Sixth grade students make masks each year. I use this unit as an opportunity to teach facial proportion and to encourage the students to gain inspiration from various cultures around the world. Each year I mix it up a little for variety's sake. One year we made Chinese Opera masks, another we focused on Ancient Egypt, while yet another, when we were low on time, students made small Animal Human masks. By far the most creative results my students have produced were when we created Alebrije Dragon Masks.
Alebrijes are a traditional Mexican folk monster. They are typically a monster or imaginary creature of some sort and are painted with a variety of bright colors. My sixth graders learned about Alebrijes and about dragons from around the world. Especially in East Asia, dragons are typically composite creatures, made up of a variety of features from different animals. Students use what they learned about dragons and about Alebrijes to design their own composite mask. I get out all sorts of random supplies and let them dig through the storage closet to accessorize their monkey-unicorn-dog-pig or whatever their mask happens to be a composite of. They add feathers, foil, and sequins on top of their paint as they experiment with risk-taking and creativity. The results are truly exciting!