In this article I’m going to give you 5 Ideas for Earth Day Art Lessons for your Art Classroom that you can use with your own choice of art mediums or materials. These art lessons will explore a range of art making techniques and will explore a variety of art making styles, such as installation art, art using recycled materials, or photography. We’re going to learn about Earth Day and reflect on what it means through creating art with the students in our classrooms. Alright, let’s dive on into this blog post!
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Before we start… What is Earth Day?
Earth Day is an event that is celebrated every year on April 22nd and it is used to bring awareness and support to environmental protection. This topic can cover anything from sustainable living practices to bringing awareness to things that are destroying our world such as de-forestation or polluted oceans, to awareness of endangered species, to the importance of reducing garbage and single-use materials and use re-usable or recyclable materials instead… It is about climate change… it is about our planet. The one blue sphere that every Earthling relies on.
And I don’t know who needs to hear it, but going to Mars or relocating to another planet is not an option. Seriously, do you really want to live on Mars if Earth was also an option? In my opinion, Earth is way more beautiful, diverse, it has air, it has water, it has life… Anyway, my opinionated rant is over and yes, I totally get if you disagree with me. That is what opinions are for and what makes us diverse. And diversity should be celebrated.
Speaking of diversity, we have to protect it! And Earth Day allows a reminder and reflection for thinking about the diversity this planet has to offer. Let’s dive into some ways we can reflect on our planet and also create art that will initiate conversations around the message we share through our art. Let’s get started.
RECYCLING INSTALLATION ART
You can have your students bring in recycled materials, even things like empty laundry detergent containers, plastic bottles, cereal boxes… literally any empty recycling that is clean and has been rinsed out. Then they can, either in groups or pairs or individually create installation art with the recycled materials. These can be “installed” in the classroom on the tables or in different areas of the school. They can be built, manipulated, assembled or created in any way. They can build sculptures with them or arrange them in a way for the theme “Earth Day”.
It can be done in a way that brings attention to the importance of recycling OR you can use it as way to create a conversation about how much packaging there is, how much we consume, or the overwhelming amount of plastic. You can teach about how it affects animals and the environment, what happens if we don’t recycle, where it ends up… Then, your students can collaborate on what their message will be and how they will show it through art. They can of course include other mediums or materials to help convey their message.
After, you can have kids write artist’s statements about what the art means and post the statements with the title of the work where it is being displayed. You can even have it on the school announcements that there are Earth Day Art Installations around the school so that it creates conversation in your school community and teaches the community how-to interact with art. The day it is installed, you can visit each artwork around the school or in the classroom and let your students talk about their work and the message they’re trying to convey.
Then you can invite peers to provide positive criticism, letting the artist or artists know what they like about the work, how they visually enter it, what stands out, what they think it means to them. I highly recommend taking pictures of the work for portfolios right after installation because, you never know what will happen after. Not everyone in a community will know how to interact with art and we have to assume that maybe it’ll be manipulated by others. That is life and it does happen. Even in museums, people touch art and that is why there is security watching it every moment… It happens.
Students can again, bring in recycled materials, but instead they will build sculptures with the recycling. Typically, we go and buy and use new mediums and materials in our classrooms… But what if we used found objects or recycled objects instead to promote reusing and recycling? This is a great way to teach kids how to have a sustainable practice as an artist and also forces them to be more creative because the objects come with pre-conceived ideas, forms, uses, and notions. So we have to be creative and think outside of their original function to turn it into an artwork: Recycled Sculptures.
CREATE PORTRAITS OF ENDANGERED ANIMALS
Students can create portraits or artworks of endangered animals. As a class or as individuals (depending on their age, research endangered species! It can be globally, or each kid pulls out a continent out of a jar and research that area… or you can do your local area or country or continent. Your class, your choice! But create a portrait of an endangered animal and create a display in the school to bring awareness to these disappearing species. Hey, that’d be a good name for the show. “Disappearing”. Or “Vanishing”. “Ghosts”. Brainstorm that with the kids, I’m sure you can go far with that and it should be their input that decides it. You can even give them each jobs as part of a curatorial team. Some kids cut and assemble artist’s statements, some make labels for the titles, some design the signage or posters… Another teachable moment and a curator is also a job in the art world so …if you’re looking to teach about jobs in art, that is another thing you can tie into the lesson!
For animal art projects or portraits of endangered species, you can find the art lessons in my TpT store, Ms Artastic, or in the Earth Day section of Holidays & Seasonal with your Artastic Collective Membership.
