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Celebrating Poetry and Eric Carle | Arts & Activities
Sep 2018

Celebrating Poetry and Eric Carle

Celebrating Poetry and Eric Carle

My art students enjoyed this collaborative lesson between the AP English literature classes and my AP studio art and drawing and painting classes. One of the goals of this unit was to teach the students (or have them become more aware of) nature, compassion, respect, and to take care of and appreciate the earth, so that is why we asked the literature students to create poetry within those categories.

The first step of this project was to have the AP literature students select poem forms, meters and rhyme schemes, and write original poems that focused on nature, respect, compassion and life. Their English teacher read all 143 and narrowed them down to 75, since I had 75 artists who were going to illustrate the poems.

The poetry was then divided into different levels; the more challenging and abstract poems would be given to my AP studio art class, and the less complex poems to my intermediate classes.

Before the art work began, however, my students viewed a PowerPoint presentation that featured Eric Carle’s biography and techniques, and observed his books as reference. I also demonstrated the layering collage and sgraffito techniques used by Eric Carle, and reviewed with them art vocabulary that was expected in the final product.

My students then read and analyzed the poems, and planned how they would visually interpret them using Eric Carle’s collage and layered tissue paper techniques. At the time of this project, Carle’s work was on exhibit at The High Museum of Art in nearby Atlanta, so students were able to go and view his work firsthand.

When the collages were finished, we read the poetry and shared our work with each other in class. Our graphic arts department also got involved by photographing the art and laying out a soon-to-be printed and published book titled, The Nature and Respect of Life.

An exhibit was organized where all of the poems and illustrations would be on display, and copies of the book would be available for purchase. The entire community was invited to attend. Our Principal’s Leadership Committee helped spread the word about our exhibit, and managed the sale of the books online and at school.

Our “Celebration of the Nature and Respect of Life Art and Poetry Exhibit” was held at our school; it was the most successful art show we ever had in all my years of teaching!

It was so special to see our students communicating and sharing their work with each other and the community. The book was available for purchase at the event, and all money raised from the sales was donated to Relay for Life in memory of a wonderful student who passed away last year.

This project encourages learning and reflection in a variety of learning styles, and is differentiated to meet the needs of students with varied levels of experience and skill sets. It also encourages arts integration with literacy, English language arts or reading, and can easily be combined with history, humanities, social studies, and even science. I know you and your students will enjoy it as much as we did. 


“Behind the Scenes.” Art by Katherine; poem by Sarah.


“Thoughts of a Commuting Daydreamer.” Art by Sari; poem by Garrett.


“Chain-linked Fence.” Art by Cassidy; poem by Ava.


“Love is a well tuned choir.” Art by Mary Kate; poem by Annie.


“A Writers Agony.” Art by Brooke; poem by Maggie.


“Flooded.” Art by Eris; poem by Jordan.


Untitled. Art by Carly; poem by Ted.


“Cobweb Sheep.” Art by Jenny; poem by Alice.


“Impending Nostalgia.” Art by Mia; poem by Madeline.



Cover of the book (left) and two inside pages.



HIgh school students will …
interpret poetry written by their peers in English classes and illustrate the poetry inthe style of Eric Carle.
understand the layering, tissue paper collage technique Eric Carle uses in his children’s book.

Creating: Conceiving and developing artistic ideas and work.
Presenting: Interpreting and sharing artistic work.
Responding: Understanding and evaluating how the arts convey meaning.
Connecting: Relating artistic ideas and work with personal meaning and external context.

LCD projector, computer
Books by Eric Carle
Newsprint, tissue paper, illustration board
Paint, paintbrushes, crayons, watercolor, water containers, glue, scissors
Natural sponges, carpet swatches (anything to create texture)

aa-finalbitton60ONLINE EXTRAS
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Recently named the GAEA’s 2018 secondary art educator of the year, Kathleen Petka teaches visual art at Walton High School in Marietta, Georgia.


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