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Environmental Expression

Combine the facts of science with the abstract expression of art with this lesson about animals and their environment.

  • Grade 3
    Grade 4
    Grade 5
  • 30 to 60 minutes
  • Directions

    1. The relationship between animals and their environment is delicate and complex. Nature provides inhabitants that are suited for their environment. The artwork depicted in this lesson plan is of a roadrunner living in the desert. The environment for this type of bird is challenging. The roadrunner has to adapt to extreme temperatures and a small water supply. It gets moisture from the prey it eats and reserves its energy by limiting its activity during the day.
    2. The young artist chose to portray the roadrunner in an abstract way to emphasize the harshness of its environment. Using a technique called sgraffito, students layer colors with black on the top that is scratched to reveal their drawing. The contrast between intense colors and black along with angular scratched lines convey the harsh environment in an abstract way.
    3. To get a better understanding of the term abstract and view abstract artwork, share with students the artwork of James Rosenquist and Steven Sorman, both artists have been selected and commissioned by FAPE, The Foundation for Art and Preservation in Embassies, to show their abstract works of art in embassies around the world.
    4. Students brainstorm about how they can use color and contrast to portray a desert environment in an abstract way.
    5. Students research things that live in a desert environment and depict a scene using Crayola® Dry-Erase Crayons using the sgraffito technique.
    6. Cover work area with recycled newspaper. Have students use Crayola Dry-Erase Crayons on white paper to color the underneath colors for the drawing. Keep in mind the placement of the colors because these are the colors that will be revealed when the black crayon is scratched away. Students color over the entire colored area with a black Dry-Erase Crayon.
    7. Using a toothpick, lightly scratch the scene in the black crayon. Go over the rough drawing with various tools that vary the width of the scratched line, like a pencil tip, craft stick, paintbrush handle, modeling tools, etc. Carefully brush or blow crayon shavings from the paper onto the recycled newspaper and discard.
    8. Students choose a piece of construction paper in a complimentary color and mount their sgraffito to it using a Crayola Glue Stick.
    9. Students write an informational paragraph about their animal and its environment to present to the class.
  • Standards

    LA: Read with sufficient accuracy and fluency to support comprehension.

    LA: Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.

    LA: Write informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly.

    LA: Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions with diverse partners on grade level topics and texts, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly.

    SCI: Use evidence to explain how the physical characteristics of local areas are affected by the processes of weathering and erosion, including the activities of living organisms.

    SCI: Obtain information about the locations of a variety of Earth’s features and map the geographic patterns that emerge.

    SCI: Use evidence to construct an explanation that some rocks and minerals are formed from the remains of organisms.

    SS: Describe ways in which language, stories, folktales, music, and artistic creations serve as expressions of culture and influence behavior of people living in a particular culture.

    VA: Intentionally take advantage of the qualities and characteristics of art media, techniques, and processes to enhance communication of experiences and ideas.

    VA: Select and use the qualities of structures and functions of art to improve communication of ideas.

    VA: Use subjects, themes, and symbols that demonstrate how factors of time and place influence visual characteristics that give meaning and value to a work of art.

  • Adaptations

    Read the book Here is the Southwestern Desert, by Madeleine Murphy with the class to better understand the landscape and living things found in a harsh desert landscape. Instead of using Sgraffito, challenge students to use other media and art techniques to create an abstract work of art like painting, collage, colors, textures or multiple dimensions.

    Students make a chart showing how desert animals adapt to their environment.

    Students compare and contrast how the animal classes (mammals (including humans), birds, reptiles and invertebrates) differ in adapting to a desert environment.


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