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One Cool Friend

Here’s a different way to illustrate after a class trip to the zoo or unit on animals. Children draw themselves from behind with their favorite animal, sneaking their way home in their schoolbag just like Elliot in Toni Buzzeo’s One Cool Friend.

  • Grade 2
    Grade 3
  • 60 to 90 Minutes
  • Directions

    1. Take a class trip to a local zoo, biodome, animal shelter, aquarium, etc. (Optional)
    2. Introduce the lesson by reading One Cool Friend by Toni Buzzeo. If the children were recently on an outing, discuss as a class how their experiences compared or differed from the character of Elliot in the story. If not, students can still compare to past experiences with their families or school. Debate whether Elliot should or should not have brought home a penguin from the aquarium.
    3. Brainstorm what animals the students would bring home if they could.
    4. On a sheet of 12”x18” manila paper, have students draw themselves, head and torso only, from behind. Have students color in using Crayola® Oil Pastels. If short for time students can leave background blank and cut out body instead of creating a separate background.
    5. Using their backpacks as models, decorate a large paper lunch bag in the same manner using markers or oil pastels. Remind students to incorporate details like pockets and zippers. They only need to decorate three sides. After their bags are colored, demonstrate how to trim a flap and stuff some crumpled newspaper in the bottom to give it volume.
    6. With recycled board and pastels, have students draw and color the animal they would most like to have brought home from their trip. Keep the paper bag backpacks handy to make sure the animals fit inside.
    7. When all three components (bag, portrait, animal) are complete, assemble with school glue. Let dry. Display on wall or bulletin board.
  • Standards

    LA: Determine the theme of a story, drama, or poem from details in a text; summarize the text.

    LA: Paraphrase portions of a text read aloud or information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.

    LA: Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade level topics and texts, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly.

    SS: Identify examples of institutions and describe the interactions of people with institutions.

    SS: Analyze a particular event to identify reasons might respond to it in different ways.

    SCI: Construct an argument with evidence that in a particular habitat some organisms can survive well, some survive less well, and some cannot survive at all.

    VA: Students will initiate making works of art and design by experimenting, imagining and identifying content.

    VA: Students will investigate, plan and work through materials and ideas to make works of art and design.

  • Adaptations

    Have students give brief oral presentations on the animal they chose to take home. Have students include how they might have to alter their environment to make it suitable for their new house guest.

    Have students research and present how the staff at aquariums and zoos are like or unlike the staff at art museums. What roles do they play in preserving, maintaining, and presenting, the items in their charge? Why is this important?

    Leave a “ballot box” by the display and allow other students in the school to vote on which animal they would prefer to have taken home. Have students analyze, tally, and/or graph the results. Students can additionally compare this process to the electoral process for government.


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  • Creativity.
  • Capacity.
  • Collaboration.
  • Change.
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