I looked in to the concepts behind sand art, or creating images out of the fine textured colored sand you can find in crafts stores. However, holding the class in a gallery setting does prevent us from using certain materials that would prove too messy or uncontrollable, so I improvised. Using my most professional artistic research sources (Pinterest and Craftgawker, of course), I discovered this recipe for sensory colored rice.
After preparing the rice the night before (tip: add a little bit of scented or essential oils to counter the smell of the vinegar), I considered the different ways these sensory grains could be used to teach the color theories we explored with the clay and paintings. Ideally, we would have had enough recycled containers to let each student create their own sensory bottles to experiment with how the different colors could interact to create new colors with out actually getting physically combined to another (i.e. - if you took red rice and yellow rice and shook it all up - it would appear to create an orange filled bottle). However, as this plan was thrown together two days prior (I don't claim to be perfect), there would not have been enough plastic bottles to go around, not to mention I had only made three colors of rice. This is an idea I have kept in the back of my mind, and I am eager to try it out with the next semester of Community Connections students.
Instead, we ended up creating multi-media "mosaics" from the rice. The students started by using markers to draw designs, patterns or pictures that they would then coat in glue and stick the rice too. Some students used the markers to create a "paint-by-numbers" type system where they would color a section green, and then cover it with green rice, for example. Others used the markers as a backdrop, so that when the rice was added you could see the underlying designs, creating multi-layered artworks.
As always, I was impressed with the ability of my students to think beyond the prompts I had given them, and to push the boundaries in their art making. Often times as lesson planners, especially in the arts, we have an ideal for how we would like the final product to come out. It is important to let go of these ideals and instead explore what happens when you let your students step in to the areas of the unknown in their own experimentation.