Ecosystems Inspire Class 2 Artists

1910. 1965. 1940. These were some of the guesses Class 2 students offered in a recent art class when asked when they thought photography was invented. After a few thoughtful moments, Lower School Art teacher Lauren McCarty explained that photography has been around for a little less than 200 years and that, although this may seem like a long time, it actually wasn’t in the too distant past that scientists had to rely on detailed sketches to illustrate their findings. As part of a larger cross-curricular unit of study encompassing science, social studies and art, the students were excited to learn that during this class they would be creating their very own ecosystem sketches!  

To begin, the group discussed what living and non-living things they could include in their ecosystems, and came up with a detailed list including trees, soil, birds, rocks, insects, and flowers. They brainstormed ways to artistically depict the water cycle, through sketches of clouds and puddles. Finally, they listed the various landforms they’ve studied that they could feature in their work, from forests and grasslands to mountains and caves.

“Your sketch should be something visually interesting that people will be excited to look at, but it should also teach them something,” Ms. McCarty instructed. “We will learn as we sketch, and people will learn from our sketches!”

Spread across the table were colorful nature books full of photos and drawings of insects, fish, flowers, and more – a dose of inspiration for the young artists as they brainstormed what they would draw.

The teacher asked the students to consider what season they’d like to sketch – “If it’s winter, the trees might be bare, or if it’s spring they might be covered in buds and flowers,” – and also reminded them of the importance of depth and scale.

“In this class we don’t draw ‘lollipop trees,’” Ms. McCarty added. She grabbed a large piece of paper and demonstrated how to draw a realistic tree, including a wide trunk with roots and widespread, uniquely shaped branches.

With this, the students were ready to create! They grabbed their sketchbooks and some freshly sharpened pencils and began to sketch. One young artist drew a bird perched on a branch inside of a lush forest. Another drew a river flowing through a valley, with a frog sitting on the shore. 

A hand raised as one student asked Ms. McCarty if she could add a fish to her stream. “Who is the boss of your work?” the teacher replied. “I am!” the student confidently declared, turning back to her sketch and drawing in several fish.   

Once their drawings are complete, the artists will transform them into colorful paintings, displaying their understanding of ecosystems and the beauty of our world for the entire Chapin community to see.

Browse photos from the class below: