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Artful Allies: Mosaics and Pixels

In this engaging activity, students explore the relationship between pixels and mosaics, such as how small pieces fit together like puzzle pieces to make pictures. They create virtual mosaics and pixel art and compare and contrast one with the other.

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Mosaics and Pixels

Mosaics and pixels both play crucial roles in constructing images, whether it’s adding charm to museum walls or on the screens that captivate us. Picture a mosaic as a cozy quilt, with tiles forming a beautiful touchable image. Pixels, on the other hand, unite by the millions in a grid-like pattern, bringing to life the images we see on our digital devices.

Kids can better understand how digital images work in general if they know that the image on their screen is made up of very small dots.

Each mosaic piece can be a different size and shape, and they all add something special to the whole. For example, mosaics can be made of pottery, glass, or pieces of different sizes and shapes. In contrast, all pixels are the same and don't vary in size or shape. They exist as tiny points of light on a digital screen.

Why this Activity?

By examining pixel art and mosaics side by side, students  enhance their understanding of technology and sharpen their critical thinking skills. Exploring the connection between pixels and mosaics brings together the traditional and contemporary methods of artistic expression. Students gain insight on how art forms evolve over time by seeing how traditional artists created mosaics. Likewise, they learn how modern technology utilizes pixels to craft digital images. Overall, this gives a full picture of how art technology has changed over time.

Comparing mosaics to pixels is helpful for teaching kids about using technology. It helps them grasp the way digital pictures actually function. When students realize that tiny pieces form pictures on computers, it becomes easier for them to understand how digital pictures work in general. Knowing these things is increasingly important because technology use is becoming an essential part of everyday life.


Start the activity by exploring how mosaics are made by arranging small pieces of colored material like glass, ceramic, or paper to form intricate patterns and images. The activity slideshow provides resources explaining mosaics and showcasing mosaic patterns. Students can use mosaic design examples to inspire their own creations.

Now it’s time to go online and get creative, where students use online platforms to create virtual mosaics. The Design a Mosaic site allows students to experiment with historical mosaic styles including Greek, Roman, and Celtic. The Make a Mosaic site provides a general tool for creating mosaics using different tiles, while the Photo Mosaic site lets students create mosaics from photos. To spark ideas, students can explore the Simple Mosaic Examples site. Consider creating a shared slideshow for students to showcase their creations, fostering collaboration within the class. You can also print out finished designs for bulletin boards or classroom walls.

Now talk about pixels. The activity slideshow has links to different websites that make it easy for students to learn about how pixels work. There are also two videos in the slideshow which explain pixels. The first one is geared more for secondary students and the second one for primary students.

Next, kids can explore pixel art websites to create virtual pixel art by adjusting colors and patterns. There is a link to Simple Pixel Art Examples in the activity slideshow that kids can use for pixel art ideas. Pixilart stands out as a complete pixel art maker, allowing users to draw with different shapes and colors on boards of various sizes, even creating favicons. Piskel Art enables the creation of sprites, pixel art, and short movies using pixel art editing tools. Make Pixel Art offers a simple pixel art tool for easy zooming and moving. These sites do not require sign-in and students can save their art as image files or GIFs or take screenshots of their creations.

Finally, students can demonstrate what they’ve learned by writing a short essay where they compare and contrast pixels and mosaics. They should use their own experience creating virtual mosaics and pixel art and the websites and videos in the activity slideshow. The process of comparing and contrasting encourages students to analyze the similarities and differences between pixels and mosaics, nurturing critical thinking skills. Additionally, this comparative exploration allows students to cultivate a deeper appreciation for the artistic elements inherent in both pixels and mosaics, gaining insights into how each contributes to visual expression. Furthermore, the essay prompts students to consider the historical roots of mosaics as they compare them with modern pixel-based images, offering a valuable historical perspective on the intersection of art and technology. 


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