Drawing en plein air from observation


Teacher’s Name: Ellen Handelman                                                                       

Class Grade Level(s) & School: Kindergarten –Fifth grade, Lyseth School

Class Subject: Art                                                           

Number of Students in the class: 20 per class                                               

Lesson/Project Name: Second grade-drawing en plein air from observation

A.  Pre-Reflection

1. What are your own teaching goals going into this?  Please list at least 3.

1. Develop strategies and best practices for teaching outside.

2. Become comfortable with student enthusiasm for being outside before redirecting them to begin their work.

3. Develop methods for using outdoor environment as a setting for working versus as a subject for a project.

2.  What are your goals for students going into this?

a.  Process/skill goals

1. Students will develop self-directed learner skills to draw from observation.

2. Students will develop skills to look at and care for the natural environment.

b.  Subject/content goals

1. Students will learn to use sketches to inform a final drawing or painting.

2. Students will make connections to master artists that have used the outdoors to paint.

B.  The Plan:

1.  Materials

Pencils, paper, clipboards, sketchbooks

2.  The Class/Project: Working in alcove to draw early blooming plants in garden.

a.  Prep before going outside:

Day 1: 15 minutes to make sketchbook

b. Outside:

Day 2: students spent 45 minutes outside. They needed to make three sketches of plants. Students could either draw different views of the same plant or different plants.

Day 3: students spent 5 minutes reviewing plant that inspired the students favorite sketch. Then we came inside, looked at some reproductions of Van Gogh, and then the students enlarged their drawing and finished painting it.

c.  Classroom follow-up:

Day 4: Students looked at work by artist William Morris to review the importance of looking at plants outside to influence drawings of nature. Students brainstormed about flowers, weeds, insects, weather, and other ideas related to drawing nature. Students then created a sketch for their own block print, which they will use to learn about printmaking.

C.  Reflection:

Originally, students were brought to the front of the school to look at the blooming magnolia tree. Unfortunately, there were often disruptive vehicles (especially the garbage trucks) that impeded the students from really looking at the natural beauty of the setting.

Because of this noise, I switched the lesson to the garden alcove, which is removed from the traffic noise. This allowed the students to have more freedom in looking and experiencing nature. Whereas, in the front of the school, students had to remain in a single file and stand in line while they sketched the tree.

Students also originally used 12×15 inch paper on large drawing boards. These turned out to be bulky and cumbersome for the little second graders to handle. For the next lesson, in the garden alcove, we switched to 9×12 student made sketchbooks with classroom clipboards.

By moving the lesson to the alcove, students had more choices and freedom to proceed with the art lesson. The lesson really helped students focus on blossoms, leaves, and stems of flowers when creating their composition. This worked well, since one of the objectives was to have students eliminate the desire to put a sun wearing sunglasses and smiling in the corner of their paper. When creating sketches for their block print, students reverted back to the sun in the corner. It was really helpful to ask them to remember to their outdoor experience and think if they did or did not see the sun wearing shades. Working outside really helped with focusing on realistic representation. It will be interesting to use the outdoors with more imaginative and playful compositions.


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