Alright, time to admit that yes – I’m doing a classic art project that involves tape and watercolor. I think almost every art teacher is familiar with the practice of tape resists. Well, in going with my nature theme for October, I wanted to do something challenging (and wouldn’t you believe that it was?) with my 2nd graders that would incorporate a bit of science, a bit of practice, and a bit of…you guessed it, BIRCH TREES.
I mean, what better tree to examine and appreciate than the birch tree? I know we’ve seen this lesson a dozen times in a dozen different ways so perhaps mine will mirror what you’ve seen or what you haven’t seen before. Regardless, I give credit to all the art teachers who use tape resist even if I haven’t seen your work – cause the kids love the magic of it!
So we started off with a large sheet of watercolor paper. Large because, well, go big or go home, right? We then take size pieces of tape and place them vertically on our landscape. Every piece of tape should go off one side, the same side, of the paper (the trees are reaching the sky). They shouldn’t go off both sides, and the lengths of them can vary. Students will find the two longest trunks and thick their width by adding a 2nd piece of tape to that “trunk”. This makes those longer trees look like they are close to us. Don’t worry, pictures coming soon.
From there, students will discuss what a horizon line is – is it tall or flat? What two things meet at a horizon line? The sky and the ground! So we draw a horizon line through our tape. The horizon line should go through all pieces of tape but by no means be too close to the top. We then take watercolor paint (I use liquid) and begin painting the sky. I start off simple to let the students explore watercolor. Because it dries so fast, I demo how you can layer coats of it to make dark areas and add water to make lighter areas. We also talk about how water going on the paper first can make the paint spread out interestingly. Nice thing about watercolor if it’s done right is that the paper dries fairly quickly and it saves some room on the drying rack because those projects that dry well don’t need to be put there.
The next time students come to class, we talk science! We are going to paint our ground. We all gather around the demo table and we review our watercolor basics. But this time, students note the small container of table salt. So I ask a great questions: How many of you have ever been to the ocean? What’s different about the ocean water then the pool water? What is the one thing your parents or friends will remind you to drink lots of when you swim in salt water? With a little prompting, we talk about how salt water is different and we have to drink a lot of regular water because we would get sick otherwise. I explain that this is because salt likes to soak up all our body’s water and it dries us out. So then we guess what might happen when we sprinkle salt on wet paint.
Que demo…I paint a small section and make sure it’s wet (shiny, not soaking) and sprinkle the salt. Ooo and ahh! The salt, of course, starts to soak up the paint. And I say, okay, I’m going to do one more section but pay attention to the section we just did! As I am finishing up my second area of green paint, hands are popping up because students are noticing a couple of things. The paint is drying very quickly and some of the areas where there is salt are changing colors! There are light and dark areas of green without even trying!
Students are shown what happens to our fun if we paint over it again so we decide that we shouldn’t do that and I send them on their adventure. Students love this and between the salt and the science behind it, students are in deed, into their projects.
Next time we are going to strip our tape off (slowly) to reveal the resist! And then use oil pastels to add some of the details you see in birch trees, ending with some fall leafs up top – but because this year I am loving dimension, the leaves will probably be 3D.