As part of the "Sacred Circles" unit, students worked on exercises in Judith Cornell's book, Mandala: Luminous Symbols for Healing. I highly recommend this book, and the exercises in it are progress in nature, helping students acquire specific technical skills. While meditations accompany each exercise--and we discussed the spiritual significance of these--we chose to simply take a very secular, artsy approach to the exercises in this beautiful book.
Students first practiced making "light scales," which were similar to--but quite different from--the value scales they'd made during our unit on drawing.
For many students, this was their first experience using white pencil on black paper, and after doing other exercises from the book, they were ready for their first project.
On 14x14-inch paper, they traced a large circle, and were instructed to create a drawing in which light seemed to radiate from images of their traced hand(s). The only "rule" was that their hand images had to connect to the edge of the circle. They could choose to add other objects or symbols within the circle.
The techniques that they learned through these initial exercises and the "illuminated hands" project prepared them for more advanced exercises, in which colored pencil was applied over light scales in order to produce "luminous" artwork.