Using paper, paint, pastels, glue and scissors, first graders at Rancho Elementary School in Novato created animal habitats. They began by choosing one of three animals to create: a snake, bear or whale. After considering where their animals lived and slept, they built a world for them. There were joyful bursts of color everywhere – the fire red of a desert sunset; the cool blue ocean; the soft, brown, earthy soil of the forest. Using scraps of paper, rocks and glue, they built hideouts where their animals could sleep, paths for them to follow and places to hide from predators.
Students learned clay building techniques and the importance of layering color. The snakes, bears and whales were made from Sculpey then baked and cooled. Students used colored pencils to add details and texture and then dabbed watercolor paint on top. We talked about how to use art materials respectfully and be good art neighbors when sharing paints and brushes. We discussed how Nature is not a single color, but many shades and hues. Students decided whether to glue their animals permanently to their habitats or leave them free to be handled and played with. Most decided to let their animals remain free.
After finishing the animals, students made representational drawings of them. It was an important exercise about learning to draw what one actually sees instead of imagining or assuming an animal’s position or shape. How does a snake curl upon itself in the wild? A bear when it’s heading off to hibernate? A whale swimming in the ocean? Art is about looking and learning to see.