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Bundle Up! Thinking in Three Dimensions

Adaptable for Grades K–12

An example of a cut bundle and drawing from the artist-in-residence drop-in art activity on December 7, 2012.

Inspired by Dennis Maher: House of Collective Repair (On View January 26–May 12, 2013)

This lesson plan is inspired by an assignment that the artist, architect, and educator Dennis Maher uses to develop creative- and flexible-thinking skills in his architectural design students at The State University of New York at Buffalo. Maher is the 2012–2013 Artist-in-Residence for the Albright-Knox.

Table of Contents

Important Note for Educators
New York State Learning Standards and Core Curriculum
Sample Bundle and Assignments


  • Become familiar with the special exhibition Dennis Maher: House of Collective Repair and the work of the local artist Dennis Maher
  • Observe and respond to sculpture through discussion, writing, and artmaking
  • Create an abstract sculpture to use as source material for creative thinking


  • Objects of your choice that can be bundled
    • Try to include both soft materials (cloth, mesh, bubble wrap, paper products) and hard materials (small objects).
    • The objects must be ones that students don’t mind cutting into pieces.
    • Ideas for inexpensive, easy-to-cut bundles include wadded paper of various colors, string, packing materials, play dough, plastic cups (stuffed with materials or not), wood scraps, etc.
    • Other objects such as plastic toys or ceramic objects can be included as well, but the bundles will be harder to cut.
    • It is best to avoid glass and metal objects in most school settings.
  • Duct, masking, or scotch tape
  • A cutting tool—anything from scissors or a knife for softer bundles to a band saw from your school’s technology department for harder bundles

This sample bundle by Micaela Barker is made of plungers, bubble wrap, toilet paper, baby toy tubes and balls, a sponge, and a boot. It is pictured already cut in two.


  • Each student or group of students—or the class as a whole—should build a bundle by taping objects into a compact ball that is completely covered by tape. The students can tape one object to another as they go along then tightly wrap the whole thing in tape so that the whole bundle is roughly circular.
    • For individual students, a bundle with a diameter of at least 8–10 inches is best. Groups and classes could build larger bundles, but they will need to be limited to a size that can be cut by your cutting tool.
    • The bundle should be as tight as possible so that it stays put when it is cut!
  • Cut the bundles into two parts that are as equal as possible. Small bundles could be cut with large scissors. Both small and large bundles can be cut with a band saw by a technology teacher or class. In most cases, it is probably best for the instructor to cut the bundle.
  • Encourage the students to look carefully at the flat surfaces of the cut bundle, which now reveal what is inside. Think about the objects themselves and their relationships to the objects around them. Think about the empty spaces around or between the objects and about the tape that holds them together. A few assignment ideas are below, but your creativity may guide you to a unique assignment based on the bundle!

Important Note for Educators

A black-and-white drawing of the bundle pictured above. Bundle and drawing by Micaela Barker.

Design requires flexible thinking, which is what this lesson plan encourages in students. Once each student has created his or her bundle, feel free to use the following ideas creatively, or come up with your own.

  • Make drawings of the bundle using different drawing materials and techniques
  • Make prints from the flat side
  • Make maps of it
  • Make computer drawings or three-dimensional computer images based on it
  • Translate it into similar sculptures made of other materials
  • Use it as source material to design a model of a building
  • Use it as source material to design a home
  • Use it as source material to design a habitat for a real or imagined animal
  • Use it as source material to design a habitat for a real or imagined culture of human beings
  • Use it as source material to design a model of a communities
  • Write stories based on it or any of the above projects
A map visualizing a building (seen from above) that resulted from the analysis of the bundle pictured above. Bundle and map by Micaela Barker.

See more samples of assignments generated from the original bundle in the photo gallery below. 

New York State Learning Standards and Core Curriculum

All Standards listed below are part of the New York State Common Core Standards for Learning, Standards for College and Career Readiness (CCR).

If you consider a bundle—or the maps and drawings derived from it—as an informational text, this lesson plan satisfies:

  • CCR Standards for Reading (Informational Text) 1, 2, 3, 4, 7, and 9
  • CCR Standards for Writing 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, and 9
  • CCR Standards for Speaking and Listening 2, 4, and 5

If you derive assignments that ask students to analyze the proportions of a bundle or measure a bundle, this lesson plan satisfies:

  • Mathematics Standards 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, and 7

If you use tools to measure and draw, or include working on computers as part of your activities, this lesson plan satisfies:

  • Mathematics/Technology Learning Standard 5

If your students create artworks (drawing, sculpture, etc.) from the bundle, this lesson plan satisfies:

  • Visual Arts Standards 1–3

If your students design architectural models from the bundle, or visit the Gallery, you will also satisfy:

  • Visual Arts Standard 4

Sample Bundle and ASSIGNMENTS

The bundles and artworks pictured in the first two rows below are all by Micaela Barker, a student in Dennis Maher’s Architecture Studio 202 class at The State University of New York at Buffalo, spring 2012. These inspiring drawings and sculptures are only some of the many possible explorations that could be generated from a bundle.

The third row of photos shows examples of bundles and drawings created during an artist-in-residence art activity on December 7, 2012.

Click on a thumbnail image to see the full image and explanation.