My third grade classes were studying ecosystems and I wanted to challenge them and really get their creativity flowing. I knew they would love the double exposed photographs (not paintings!) that I used as inspiration (shown below) and that they too, would be inspired and run with it. Artist information and where to find more of this amazing work is listed at the end of this post.
After showing examples and “ooohing” and “ahhhhing” for a few minutes, I asked if someone had an animal in mind that wasn’t shown as an example and we discussed what elements they might include for that animal in their artwork. There’s always one or two animals that I have to look up information for – these kids are so smart!
I then explained the project – that they are going to create a simple outline of the WILD (not domestic – there are always some that want to do cats and dogs, but I prefer to stick with animals that are not pets or that truly live in the wild) animal of their choice. Then, within the outline, they will create that animal’s habitat/ecosystem. On the white board, I outlined the process for them and showed them a step-by-step process (shown below).
- Write their name and room number on the back of their paper.
- Lightly sketch an outline of their animal using AS MUCH of the paper as possible so that they have a lot of space to create INSIDE their animal. (I kept the images of animal silhouettes and outlines on the board to help with their sketching – shown below. We also went over simplifying the animals into simple shapes, like in the how-to-draw books.) For the students that wished to outline animals that were not found or that I could easily sketch on the board for them to look at, we had Chromebooks in the classroom to look up outline drawings of their chosen animal.
- Once they are happy with their sketch, outline with permanent marker. I used chisel-tipped Sharpie markers.
- Using crayons, draw ABIOTIC (non-living elements within an ecosystem: rocks, sunshine, weather) elements inside the outline. They can also draw a few BIOTIC (living elements: plants, other animals, etc.) if they wish. I did ask them to not color anything in with the crayons, however.
- Trading in their crayons for watercolor palettes, they were then asked to paint the background – within the outline ONLY still, remembering to include a horizon line.
The finished products were beautiful and the kids loved it! Some instruction was lost along the way (during intense moments of excited creativity that I didn’t want to break) Once we got past the outline portion, which was the most challenging, they really created masterpieces that sparked great discussion of their current unit of study.