Stroking Sea Horses

Article excerpt

Always looking for a new way to spark my elementary students" interest in art at the beginning of the year, I was inspired by a wonderful sea-horse exhibit at an aquarium I visited during summer vacation.

From the huge colorful banners that greeted me along the city streets advertising the exhibit, to the massive tanks filled with exotic ocean creatures, I was captivated and knew that I had to return to school in the fall and have my students do a lesson on sea horses.

After looking through several books and brainstorming for ideas for a lesson that wouldn't require too many materials and a lot of clean-up, I ran across a lesson in The Usborne Book of Art Ideas by Fiona Watt. This lesson involved creating a sea horse using handprints. I knew I had to simplify it somehow, so I came up with a one-stroke method using the side of a paintbrush.

WEEK 1: The lesson began with a lively discussion about sea horses. I was fascinated by what students already knew about them. Interesting facts such as: the male sea horse births the babies rather than the female, and a sea horse's eyes move independently so it can hunt with one eye and watch out for enemies with the other. This information heightened the students' excitement and made for a great science lesson. Pictures of the many varieties of sea horses were also shown to the students.

Students were given small amounts of yellow, orange and magenta liquid tempera on a small paper plate and a #7 watercolor brush. I began by demonstrating how pressing the side of the brush on the paper made an oval print. Students then laid the side of their brushes in yellow then orange or magenta, alternately, and printed three vertical strokes side-by-side for the head.

Next, they turned the brush horizontally to create a snout and used the tip of the brush to make two dots for the end of the snout. They continued to make the body, curving the neck and pushing outward for the stomach. …