Halloween Art Lessons: Explore the Mystery of Masks

Halloween art projects take a mysterious turn as students discover the mystery and magic behind mask traditions around the world

By Alison Panik


Halloween art masks

Halloween art lesson plans often include traditional crafts like painting pumpkins, cutting ghosts and bats from construction paper, and designing haunted houses. This season many art specialists also consider Halloween art projects focused on another common Halloween theme: masks!

A mask is anything used to cover, hide, or protect any part of the face. October is the perfect month to launch an investigation of mask-making traditions.  A study of masks, while conveniently a Halloween-related topic, also provides the opportunity to explore various world cultures, to appreciate mask art from different places, and to create masks using unique design concepts.

Because mask themes, designs, and uses are unique to specific world cultures, these lessons can easily be integrated into topics children are studying in the regular classroom. Plus they offer a unique approach to Halloween art. For example, a second grade class that is learning about animals in different habitats in the regular classroom can explore animal masks created by Native Americans from the Northwest with the art specialist. Other ideas include exploring African masks with students studying world geography, Commedia dell’ arte masks with students exploring theater, and Mexican masks with students reading folk tales and myths. These masks can be featured as part of the school’s Halloween festivities as well.

But masks provide more than just an opportunity to explore culture. Through mask-making students can also explore their individuality. Each child’s mask can be unique and reflective of the child’s personality, heritage, and interests. Discuss what students have learned about the culture, design, or history of the specific mask topic, drawing out what stood out for each individual student. Explore why each student has a unique interest in a different piece of the study of masks. Plan how they might incorporate themselves into the masks they design. Invite students to share ideas. Provide time for students to plan their mask designs before beginning construction. The lesson plans below provide a variety of exciting mask exploration opportunities.

Halloween Art Projects:

Celebrate Change

This lesson for all grade levels presents students with the opportunity to express their individuality using a versatile modeling medium. Students can design masks that are unique, even down to the colors they mix to create each feature. This lesson is perfect for a Halloween art activity.

The Power of Masks 

Investigate masks in a variety of study centers with one K-2 class or several. Good ideas for involving parent volunteers and teachers in a dynamic set of mask activities. 

Sea-ing More Clearly 

This primary unit exploring our relationship to water and the sea includes a lesson incorporating mask construction with a Greek Chorus performance mimicking the sound of waves. This is an excellent lesson to integrate science, art, and music.

Trilobite Masks

Integrate science and art with this K-4 lesson focused on ancient arthropods. Step-by-step directions, tips and techniques, and photographs of completed student masks make this lesson easy to follow and can inspire both teachers and learners.

The Meaning Behind the Mask

This unit is a nice introduction to masks and culture for early elementary students. Online resources related to African mask traditions are provided, as are websites offering online mask galleries to share with students. The art teacher and classroom teacher can collaborate on an introduction to African folktales which students can work together to perform using the masks they create.


Elementary Art Guide

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Alison Panik