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Picturing The Distant Past

Use creative paint techniques to create a scene of your neighborhood long ago.

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

    1. During a unit of study on the history of changes for the Earth's surface, invite students to take a trip back in time to investigate what their neighborhoods would have looked like, perhaps when dinosaurs roamed the Earth, or in another geological era. Was it an ocean bed? Did giant ferns grow there? What animals roamed the area? Encourage students to support their theories with knowledge of changes in the Earth's surface over time. Allow time for discussion.
    2. Students will re-create their vision of the Earth's surface in past times. Begin by asking students to cover their work spaces with recycled newspaper. Students create colors of the era's landscape with Crayola® Washable Paint. To make tints, mix a small amount of white into colored paint. Make shades by adding a drop or two of black to a color.
    3. To make paint pans that eliminate drips when printing, cover the bottom of shallow pans with a flat sponge or a double layer of paper. Pour a shallow layer of paint on top.
    4. Represent vegetation, water, and terrain with paint using these or other creative techniques: (Combine several techniques.) Dip the straight edge of a small piece of cardboard into a shallow paint layer. Press the dipped edge on paper to print a straight line. Make notches in a small piece of cardboard with Crayola Scissors. Dip in paint. Drag the notched edge across the paper to create multiple lines. Carve shapes into Crayola Modeling Clay with a plastic knife or other modeling tool, or use other found objects, to stamp prints. Dip the object in a shallow paint layer, then press onto paper. Dab paint onto paper with a sponge. Create a stipple (dotted) effect by using cotton swabs to apply paint. Dip opposite sides of paint brush hair into different colors. Paint or dab on paper. Experiment with brushes of various sizes and shapes.
    5. Cut or tear painted patterned paper and arrange on another piece of paper to make a collaged scene. Attach pieces with Crayola School Glue.
    6. Students share their artistic vision of the past with small groups of classmates.
  • Standards

    LA: Explain the relationships or interactions between two or more individuals, events, ideas, or concepts in a historical, scientific, or technical text based on specific information in the text.

    LA: Integrate information from several texts on the same topic in order to write or speak about the subject knowledgeably.

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

    MATH: Convert among different-sized standard measurement units within a given measurement system (e.g., convert 5 cm to 0.05 m), and use these conversions in solving multi-step, real world problems.

    SCI: Construct models to describe weather and climate patterns which are produced by the interactions among the atmosphere, the ocean, and landforms.

    SCI: Obtain, evaluate, and communicate information describing the impacts human activities has on Earth’s systems and generate examples of actions individuals and communities have taken to conserve Earth’s resources and environments.

    SCI: Provide evidence to explain how increases in Earth’s temperature can affect humans and other organisms.

    SS: Compare and contrast different stories or accounts about past events, people, places, or situations, identifying how they contribute to our understanding of the past.

    SS: Identify and use various sources for reconstructing the past, such as documents, letters, diaries, maps, textbooks, photos, and others.

    SS: Use appropriate resources, data sources, and geographic tools to generate, manipulate, and interpret information.

    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.

  • Adaptations

    Possible classroom resources include: National Geographic Dinosaurs by Paul Barrett; National Geographic Kids Ultimate Dinopedia: The Most Complete Dinosaur Reference Ever by Don Lessem

    Students may choose to turn their landscapes into diorama backgrounds by folding the landscapes in half. Fold the outer edges back toward the center to increase stability. Add 3-D models of plants and animals from the era to complete the scene.

    Using the same painting techniques, students create the landscape as it appears in contemporary times. Consider four contemporary paintings or scenes: spring, summer, fall, and winter.


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