Guest Post by Emma Smith Puffinpalooza!

Guest Post by Emma Smith, 4th grade artist from Wilder Elementary

“This is a puffin I painted.  You might ask “why did she decide to paint a puffin?”  Well, I thought not many people make art of puffins or penguins.  Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference between a penguin and a puffin.  A puffin has a big orange beak and the body is shaped differently.  My puffin is from the artic and she does not have a family.

I liked making this art piece because I did it on my own and I used different techniques with the watercolor like salt and rubbing alcohol.

This is one of my most favorites!  I hope you like my painting.”

“Bookish” Owls

Third graders designed these pattern owls and drew them on recycled paper from books slated for the big dumpster outside of school.  When the Librarian told me that she was throwing away books, I literally grabbed them.  I think the pages make our owls look like pretty smart fowl.

Students had a wide range of owl resources to look at while drawing and then brainstormed the patterns.  After going over the pencil lines with sharpie, the owls were either painted with liquid watercolor or colored with markers.

These owls brought to you by Reagan, Annaliese, and Henry.


Abstract Still Lifes

This is what we’re doing in third grade right now.  My main goal is to reinforce painting skills: practice painting simple shapes and to leave white space around the painting. I love the painterly look it creates, and think this will be a nice change from painting to the edge, which we almost always do.

1. We first watched a DVD called Drawing For All    Students practiced drawing cylinders, spheres, etc in a traditional still life that was set at each table.Then I asked them to use these shapes again, overlapping on their watercolor paper, and trace them lightly in pencil, and again in crayon. The harder they press down with the crayon, the better the “wall” they make to keep the paint from running together.
2. Using watercolor trays, they painted in all the different shapes different colors, jumping around from spot to spot and trying not to paint wet areas next to wet areas.
Enjoy this painting by third grader Morgan S.
This lesson was inspired from a lesson by Kathy Barbro at

Monet with chalk and tempera

Monet paintings are always popular.  For several years, our Denver Botanic Gardens boasted a Monet garden, complete with water lilies and the Japanese bridge.  It was a beautiful, quiet place to sketch and paint.  My daughters and I spent many happy times there. Many of my students were also able to visit the Monet gardens.  Monet is an artist whose “palette” is easy for students to understand.  By palette, I mean a selection of colors.  He kept a clear palette, never muddy, with a lot of light colors and white.  By using white tempera and pastel chalk in this lesson, students were able to keep a clear palette.Together, we looked at Impressionism, primarily Monet.  Students were able to produce some interesting looking “brush strokes” with the moistened chalk.   Students created some beautiful “watery” paintings.  When dry, the paintings have an impasto look and appear more painting-like than chalk-like. The kids loved working with it.

PS – be prepared for mess!

Our objectives

▪  Vividly communicate a deep understanding of Impressionism

▪  Accurately reflect upon learning

▪  Explore color mixing and blending of chalk (or pastels) – work with tints of colors – learn a little about color planning (complimentary colors – related colors

▪  Find beauty in nature

The Big Questions:

Who is Claude Monet?

What is Impressionism?

What are tints?

What is a color plan?

Resources & Materials

Poster images of Impressionism and artwork by Monet

“Le Pont Japonais a Giverny Art Styles” by Claude Monet,

Claude Monet “Garden at Giverny” Print 

“Impression Sunrise” by Claude Monet

Calendar Prints of Impressionism – various artists – post card prints Landscapes and garden photographs

Claude Monet Water Lilies Wall Calendar

Monet’s Passion-The Gardens at Giverny Wall Calendar

Monet Paintings: 24 Art Cards

Video: Linnea in Monet’s Garden

Greg Percy’s Songs in the Key of Art Volume 4 “Monet’s Mom”

Supplies: Oatmeal paper or 12″ x 18″  -any textured paper will work, pencils, colored chalk pastels, white tempera paint, plastic dishes, water cups, and brushes.


•View video and discuss artwork

•Display posters and discuss Impressionism – Show PowerPoint®

•Review/demo Instructions on PowerPoint®

•Choose what you will paint.  Here are some ideas: Garden scene, water lilies, the Japanese garden, and water garden.

•Draw a rough draft on your paper.  Keep it “coloring book simple”.

•Have several cups of white tempera on table. Each child may have his/her own water cup

•Paint area (fist size/baseball size) with white tempera

•Dip chalk into water dish and draw into the wet paint. If paint dries – brush on a bit more.

•Blend some related colors together for interest within shapes.  Notice what happens to the colors as they mix with the paint.

*Have a class critique and “show opening” when all are finished. Display all work and admire the beauty.

Suggestion: Have a student panel select the ones they like best and make cards for Mother’s Day. They make a wonderful gift. Staff members will buy several sets, as will parents. Make them to order and have parent volunteers help with the printing.

Clay Leaf Bowls

This is a project that I can’t take credit for.  It’s been floating around the web for a while.  However, the process is simple and the results are stunning.

I’ve done this project with kids as young as kindergarten and up to fifth grade, as an enrichment sort of project.

The timing is important, at least in Colorado.  I love to do this project in the fall and ask students to bring in a leaf from home (in a Ziploc bag to stay fresh).  But with a class rotation that can go on for a while, it can be tricky getting leaves that are soft and supple before it gets cold and the leaves get crunchy.

So, here’s the process.

Have students roll out a slab of clay.  I’ve used a red body and a white body clay.  It’s just a personal preference and sometimes dicatated by the type of glaze.

Students place the leaf bumpy side down on the clay.  (One side of the leaf will have veins that are a little bumpier and more pronounced)

Either the students (or maybe an adult helper, if they are little) cuts the leaf out with a needle tool or a paper clip or tapestry needle.

Remove the excess clay and put the prettiest side of the leaf facing up in a bowl.  Gently press the clay into the bowl, shaping the leaf.

Let dry and remove from the bowl.  Fire – I usually use a clay that is fired 04 to 06.

Let students apply glaze and re-fire.

Some favorite glaze options: Mayco Elements Chunkies, and watercolor underglazes with a clear overglaze.

Students and parents both are always delighted with the end result!  (me too)

Robots From Recyclables

Art from trash is always a big hit in the art room. Old boxes, broken toys, tape, and string are all materials that children are familiar with and may have created with at home. These robots are a “cross-pollination” (an integration) with a simple machine classroom lesson and art. This project also generates great discussions about what is art? (Is gluing together of pieces of trash?)

We begin this project by finding boxes that create a stable body shape and gluing them with hot glue (Mom helpers are the best).

Next, students find recycled materials such as juice lids, film canisters, and other junk to make arms and feet, and perhaps another box for the head.At this point, students paint the body, arms, legs, and heads with acrylic paint.

After the paint is dry, student get to dig through more boxes of junk looking for things to make eyes, mouths, hair, “control panels”, etc. These are also hot glued on with my help and parent help.

Last, details and patterns are added with more paint.
Remind students that these robots are sculptures and powered by their own imagination.
Supplies: Boxes, wood blocks, metal junk, packaging from Bionicles, wire, electric cords, any kind of junk and recyclables that would be appropriate. Acrylic paint, paint brushes, hot glue.
Vocabulary: sculpture, recyclable, balance, form, robot


Extend the fun by making Robot Masks!

Handmade Books

My fabulous third graders had a great time making hand-made books that went along with their biome studies.  Each of four classes made a different type of book.  One class had a twig binding, two used an accordion book format, one was a very tricky origami book.  All turned out beautiful.

Students included visual journaling inside their books as well as creating stunning covers.