Jesus Breaking Bread Lesson Plan

An Introduction to Public Art in Philadelphia for 4th/5th Grade

TOPIC: An Introduction to Public Art in Philadelphia for 4th/5th Grade


1. Goals: To acquaint students with one example of public art in Philadelphia, and to introduce them to the idea of creating a collective image.

2. Objectives:
A. Students will have a basic understanding of Jesus Breaking Bread, why it was created and how.
B. Students will have a basic understanding of what the sculpture aims to represent and how.
C. Students will explore the subject of the collective image, becoming acquainted with some of the challenges of making and having a common image.


Have the class watch the Association for Public Art’s online audio slideshow for Jesus Breaking Bread: (*Audio slideshow also available on TeacherTube)


Jesus Breaking Bread is a bronze sculpture made by Philadelphia artist, Walter Erlebacher (1933-1991). The work was commissioned as part of the 41st International Eucharistic Congress in 1976 sponsored by the Catholic Church. The theme of the second day of the Congress was “The Hunger for Food.”

Jesus Breaking Bread depicts an image of Jesus with outstretched arms and two halves of bread in his hands. Because this work represents an image of something from life, we refer to it as a figurative work. It is not abstract.

This artwork can be referred to as “site specific,” since the artist planned for it to be installed in a specific location. This work was created with the intention of being placed in public view outside of the church, and it was purposely intended to be life-sized proportions and placed at ground level.

This sculpture of Jesus Breaking Bread varies from many other depictions of Jesus. The artist worked by using many different live models from different backgrounds and cultures to create a figure that was meant to be universal.

This sculpture was made through the “lost wax” casting process. “Lost wax” casting is an ancient method used to create metal sculpture, jewelry and objects. It begins with a completely rendered model in wax. This model is then surrounded with a ceramic shell or, in ancient times, buried in sand and heated. This causes the wax to run out of the shell leaving an empty void in the shape of the original model. Hot, liquid metal can than be poured into this void and the shell broken off to create a perfect replica of the original wax model.


1. Have the class look at the sculpture/image. Begin by encouraging general conversation, for example by asking (2 mins):
• What do you see?
• What is being depicted?

2. Discuss specific techniques that are being utilized in the sculpture (5 mins):
• How is this image of Jesus different from others you may have seen before?
• Does this image look like anyone you know?
• Does this image seem welcoming to you?
• What is this image doing that makes it seem welcoming?
• Do you think making the figure life-size and at ground level makes the image seem more welcoming?
• How do you think this image would differ if it were larger? Smaller? Placed higher? Inside?

3. If the class is familiar with the elements of design, discuss how these elements are being used in the sculpture (3 mins):
• What is the form being depicted? (one of Jesus with his arms open holding a piece of bread)
• Where are the visual points in the sculpture? (hands, eyes, etc.)
• What are the basic lines felt from the sculpture? (horizontal stretched arms, vertical stance)
• Color, texture, plane, value also could be discussed.

4. If the class has previously looked at other public works, compare with them the goals of the sculptures and formal techniques utilized to achieve those goals (3 mins). (This lesson can be paired with the lesson for Charioteer of Delphi.)

5. Finally, discuss with your students why the artist thought it was important that Jesus Breaking Bread did not look like any specific ethnicity, culture, etc. (2 mins).


Paper with established starting points and end points at the top and bottom
Markers / Crayons / Pencils (any dry drawing materials)

The Exquisite Corpse was an activity developed by the surrealist artists of the 1920’s as a way to create collective images, thoughts, and works.


Make Exquisite Corpse drawings with your class. You need to break into groups of 4 students. Give every student a paper. Each student should fold the paper in half, then again in half. There should be four equal parts. The student begins by drawing a head, extending the neck below the fold. Then the student folds the paper over to hide their drawing, then passes it to another student in the group. The next person draws the torso (shoulders, arms and torso to the waist) extending the lines and folding the paper again. The paper passes again, and the next person draws the body from the waist to the knees. The paper is folded and passes a last time, and that person draws the legs from the knees to the feet. The students should be asked not to look at anyone else’s work, and to pass the paper to someone farthest from their seat. After all students have completed their parts of the drawing, each drawing can be shared and revealed. Have the students share drawings between groups and discuss how their collaborative figures relate to the sculpture Jesus Breaking Bread.

VI. CLEAN UP (5-10 mins)


Arts and Humanities

9.1.3.A: Know and use the elements and principles of each art form to create works in the arts and humanities.

9.2.3.A: Explain the historical, cultural, and social context of an individual work in the arts.

9.2.3.H: Identify, describe, and analyze the work of Pennsylvania Artists in dance, music, theater and visual arts.


1. Was student attentive during video/historical background?

2. Did the student participate in class discussion? Did this participation reflect attentiveness during video? Did this participation reflect application to previous lessons?

3. Did the student complete activity?

4. Was student respectful to other students’ opinions and work during lesson?


1. This lesson can be paired with the lesson Introduction to Public Art

2. This lesson can be paired with the lesson for Charioteer of Delphi. Related themes include:
• using figurative images to represent/inspire a community
• creating collective images
• lost wax casting
• similar formal elements (outstretched arms, stance, lines of sight, etc.)

3. This lesson can be paired with the lesson for Kopernik. Related themes include:
• creating universal images
• comparison of formal elements
• comparison of figurative versus abstract sculpture

Click here for the PDF version of this lesson plan.