Monarchs and Milkweeds: Collaborative Collage

A collaborative art project that combines scientific observation of a monarch's life cycle with a group collage project.

I was excited to bring four monarch caterpillars to our Art Room for my third graders to observe for their collaborative art project based on the monarch’s life cycle.

YouTube Playlist: Monarch Videos

Day 1: Observe and Sketch

Day 2: Painted Paper

Day 3: Collaborative Collage

Each class period, they got to observe the caterpillars. This was truly the most joyful part of our year! Every day they saw something new – they were so surprised by how quickly they grew. I had a couple of classes that were fascinated by the caterpillar poop. I told them they could talk about it, but they had to use the scientific word for it – fras.

I created videos so that I could share interesting moments with the classes that missed them. For a few weeks, it became a wonderful ritual that we would watch the latest video during our Circle Time at the end of class. One lucky group was there when a caterpillar morphed into a chrysalis. Another class got to be there when we released one of the butterflies.

A collaborative art project that combines scientific observation of a monarch's life cycle with a group collage project.

Monarch Caterpillars Video: Monarch Caterpillar Growth StagesMonarch Caterpillar Eating MilkweedMonarch Caterpillar Makes Path of Silk

A collaborative art project that combines scientific observation of a monarch's life cycle with a group collage project.

Chrysalis Video: Monarch Caterpillar Morphs into Chrysalis

A collaborative art project that combines scientific observation of a monarch's life cycle with a group collage project.

Monarch Butterfly Video: Monarch Butterfly Release

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Hybrid Animals

4th grade students practice observational drawing by creating hybrid creatures.

Using photo references, fourth graders practiced observational drawing by combining characteristics of two different animals to create a hybrid.

Supplies:

  • Pencils, erasers
  • Photo references of animals
  • Sets of 24 colored pencils
  • 9″ x 12″ drawing paper

Downloadable PowerPoint: Hybrid Animals

4th grade students practice observational drawing by creating hybrid creatures.

I wrote my hybrid animal lesson plan the first year I was teaching. I had middle school students, and it was the perfect mixture of silly and structured for them. This year, I decided to try out a variation of the lesson with my 4th graders. They really enjoyed it!

4th grade students practice observational drawing by creating hybrid creatures.

I start off the project by showing them examples of Photoshopped animal hybrids, which always grabs their attention! Then I give them a pep talk about drawing realistically. The main point is that drawing is all about teaching your eyes how to see because your hand already knows how to draw the simple straight, curved and angled lines that everything is made up of. I let them choose two photos to use as reference for their animal. I inherited a whole notebook full of animal facts that have great photos, but I also take requests and put photos of specific animals up on the board.

4th grade students practice observational drawing by creating hybrid creatures.

The first day is spent sketching their animal. We talk about the different ways that the artists of the Photoshopped examples combined their animals. I spend this class period running around and helping students to “see” the lines and shapes so that they can draw their animal how they envision it. It helps that the final outcome is supposed to look kind of weird and crazy; it takes the pressure off for the drawing to be perfect.

4th grade students practice observational drawing by creating hybrid creatures.

If they have time on the first day, they can start drawing their background. I talk with them about habitats and ask them to imagine what kind of habitat their animal might live in. I start off the second class period with a brainstorm about ways that you can color neatly. The kids write their ideas on scraps of paper and I randomly draw several to add to our poster. I have found that this step makes a huge difference in encouraging them to take their time when they start using the colored pencils.

4th grade students practice observational drawing by creating hybrid creatures.

Once the first student is ready to start coloring, I have the class circle up to watch a demonstration. I show them several ways to add texture to their artwork using the colored pencils. I usually demonstrate leaves, bark, rocks, fur, feathers, and scales. Then, I’ll ask if anyone has any other textures they’d like to get ideas for. I also show them how they can blend colors by overlapping them.

4th grade students practice observational drawing by creating hybrid creatures.

The coloring part of the project goes at wildly different paces for different students. Some students finish in just one day and others need extra time during centers after the assignment is over. When they finish early, their sketchbook project is to draw their animal at different stages during its life cycle. If a student finishes that project early also, they can draw anything they choose in their sketchbook and color it with colored pencils.