LEARNING: In this project, student artists learn about how scientists use drawing in their field research. They focus their studies on the ornithologist John Audubon. He was notable for his extensive studies documenting all types of American birds and for his detailed illustrations that depicted the birds in their natural habitats. He eventually produced a book called ‘Birds of North America’ which contained 435 life-sized watercolours of North American birds, all reproduced from hand-engraved prints.
CREATING: Students begin the project by creating ‘field sketches’ through which they learn the basics of observation drawing. They then pick an animal figurine of their choice, draw it from observation, study the habitat of the animal, create an accurate background for their drawing, and then turn the drawings into a series of prints.
CONNECTING: This project is part of our ‘Art & Literacy Curriculum’. You are welcome to use it independently, and it is easily adaptable to use across multiple grades. However, it was designed to support the topic ‘birds’ and ‘animals & habitats’, which are often found in 1st grade ELA curricula. Text sets and vocab are pulled for 1st grade students. Specifically, it supports the study of birds by looking at the biography and artworks of John Audubon. Additionally, there is a lot of room for customizing the lesson to directly support classroom learning of animals and their habitats. During lessons 2&3, the teacher can curate the source material to match their classroom learning objectives (e.g., if a class is studying the rainforest, choose animals found in the rainforest for the project, and students are instructed to research their animal’s habitat)
It also can address the topic of ‘pollination’, often found in 2nd grade curricula by curating the selection of botanical material used in the lesson 1.
Scope & Sequence:
Lesson 1: SW learn about field sketches and create their own.
Optional second day for field sketches.
Lesson 2: SW learn about the ornithologist John Audubon, then make an observation drawing of an animal figurine.
Lesson 3: SW learn about how John Audubon collected and painted his bird specimens; they then research and draw a descriptive background/habitat for their own animal.
Optional second day for researching their animal’s habitat.
Lesson 4: Students learn about John Audubon’s ambition to paint every bird in North America, then they turn their drawing into a printing plate.
Lesson 5: SW create & exchange prints.
W.1.7, W.1.8, SL.1.1a, SL.1.1b, SL.1.2, SL.1.1c, SL.1.3, SL.1.5, 2.G.1