? 
  • Write an ending to the play. 
Portrait of a polka-haired woman with a large cylinder hat on her head.
Ina Colliander: Self-portrait, 1933. Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Jaakko Holm

Grades 5–6 

Who am I? 

Ateneum’s art collection has many self-portraits – pictures that artists have made of themselves. The next assignment is all about self-portraits. Quite often a self-portrait communicates a sense of the artist’s emotions and personality. 

Choose one self-portrait. Discuss it using the following questions: 
  • What is happening in the self-portrait? 
  • What is the mood in the picture? How does it make you feel? 
  • Which one of the artists in the online images would you like to meet? Choose one self-portrait and study it carefully. Discuss with others or write down: If the artist in the picture could talk to you, what would he or she whisper in your ear? 


Who am I? 

You will need: A mobile phone or tablet and drawing supplies. 

Take a selfie with the phone or tablet. 

The viewing angle is important, it can change the feeling of the selfie. What is the mood in a selfie that is taken from above? What is it like if you take the picture from below? You can also try taking a selfie from behind, from the side, or the front. Framing is also important – how you are positioned in the picture. 

Choose one of the selfies that you took. 

Now, develop the selfie further: Place the picture upside down in front of you and draw it on the paper just as you see it. 

What does the picture look like when you turn it the right way up? Can you recognise yourself? What is the mood like in your drawing and in the drawings of your classmates? 

An almost abstract description of a landscape with trees and water. Black and white work
Juho Karjalainen: Landscape II, 1984. Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Ella Tommila

Grades 7–9 

“If I were a landscape” 

There are many landscape pictures in the Ateneum Art Museum. Landscapes are all about places and atmosphere. Often they also connect to something in the artist’s personal life. 

The landscapes in the art images are graphic prints that need to be studied carefully. 

Choose two pictures. Use the following questions to study them: 
  • What is happening in the landscapes? 
  • What is the mood like? 
  • What season of the year is it? 
  • If you could step into the landscape, what would it feel like to be there? What would you see, hear, feel and smell? Close your eyes and try to imagine yourself in the picture. 
  • If you were a landscape, what would you be like today? Discuss with others 


“If I were a landscape” 

This is a text assignment. 

You will need: Pen and paper. 

Write a short story on the subject If I were a landscape. The idea is to describe your inner self. 

Use the first person perspective when you write: “I…” “me…” 

For example: 

  • If I were a landscape, what kind of a landscape would I be? Describe the landscape in detail. Describe it so that someone who cannot see the landscape can still imagine what it’s like. 
  • Where is my landscape located? 
  • What seasons of the year is it? 
  • What do I see, feel, hear, smell? 
  • If someone walked into my landscape, what would they feel? 
  • You can read your story aloud to someone. 
  • Give a title to your story.