Tuesday, May 31, 2011
2nd - 4th grade created the most beautiful mixed-media paintings of the coral reef during our last few weeks of school. This two-lesson unit followed a day of observation drawing from a Planet Earth video about the coral reef. We looked at and discussed various life forms in the coral reef, and the students drew what they saw as if they were scientists on a field study.
The next class, students covered a plain sheet of copier paper with textures that reminded them of the coral using warm colored crayons. Then, they painted over their textures and patterns using liquid watercolors in orange, green, purple and magenta as well as gold, bronze and copper. I showed the students how they could sprinkle a bit of salt over a freshly painted area to create a star-burst texture which would develop over time.
Students used fine and coarse salt, and were thrilled to see the effects when they came back next class period. We dusted off the salt, and then students worked on top of their paintings to define areas of coral, add a variety of sea life including plants, and even add wavy lines, algae or bubbles to the water. The results were just incredibly beautiful.
We used pencil and oil pastel to draw on top of the paintings. I loved the effect. We talked about the illusion of space, and how thin, light pencil lines would make something look like it was farther away, while thick, dark lines would make something pop forward.
I did not give the students blue watercolor because I really wanted them to push their thoughts on color. The coral reef is full of warm colors, and often water can have a green or purple tint to it. When we worked on top of the drawings, students had the option to then add blue - which looked really great too!
All in all, a super fun and satisfying unit with lots of room for variation, personal vision, and experimentation!