Winter provides unique opportunities for exploring creatively. Snow, frost, and other cold weather formations can offer art classes a sparkling new subject for drawing and painting. Students get very excited about major cold weather events, so many teachers take advantage of that motivation and put this winter energy to good use in the form of winter-themed art projects.
Many artists have been captivated by winter, particularly the effect snow has on their everyday surroundings. Pieter Bruegel, the 16th century Flemish painter known for his landscapes and peasant scenes, was particularly inspired by this season in 1565 when the Netherlands experienced a particularly harsh winter. Share some of his paintings with students, such as Winter Landscape with Bird Trap, Hunters in the Snow, and Winter Landscape #3. Invite students to share what they see going on in each painting. Discuss how the presence of snow changes the environment. How does it make details of the landscape more and less visible? Teachers can help students make connections about how winter affects the surroundings they live in, and encourage them to try new ways of seeing the world around them.
Winter, as a subject, can also provide bridges between the regular classroom and the art room. Science meets art as students explore snow, and use snow as a mold to create plaster casts. Math meets art as students investigate the geometry of snowflakes. As students research winter sports, covering social studies, reading, and writing standards, they can also express what they have learned using art materials. The lesson plans below provide a variety of winter adventures to enjoy with your students.
Winter Art Lesson Plans:
Explore snowy trails on a cold day to find animal tracks for a plaster casting experience. Team with the upper elementary classroom teacher and invite parent volunteers to accompany the class, so you can break into small groups to search carefully for animal prints in the snow. Prepare ahead of time so you have recycled containers to use for this activity. Enlist the help of students to carry the materials needed to capture the prints.
I like this lesson plan because it is simple and kids are just crazy about Crayola Model Magic. Gather up old cookie cutters to use for this lesson (this can be a great way to introduce negative space and radial symmetry). As children cut away parts of a slab of modeling compound using the cookie cutters, the remaining parts form a snowflake shape. Encourage children to create, examine, “smoosh up”, and re-create snowflakes until they are satisfied with their constructions. Be sure to share this lesson with classroom teachers who can make connections to weather charts, geometry, and creative writing activities.
Focused on how to create depth on a flat surface (one of those artist “tricks” kindergarteners love), this lesson would be even more relevant if students brought in their own photographs of snowmen they built at home. Use these or other snowy landscape scenes as the basis for a discussion of how we can tell what is near and what is far in a painting or photograph. I especially like the watercolor over oil pastel technique for this kindergarten lesson.
Whether your weather is cold or warm in the first three months of the year, your class can celebrate the winter season by researching winter sports and cold weather pursuits in the regular classroom. Then work with the art teacher to create representations of student research using construction paper crayons on black paper. Add snowy effects using a splatter painting technique.
Go sledding with your class on a school day? Sure, you can! When you connect this exhilarating activity to physics topics, it becomes a lesson to remember. Use the shoot and select feature on a digital camera to take multiple photos of students gliding down the hill or use a video camera as suggested. Take an artful look at motion back in the classroom by sharing photographs of Eadweard Muybridge. (Be sure to choose images that are suitable for students). Follow up all of this inspiration with paintings that capture motion with blur effects.