Best known for his work on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, Michelangelo Buonarroti is one of the most celebrated and accomplished artists in history. Born in 1475 AD in Tuscany, Michelangelo was a successful painter and sculptor during his lifetime. When teaching kids about the life and art of Michelangelo, hands-on art projects will better help them understand the achievements of this renowned artist.

Drawing on the Ceiling

For five years, Michelangelo worked while hanging from a suspended scaffold as he painted the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. When teaching your students about Michelangelo's paintings and particularly his work on the chapel ceiling, have them tape a piece of drawing paper under their desk. Have the children lie on their backs beneath the table while drawing or painting on the paper taped above them. For younger students, have the children draw with crayons or colored pencils. For older students, have them work with tempera or acrylic paint. After the students have finished drawing or painting, host a class discussion about how it felt to work in this manner and what it must have been like for Michelangelo to work in this way for five years.

Artistic Study

An artistic study is when an artist tries to replicate the work of another artist in order to gain better knowledge of the techniques that artist used. Have the students choose a painting by Michelangelo to study and provide them with a printout of the painting to reference. On a piece of painting paper, have the students try to replicate Michelangelo's painting in terms of style, color and technique. This lesson will give the students more insight into how Michelangelo created his paintings, and the attention to detail that was involved in painting each one.

Soap Carvings

Michelangelo's sculptures, such as the David, were chiseled from marble rather than modeled from clay. To teach children about the techniques used to create a chiseled statue, provide your students with bars of soap and small hammers and chisels. Have the students choose an object to create a sculpture of and have them try to chisel the soap into the form of the chosen object. Alternatively, you may allow your students to carve their own soap sculptures .


When using these lesson ideas with younger children, you may find students getting discouraged as they feel their work is inferior to Michelangelo's. As the teacher, be supportive and praising of each student's efforts to ensure they do not give up, particularly when working on the artistic study or soap sculpture. You may consider hosting an in-class art show for the kids to show off their sculptures or paintings, and have each student list one thing they like about each piece of art in order to make each child feel confident and proud of their artwork.