August 2016

by Ann Talbott Brown

Director of Arts Education,

Tennessee Arts Commission

In 2014, the Governor and First Lady Haslam commissioned an Armillary Sphere Sundial to be located in the Kitchen and Cutting Garden at the Tennessee Residence. The Kitchen and Cutting Garden was built to highlight the unique Tennessee agriculture traditions at the executive residence. The garden grows produce to serve in the home, and thousands of students and guests visit each year to learn about gardening and healthy eating.

The Armillary Sphere Sundial presents a similar interdisciplinary opportunity to learn about science, art, and identity through its rich artistic and cultural connections to Tennessee. The National Ornamental Metal Museum, located in Memphis, Tennessee, won the commission to design and install the Tennessee Armillary Sphere Sundial.

The Metal Museum is the only institution in the United States devoted exclusively to the advancement of the art and craft of fine metalwork. The Metal Museum’s design of the armillary sphere uses handcrafted bronze, copper, and stainless steel that references the cutting garden by including organic shapes, insects, fruits, animals, leaves, and flowers from Tennessee state symbols.

Tennessee Armillary Sphere Sundial designed by Jim Masterson Photograph by Tennessee State Photography

Tennessee Armillary Sphere Sundial designed by Jim Masterson Photograph by Tennessee State Photography

In 2015, the First Lady’s office asked the Tennessee Arts Commission to develop and produce an accompanying teacher’s guide for the armillary sphere that would expand the notion of a teaching garden by including lesson plans and activities for teachers to incorporate art and storytelling into classroom curriculum. Cherri Coleman, a teaching artist from Middle Tennessee, and Brandi Self, principal of Mooreland Heights Elementary in Knox County Schools, co-wrote the Armillary Sphere Sundial Teacher’s Guide.

Cherri Coleman keeps alive local traditions of storytelling, white oak and cane basketry while training the next generation of heritage arts enthusiasts. She serves schools and museums across the state as a teaching artist and curriculum writer.

Self was a classroom teacher with Knox County Schools for 12 years before becoming a principal and Arts360 Coordinator for Knox County Schools’ arts integration model. She has been involved in curriculum planning on the school, district, and state levels.

The Teacher’s Guide is intended for students in grades 3–6, but the content is adaptable to older students through use of the expansions listed at the end of each lesson.

The unit is made up of six 45-minute arts-integrated lessons that include:

  • Exploration of shadow plot and sundial
  • Myth and identity
  • Science and symbol
  • Metalworking process
  • Field trip: the sundial as a realization of content

The lesson plan is available to download on the Tennessee Arts Education website: To request a free guide in booklet form, contact Ann Brown, Director of Arts Education, 615-532-5939.

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