Sunday, October 24, 2010

Majestic Mountains

I went to Telluride last month and was totally inspired by the mountains.  I decided to do a mountain focused lesson with my students and really emphasize the textural nature of them and how their contour is far from the zig-zaggy points usually drawn to represent them.

This year my classes are only 30 minutes and I travel to the classrooms.  I am limited on time, set-up time, clean-time, materials, space, everything pretty much.... so I have to really decide what I want to accomplish with the students.

This project took 3 30 minute sessions and I am so excited about the results!

First class we did a "watercolor science experiment" and discussed how to create what looks like texture in a picture and washes.
The students painted washes on watercolor paper with blue/purple/brown/black (AND i was able to use up my older watercolor sets that had those colors left!).
We sprinkled salt on the paint and placed saran wrap across parts of the paper to create textures in the paint as it dried.

Day two I printed out some examples of mountain ranges so that the students could examine various mountain contours. 
On OAK TAG the students drew a mountain range contour line across the top of the paper. They put a star on that side so they used the correct side each time. 
They cut along the line then traced the stencil on to the watercolor paper and cut out the mountain shapes  out of their painting. We also saved the cut off piece.

Day three we colored pastel along the edge of the oak tag stencil.
Then using a folded paper towel we brushed the pastel on black paper to create a colored silhouette in the night sky. 

We attached the black paper background,watercolor mountains, and smaller watercolor cut out together by stapling them together.  Then we used toothpicks to dot silver paint for stars in the sky.

Every single one of them was a great success!


  1. Hey...I found you! I posted my attempt at this and linked you to my site. I hope that was ok. I think your mountains came out better than mine. The suran wrap would not make an effect like yours did. I still liked them, though. Thanks for the idea.

  2. Great idea! They look beautiful! I did something similar but froze liquid watercolor in popsicle trays so students painted with watercolor ice. The salt makes them melt quickly and you can have a mini science discussion while they work.

  3. These look awesome...looking forward to doing this with our lesson on Alaska!! Great blog!!

  4. I understand how difficult it can be to travel with your supplies from room to room. Good thing you're so organized! I love this project and will try it out during the school year.

  5. These are so unbelievably beautiful and inspiring! What a creative project!

  6. These turned out fabulous. Very inspiring.

  7. Hi. I love these and they would fit my theme of "Mountain Room." I teach 2nd grade and would love to adjust it so they can make them. I am thinking of cutting out templates of mountains that they can trace. Any tip? Also, can you explain the process in a little more detail? Regular salt or kosher? Do you let the saran wrap stay on the paper until the paint is dry? How do you do a "wash"? Sorry for all the questions, I just really like them and would love to try it with my students!

    1. Hi Melia, thank you for your comment, I'm happy to answer questions! I bet that your second graders could make realistic mountain shapes, I like to pose it as a specific mini-lesson. Give them pictures to work from so that they can try to draw real shaped mountains instead of "logo mountains" as I call them, the triangle ones. Lesson 1- show them mountain examples, give them construction paper or tag board (9x12 or 12x18) and have them draw the mountain shape, then cut it out. Now it's their tracer. Lesson 2 - on 9 x 12 or 12x18 white paper, have them use watercolor with very watery brushes to apply the color so that it is really wet and the color blend from one to the next, as they are working use salt (kosher is great but regular salt is fine) and just sprinkle it. It has to be sprinkled on the wet part and don't move it around after (they will want to), then lay a piece of saran wrap over the painting, or part of it. push down on, it will trap the color into puddles underneath. Let it dry! Lesson 3 - pull up saran wrap, brush salt into trash. Then have the students lay their tracer on their painting, trace it, cut out the mountain shape from their mountain. You can have them put chalk or soft pastel on the edge of their tracer and brush it onto dark construction paper with a paper towel and it will create that aurora borealis sky effect. Staple the cut out mountains to the backgrounds. This was long I know! Feel free to leave your email I can touch base with you!