CREATE OCEAN ART WITH WATERCOLOR PAINT
You can also create art or illustrations of different ocean scenes or creatures… oceanscapes! Of course, using watercolor paints. You can even add the salt on there for both the effect it creates with watercolor paints when it dries, but also because that medium makes sense for the theme… of an ocean. Instead of rubbing off the salt, you might even choose to leave the crystals on. I DON’T KNOW IT IS UP TO YOU, I’m throwing ideas out there. Have fun with it and use it as an opportunity for students to create choice work. Let them research, find reference images, draw, paint, create.
Give them a theme… watch a couple videos to prime them. Then you can do a “Think-Pair-Share” where they think about ideas or animals they know of in the ocean or scenes they could draw. For Middle School and High School kids you can have them do higher level thinking… They can research the affects humans are having on the oceans… Overfishing, pollutions, oil spills, garbage gyres, animals stuck in the garbage or full of plastic.
Then, once they think to themselves, they can talk to a person beside them for a minute or so. Older kids can be a few minutes. Then stop everyone and do a share out to the class. This sets kids up for success and ensures engagement. You’ll notice you’ll get a lot more hands up because you didn’t do a cold-call out for answers. You let them think to themselves, think with a friend and get more ideas, then share out. You can also do a share to a group before you do the whole class.
Anyway, after that, you can dive on into your art project and have them create beautiful watercolor paintings themed around the oceans!
EARTH DAY PHOTOGRAPHY
Finally, you can have them do some photography. I reached out to a professional photographer for some input so you can get ideas that are beyond my own! Esther Moerman is a wedding photographer who captures the most natural, original photographs. Honestly… you MUST check out her Instagram, the pictures are amazing. They will take your breath away.
Here is Esther’s suggestion for a photography lesson with your students, which you can do with anything that takes a picture!
“First off, I want to say that introducing kids to photography at an early age is such a phenomenal idea, for a couple reasons. For one, they learn how to express themselves in another way. Secondly, you are introducing them to what could be one of their passions and they didn’t even think of it!
I have a 4 year old niece and she has a play camera and absolutely LOVES it. She walks around taking photos of nature, her brother, her parents and tries different photography tactics.
I would recommend a scavenger hunt as an interactive, engaging activity for kids.
Here’s how it would go:
You would create a list of things that the child has to go and photograph, then bring back to you for review. (Like a dandelion, grass blades, a tree, a teacher in the school, a painting in the hallway, a door, a stop sign…etc.) It’s really interesting to see what types of photos kids come back with and seeing each child’s different perspective. Have the best time and I guarantee that your students will LOVE this!” -Esther Moerman.
She also provides recommendations for cameras that you can get for your own kids or your classroom! If you have the budget, or get a donation for your room, or have a fundraiser or GoFundMe Campaign, these are perfect for your kids!
“For the primary aged kids, I’d recommend a camera like this: https://www.amazon.ca/Waayu-Children-Birthday-Portable-Card-Blue/dp/B08HS2Q8BW/ref=zg_bs_6742095011_1?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1&refRID=NWW0ZRBFQ84FXDBW21JC
For the intermediate aged kids, I’d recommend a basic digital camera like this: https://www.amazon.ca/Kodak-PIXPRO-Friendly-Digital-Optical/dp/B01CG62D00/ref=sr_1_5?dchild=1&keywords=dslr+ti&qid=1611326758&sr=8-5 “
Esther is a skilled wedding photographer so if you have a side hustle business taking pictures for weddings, you really need to check out the courses she is offering! My favorite course she offers is “Goodbye to Awkward Photoshoots” and my friends… when you look at her Instagram you KNOW they ain’t awkward!
Click here to check out her courses: https://educatedbyemp.mykajabi.com/
Or follow her on Instagram @esthermoermanphoto – https://www.instagram.com/esthermoermanphoto/
Well my friends, those are my favorite ideas for Art for Earth Day. Remember, I have already prepped and planned art lessons, zen doodle coloring pages, and directed drawing lessons in my TeachersPayTeachers.com Store, Ms Artastic. Simply search Ms Artastic on TpT and click the Earth Day section on the left hand side and you’ll see all my resources. They’re fully prepped and ready-to-go! Or they’re already in your AC membership. Find the link to my TpT store in the notes of this episode or link to it on my blog or show notes on my blog. Or just Google Ms Artstic, I’ll come up.
Join me next time when I talk Social Emotional Learning Art Ideas!
Until next time! This is Kathleen McGiveron, Signing out.
Find my Earth Day Art Lessons in my TpT Store, Ms Artastic!
Finally, if you need anything else for Earth Day for your classroom, you know I got you! From Earth Day Coloring Pages to Earth Day Direct Drawings, or Earth Day Ceramics, I have it!
Thank you for reading my blog post! I am grateful that you did and I appreciate you having took the time to read to the end. Thank you so much. Please write any questions you have in the comments section of this post.
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Kathleen McGiveron (Ms Artastic)
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