Maya Lin: Architect & Sculptor


Create a miniature model of an expressive sculpture to symbolize your vision of a world event.


1. Maya Yang Lin is a contemporary Chinese American artist. Lin was born on October 5, 1959, in Athens, Ohio, where her parents were on the faculty of Ohio University. Her parents, who immigrated to the United States from China, were both involved in the arts: her father, as dean of the art school and a ceramic artist, and her mother, as a poet and professor of Asian and English literature.

2. Maya Lin's interests have always been with architecture and sculpture. She was a talented student at Yale University, where she was forced to choose between architecture and art. She enrolled in the architecture program, but secretly took sculpture courses on the side. She designed the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., when she was only 21 years old.

3. What is the difference between architecture and sculpture? Architecture is traditionally thought of as the design of buildings and inhabited spaces, while sculpture is considered to be a more expressive, personal response to creating a 3-D piece of fine art. Maya Lin combines these forms in her work, using her double interests to create sculpture which involves viewers, enabling them to interact with the work. The Civil Rights Memorial at the Southern Poverty Law Center in Birmingham, Alabama; Groundswell at The Ohio State University; and The Wave Field at the Michigan School of Engineering are excellent examples of her work.

4. Research other artists' site sculptures, such as Spiral Jetty by Robert Smithson. Notice how these artists also use land and forms to create their work.

5. To create a sculpture using ideas similar to the work of Maya Lin, begin by reading a newspaper or magazine. Choose a world event that is especially moving to you, and research that event. List words that you associate with that event using Crayola® Colored Pencils. From your list, choose one or more words that best describe your feelings. These are the words you will use to create a sculpture.

6. With Crayola Model Magic, create a miniature site sculpture. Imagine that you are very tiny and the Model Magic forms you are making are large enough to walk through or on. What shapes can you make to express the words you chose? If the emotions you felt about the world event were pleasant, you might use curved, smooth, shapes, and create spaces that are inviting to a person, like a park would be. If the words you identified were unpleasant, create angular shapes that might create distance. Create a relief sculpture over flat pieces of recycled cardboard. Cover the face and edges of cardboard pieces with Model Magic. Add freshly-made forms to build up the surface. Dry your sculpture at least 24 hours.

7. Cover a table with recycled newspaper. Paint your site sculpture with Crayola Watercolors and Watercolor Brushes. Choose colors that compliment the mood you are trying to express, such as pastels for calm feelings or red for anger. Dry.

8. Attach meaningful natural materials and decorative items on and around your sculpture with Crayola School Glue.

9. Title your sculpture, using both the name of the event you are responding to, and the thought or emotion you are expressing. Write about your choice of event and its representation, explaining the reasons behind your thinking.

Safety Guidelines

Adult supervision is required for any arts & crafts project. Observe children closely and intervene as necessary to prevent potential safety problems and ensure appropriate use of arts and crafts materials. Some craft items, particularly beads and buttons, are potential choking hazards for young children. Avoid use of such small parts with children younger than 3 years. Craft items such as scissors, push pins and chenille sticks may have sharp points or edges. Avoid use of materials with sharp points by children younger than 4 years. Read all manufacturers' safety warnings before using arts and craft supplies.

Crayola Modeling Materials including Crayola Model Magic®, and Model Magic Fusion™, Crayola Air-Dry Clay, and Crayola Dough—

  • Keep away from open flames. Do not use to make candleholders, hot plates, trivets, or other similar objects that will be used or placed near fire and other heat sources.
  • Do not put in an oven, microwave, or kiln.
  • Do not make into vessels/containers that will hold unpackaged food.
  • The use of modeling material to make items that look like food is discouraged for children younger than age 5 to avoid their confusion with real food.
  • Unless sealed with a water-resistant glaze, do not make projects exposed to or immersed in water, such as boats or outdoor bird feeders. They would disintegrate when exposed to moisture.
  • Crayola Dough—contains gluten (wheat flour) as an ingredient.
  • Crayola Air-Dry Clay, Crayola Model Magic and Model Magic Fusion are gluten-free. However, they are produced on the same machinery as Crayola Dough which does contain gluten. Although the machines are cleaned prior to the start of each production run, there is a slight possibility that trace amounts of gluten from Crayola Dough may be present in the other modeling compound products. For information regarding specific ingredients or allergic concerns, please call our Consumer Affairs department at 1-800-272-9652 weekdays between 9 AM and 4 PM Eastern Standard Time.

Crayola Washable Paints—Not for use as body/face paint.

Scissors—ATTENTION: The cutting edges of scissors are sharp and care should be taken whenever cutting or handling. Blunt-tip scissors should be used only by children 4 years and older. Pointed-tip scissors should be used only by children 6 years and older.


  • Explore the powerful ideas represented in Lin's site sculptures. Choose one, collect information and photographs, and orally present information about the work to classmates.
  • Research the artwork of Abstract Expressionists. Create a drawing or a painting reacting to a world-event, using their approach to color and subject matter. Write about your choices.
  • Learn more about Maya Lin's life and work. Create a biography that includes her major accomplishments. Analyze how her work continues to evolve.

Related Lesson Plans

Lesson Plans

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crayola supplies
  • Colored Pencils
  • Washable Watercolors
  • Watercolor Brushes with Plastic Handle
  • Model Magic®
  • No-Run School Glue
  • Pointed Tip Scissors
  • Construction Paper
household supplies
  • recycled newspaper
  • paper towels
  • Hallmark tissue paper
  • recycled cardboard
  • container(s) of water
  • decorative craft items
  • natural materials (stones, shells, dried plant sprigs)



  • Grades 4 to 6
  • Grades 7 to 12


  • Language Arts
  • Social Studies
  • Visual Arts


  • Multiple Sessions


  • Students analyze the work of contemporary designer Maya Lin, comparing and contrasting architecture with sculpture, and the blending of the two as evidenced in Lin's site sculptures.

  • Students list words that they associate with moving contemporary events, and choose one or more ideas to represent graphically.

  • Students create an original, miniature site sculpture to depict one or more words they have chosen.


Research Canada Standards
Research UK Standards
Research U.S. Standards