One of my favorite projects to do with my eighth-grade students is the “Animal Spirit” project, which is inspired by the artwork by Sue Coccia (www.earthartinternational.com). This lesson has evolved since I discovered it years ago, during my student teaching.
The original lesson plan came from Becky Levine, now retired from many successful years teaching art for the Cobb County, Georgia, Schools. Following is my students’ and my most recent experience with it, and the creative tangent we took with it.
The Lesson began with a lively discussion about flora, fauna, and habitat. (This project is great way to incorporate other academic subjects—science and language arts in particular—into the art room.) We also learned about visual language and how to read a work of art.
My students were intrigued to learn that their final artworks were to be be like research papers: when viewers “read” their artworks, they should be able to glean as much information from them as they would from reading words. They spent about three days in the media center, with each student gathering as much information as possible about an animal of his or her choosing.
During the next class, students sketched a rough draft of their animals on 12″ x 12″ newsprint. Once satisfied, they then began drawing their animals with black ultra-fine-tip permanent markers on white 12″ x 12″ paper.
Taking the project a step further, I approached my high-school credit eighth-grade class with the idea of creating a coloring book for the community. We talked about ways art can give back and listed people and places the students wanted to share their work with. We then discussed making it a digital download to minimize the cost and maximize our sharing power.
As the kids finished drawing their animals and were preparing to move on to the next step (watercolor pencils), I photographed their line drawings. I then selected those images that would translate well into coloring pages and put them together in our digital coloring book.
A website was also created—complete with student examples and blog—to house the coloring book and I started contacting the community about the project.
The response has been wonderful. Children’s hospitals, schools, community members, and adult living facilities have downloaded the coloring book PDF to use, and teachers across the country have shown interest in using it in their classrooms. In our website’s first month, we had over 5,000 page views. We are excited that the community is responding so well!
Visit pretendstudio.weebly.com/free-coloring-book.html to download our reproducible “Animal Spirit” coloring book for use in your teaching.
Middle-school students will …
• apply information from science into their work by researching flora, fauna, and habitat of chosen animals.
• create works of art that give information about the animal using visual language, telling the “story” of the animal in pictures.
• effectively use correct color blending and techniques using watercolor pencils.
• as a class, create a resource with their work to give back as a service to the community.
NATIONAL ART STANDARDS
• 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.
• 12″ x 12″ newsprint and white paper
• Rulers, pencils, black ultra-fine permanent markers
• Watercolor pencils
• Access to computer Lab
• Students’ smartphones or tablets for conducting classroom research
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Kerri Waller is an art teacher at Simpson Middle School in Marrietta, Georgia.
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