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Art and Ecology

Artists are often particularly keen observers and precise recorders of the physical conditions of the natural world. As a result, paintings can be good resources for learning about ecology. Teachers can use these lessons to examine with students the interrelationship of geography, natural resources, and climate and their effects on daily life. These lessons also address the roles students can take in caring for the environment.

Homer in the Bahamas

Grade Level: 5–8

Winslow Homer’s painting of a house in the Bahamas will introduce students to the climate and geography of this island nation. They will then break into groups to research possible pollutants and provide solutions to protect the inhabitants and land. Lastly, they will imagine daily life in the Bahamas by writing a journal entry.

Cazin in the Quarry

Grade Level: 5–8

Using Cazin’s painting The Quarry of Monsieur Pascal near Nanterre, students will hypothesize about the workings, setting, and size of this French quarry. Then, applying his working method of “memory painting,” they will draw or paint a setting from memory after close observation without taking notes or preparatory sketches.

Miró on the Farm

Grade Level: 5–8

Students will be introduced to farming in an arid climate through art-based inquiry of Miró’s The Farm. Learning that his family had to implement two water collection devices, students will collect and investigate the amount of rainfall in their region to design a sketch proposal for how to best collect rainwater for their local farms.

Vuillard in the Park

Grade Level: 5–8

With Vuillard’s painting of a park in Paris as a backdrop, students will explore the social concepts of parks both in this painting and their own life. They will then embody a character in the painting to write from their perspective. Lastly, they will select an outdoor scene that they will document seasonal and environmental changes through writing and sketching over a long period of time.

Inness in the Countryside

Grade Level: 5–8

Discussion of a landscape painting by George Inness will introduce students to the impact of the railroad to the countryside in mid-nineteenth century America. They will depict this same scenery as they envision it in the past and in the future. Lastly, they will write an essay on how they would preserve the environment as the head of a railroad company.

Rousseau in the Jungle

Grade Level: 5–8

While the other paintings in these lessons record actual locations, Rousseau imagined Tropical Forest with Monkeys from trips to botanical gardens, zoos, and illustrations in books. Students will conduct research and imagine themselves in a place other than where they live. They also will investigate the macaque monkey to compare to Rousseau’s depictions.

Borrow the teaching packet Art&

Pair clothing with regional climates in a matching game from The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences

Access activities, curriculum resources, and information that relate art, science, and the environment from the Environmental Protection Agency

View satellite images of environmental change and descriptions of issues affecting particular locations from the United States Geologic Survey site

Browse hundreds of science and geography lesson plans for fifth and sixth graders through the National Geographic's website

Download family-oriented PDFs from "Studying Nature" in An Eye for Art

Register for evening and weekend teacher professional development workshops and apply to participate in the summer teacher institute