Hawksbill sea turtle endangered animals unit

Hawksbill sea turtle endangered animals unitFor many children the words "endangered animal" usually creates images of gigantic sea creatures or dinosaurs. Nonetheless, second-grade students usually understand the concept that many animals are at risk of becoming extinct, yet they have difficulty associating specific animals or images to the real life impact.

According to a factual sheet included in Molly Walsh's book, How to Draw Endangered Animals, 99 percent of all species that have ever existed on Earth have now become extinct. It also provides a selection of the animals that have become endangered or extinct due to natural causes. For example, volcanoes, diseases and climate changes are among a few alternate theories.

Humans, however, are the most common threat. As the deforestation continues due to the increase in world population, the effect upon habituation is often significant. Animals are lost due to the effects of pollution and human consumption. In 1972, the Endangered Species Act was created to protect animals that are deemed "endangered." This law makes it illegal to harm any animal on the list and allows people to be responsible for the well being of these special animals.

The hawksbill sea turtle is one of the animals we discuss in our unit of endangered animals. Humans have hunted this unique creature for its beautiful brown and yellow shell to such an extent, that it is considered one of the top 10 most endangered animals.

Making connections between the various subjects in the classroom and the art experience are a common goal in our school community. To fully understand the enormity of the threat of endangered animals and the possibility of the repercussions, the class participates in a group math lesson of fractions and a creative writing assignment in the classroom.

Each child selects a card of an endangered animal with the name and picture of the animal, the location of the habitat and a few interesting facts. Students then alternate reading about their animals in small groups and later write about them in their creative-writing journals.

Fractions are demonstrated visually by animal groups, regions or other similarities. Students are asked to move around the classroom forming new percentage groups. For example, the teacher may ask all children holding animal cards that depict mammals with four legs to stand on one side of the classroom. As a group the children would decide what percentage or fraction of students were four-legged mammals verses other varieties.

In the art room it is the goal of this lesson to reinforce concepts previously experienced such as color, line and shape. It is also our objective to explore the process of drawing animals by connecting basic shapes, to allow for a successful drawing experience for each student. Drawing animals is a favorite activity for this age group and introducing the students to endangered species promotes a further awareness of animals, in this case, the hawksbill sea turtle.

To inspire and motivate the students, photocopied images of various turtles are displayed along with posters and large reproductions for reference. Sounds of the ocean are played quietly to calm and focus students as they design their images in a series of four lessons.

As a group, we draw a sequence of shapes rotating a basic turtle body. Students are instructed to fill the page using large shapes with little detail. Black Sharpie[R] markers are used to create crisp, bold lines on the large clean white paper. Seaweed, fish, smaller turtles, rocks and other details are added to the background. Students are limited to no more than three additional features to save room for the next step in the lesson.

Tissue paper in cool colors is then applied with a glue decoupage wash to create the water background. Watercolor crayons are used in an additional session to fill the turtle with vibrant color illustrated with warm shades. Paint direction also serves as a review of warm and cool colors and color mixing. Students are thrilled to discover when using water to activate the watercolor crayons, paint is formed and will mix a brilliant orange from the red and yellow selections.

Often, a suggestion to students is helpful to rinse their paintbrush after using each warm color keeping colors bright and avoiding disappointment whereas mixing colors without rinsing contributes to a "muddy" watercolor technique. An equal surprise is shared when the colors bleed and blend together forming beautiful patterns and colors using tissue paper with the decoupage glue.

The lesson is divided into several weeks to allow for appropriate drying times and applications. Week 1 comprises information and drawing; week 2, watercolor crayons; week 3 and 4, tissue-paper application.

Finished products are impressive and a popular project to have framed by parents. Students love this process and are proud of the information acquired and artwork they have created. Students frequently design additional drawings of endangered animals on their own time and bring in their artwork to share with the class. It is especially interesting to see the children become the "experts" and share their new knowledge with the school community.


* 18" x 24" white paper (the heavier the better)

* Watercolor crayons (red, yellow and orange)

* Fine Sharpie[R] markers (black) Glue brushes

* Paintbrushes

* Plastic containers

* Tissue paper (blue, green and purple)

* Photocopied images

* Butcher paper or plastic to protect the tables


Students describe ways in which the principles and subject matter of other disciplines taught in the school are interrelated with the visual arts.


* Wolsh, Molly, How to Draw Endangered Animals. Troll Communications, 1999.

* Assorted animal books, photographs and images of turtles.

Tara L. Kanevski teaches K--8 art at Benjamin Franklin Classical Charter School in Franklin. Massachusetts.