Thursday, March 8, 2012


The exciting possibilities of Nature inspired our young Briargrove artists in this lush, colorful drawing unit. Kindergarten and First Grade students created their own personal depictions of trees while continuing to explore the rich capabilities of oil pastels. Just as no two natural objects are exactly alike, each drawing is a one-of-a-kind reflection of the child who made it.

The students were very excited and engaged during this unit - it's no wonder that these trees are so full of life and spirit! The careful placement of each leaf, the expressively mixed colors of the tree bark, the interesting shapes of the branches and all the thoughtful details of these drawings make them truly beautiful to behold. Our student work display in the hallway gathered many admirers!

Challenge: Using your knowledge and memory of many different types of trees, imagine and draw your own unique tree!
Materials: Oil pastels, 9"x12" neutral colored construction paper, pencil (lesson 2 only)
Vocabulary: neutral colors (shades of brown, black, gray and white), secondary colors (orange, purple, and green), tints (any color mixed with white), texture, pattern, detail, line, form, parts of the tree (trunk, bark, roots, branches, leaves, etc.)

Lesson One:
Discussion: Research, read about, look at pictures, and study real samples from a variety of different trees! Especially focus on the form, textures, and colors of the trunk and branches.
Imaginative Play: Pretend to be a tree, starting out as a seed and then "growing" into different interesting tree poses. Relate each part of the tree to a part of the body.
Studio Time:Use neutral colors, secondary colors, and tints to begin drawing your tree trunk and large and small branches; roots can also be added if desired. Create an interesting texture on your tree trunk and branches by mixing at least three different colors and adding patterns or lines.

Lesson Two:
Discussion: What kinds of things grow on or live in trees? Think about, look at, and talk about the various shapes and colors of leaves, things that grow on trees like flowers, fruit, nuts, seeds, and pine cones, and other organisms that live on trees like moss, vines, bugs and animals.
Studio Time: Work on completing your drawing by adding leaves and other details to your tree. Use pencil if desired to help sharpen details, or to create lines and textures by scratching away layers of oil pastel. If there is extra space on your paper, work on creating an interesting background, which might include more trees, a sky and ground, or animals and people!

Further Enrichment Options:
(Opportunities for related learning experiences in the art studio after drawings are complete.)
a) Chose a real leaf or piece of bark from the box and create a detailed observation drawing using pencil or oil pastels on construction paper.
b) Research facts about trees in reference books, or read fictional stories involving trees.
c) Build a tree - or an entire forest! - out of marker caps and pattern tiles on the carpet.

Art teacher note: Blue, yellow, and red were not an option in this assignment, as we had been extensively studying the primary colors in the units leading up to this one. The colors that may appear primary in this series were mixed colors such as blue-green, which we chose to allow since they weren't pure primary colors. The exclusion of primary colors helped students to confirm what they had already learned: that no color combination can produce a pure red, yellow, or blue.

What kind of tree is your favorite? Mine is the Live Oak, with strong, sturdy branches that reach far and low, perfect for climbing, hiding out and thoughtfully observing the world below. For more artwork about trees, take a look at the collage and printmaking unit that Briargrove Kindergartners created two years ago! If you are an educator and have another tree unit to share, please post a link in the comments below!


  1. Katie, what amazing lessons you have taught these children about trees! The science teacher will appreciate the head start they have in plant biology, and the pictures are fabulous. The trees look so alive and animated. I love that I stumbled upon your blog!

  2. Thanks Gail, thanks Christie! So glad you're both here!