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Speaking Species

Students create textured illustrations of endangered species in their environments with this lesson in ecology and scientific research.

  • Grade 5
    Grade 6
    Grades 7 and 8
  • Multiple Lesson Periods
  • Directions

    1. Introduce the lesson by reading “Parrots Over Puerto Rico” by Susan Roth and Cindy Trumbore. Discuss the historic and scientific issues raised in the book. According to the authors, what factors contributed to the near extinction of the Puerto Rican parrots? How is this near extinction an example of cause and effect? What other birds or animals do students know of that are endangered or have actually become extinct? Why is it important to try to prevent species from becoming extinct? How can the loss of one species affect others?
    2. Provide students with a list of endangered species. Invite each to select one to research. Ask them to find out enough to create an illustration showing the species in its environment. Students might wish to work in pairs for this project, to provide opportunity for discussion and a division of labor.
    3. Encourage students to examine the illustrations in “Parrots Over Puerto Rico” noting how much attention the illustrator paid to the environment as well as the parrots. What techniques do they think the illustrator used to create the colors and textures?
    4. Show students how to create textured papers using a mixture of Crayola® Watercolor Paint, Crayola Markers and other Crayola materials. Encourage them to experiment with various materials and papers. One interesting technique is to apply marker color to a white coffee filter and then crumple and wet it. Colors will “bleed” creating an interesting textural effect. Paper towels also absorb color in interesting ways. Another technique is to drop several different colored paints on a piece of paper and slowly stir them together which will create a marbled effect.
    5. Ask students to observe the many different cutting techniques Ms. Roth used to create leaves, feathers, and other shapes and textures. Encourage them to try some of these techniques themselves.
    6. When illustrations are complete, invite students to share them with their classmates and discuss how best to display them as a group to convey a message to visitors about the importance of conservation. Encourage students to write short paragraphs to display with their illustrations giving information about the species they researched.
    7. Provide time for students to mount the classroom display.
  • Standards

    LA: Analyze the structure an author uses to organize a text, including how the major sections contribute to the whole and to the development of the ideas.

    LA: Conduct short research projects to answer a question (including a self-generated question), drawing on several sources and generating additional related, focused questions that allow for multiple avenues of exploration.

    MATH: Understand that statistics can be used to gain information about a population by examining a sample of the population; generalizations about a population from a sample are valid only if the sample is representative of that population. Understand that random sampling tends to produce representative samples and support valid inferences.

    SCI: Cause and effect relationships may be used to predict phenomena in natural or designed systems.

    VA: select media, techniques, and processes; analyze what makes them effective or not effective in communicating ideas; and reflect upon the effectiveness of their choices.

    VA: Compare multiple purposes for creating works of art.

  • Adaptations

    Have students find Puerto Rico on a map. Based on their research, ask them to point out other areas of the world where endangered species live.

    If some students wish to work in small groups, suggest that they create two different illustrations: one showing the endangered animal in its current environment, and the other showing the impact the species’ extinction would have on that environment.

    Invite younger students to visit the classroom exhibit. Ask students to share information about the project with the visitors.

    In math class, discuss statistics related to conservation.

    Encourage students to find out about endangered species in their own locale. What can they do to help save this species? How can they help educate the public? Discuss the possibility of writing letters to the editor, congressional representatives, local nature centers, etc. Could students create an informative display for a local library or community center?


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