This is one of my favorite 2nd grade projects. I was inspired by another teacher in my district that does this project - though I have modified it a little over the last couple of years.
I start out by showing the students a slide show of layered cakes from Charm City Cakes. The students 'ooooo' 'awwww' 'COOL!' and so forth. I like to emphasize that this is a real job - that Chef Duff and his friends get paid lots of money to decorate cakes! They even have their own tv show.
After the slide show is over, I freeze the slide show on one cake and I explain that they will be creating their own cake on paper. They will get to decide how many layers, how the cake is decorated, and next time they will get to use paint to finish the decorations! Often times, at this point students are very excited. I then explain that even though their cakes will be on paper they will need to look 3-D. We quickly discuss that we know in real life the cakes are round - but on paper they are flat with the illusion of being round.
At this point I explain that we will learn to draw a cake in 3-D. I use the cake being projected on the white board, from the slide show, and ask the students what the very top shape is and to raise their hand. I wait a few seconds and tell them to look carefully and not to be tricked - what shape is on the top. I wait until most of the class has their hand up and then call on someone. Sometimes I get a circle and sometimes I get oval. I don't give them the answer - but instead I trace the top shape. I ask the students to agree or disagree that I have indeed traced the shape - they agree. I then cover the projector and ask what shape it is - They say 'oval'. I then explain that their brain KNOWS that cake is circle - but when viewed at a certain view point that circle LOOKS oval.
I then proceed to trace rest of the cake pointing out key features that make the cake look 3-D, like: There are not corners on it, all the corners are rounded. The next oval starts up on the edges of the layer above not on the bottom corner.
After the students have helped me trace the cake I turn off the projector and do one more freehand on the white board having the students tell me what to do. When the cake is drawn I explain they need to decorate their cake with BIG designs. Students like to draw small detailed pictures on their cakes and it ends up being too hard to paint, so I emphasize BIG designs.
The next class I introduce tints and shades to the students. I give them a hint to remember tint and shade -- that when you stand in the SHADE of a tree is it lighter or darker there?! They reply with darker - that way they can remember that a shade is mixing black with a color and a tint is mixing white with a color. We also do a quick review of the color wheel and how to use it to get the color you want.
Next, I pull the students around a table and proceed to show them how I want them to mix colors. I only give them RED, YELLOW, BLUE, WHITE, and BLACK. I explain that there are three simple guidelines for mixing paint. 1) No mixing colors in the paint dishes. 2) The mixed color can not be bigger than your hand (if it gets out of control they clean up the paint and use crayons - way not fun) 3) All colors must be a tint or a shade. I then proceed to mix colors by the input of students. One student will suggest a color, another will tell me how to make it, and a third student will tell me to make it a tint or a shade. I have the students scoop a little of the paint they want from the paint dish and put it on the table, wash the brush, and scoop the second color and mix. I have found that mixing paint this way keeps students from mixing too much of a color. In three years of mixing paint this way I have only had two students clean up their paint and use crayons.
This project takes 2-3 classes to paint depending on the skill, determination, and craftsmanship of the students. In the past I have had the students cut out their cakes and mount them on construction paper.
The students really love this project and the cakes are always very interesting and unique.