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Audubon Animal Track Triptych (lesson plan)


By researching field guides and the work of John James Audubon, students will research an assigned bird. Students will create a story about the bird using the Elements of Story, and create their own bird track print from a collagraph stamp they create. Students will then create a triptych to accompany the research and the story with three panels: 1 - wide view with oil pastel, 2 - close-up view using scratchboard, 3 - track view only using monoprint track students created. Students will assemble the work into a display for exhibit.

Grade Levels
4th Grade
NC Standards Correlations
Visual Arts
4.V.2, 4.CX.2
English Language Arts

Artwork Related to this Lesson

  • The Birds of America, Plate #26: "Carolina Parrot"

    The Birds of America, Plate #26: "Carolina Parrot", by John James Audubon

    Audubon’s ambitious goal was to illustrate all the species of North American birds at life size. In the 1820s...

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  • The Birds of America, Plate #231: "Long-billed Curlew"

    The Birds of America, Plate #231: "Long-billed Curlew", by John James Audubon

    It is easy to see how the long-billed curlew got its name. The largest species of shorebird, its bill can...

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Student Learning Objectives

  1. Students will be learn about the elements of art and how those elements are present in artwork from the museum collection and supplemental artworks.
  2. Students will learn about the habitats and characteristics of birds, and the history of field guides prior to photography, focusing on John James Audubon.
  3. Students will learn about the elements of story by researching and writing about an assigned bird.
  4. Students will create their own bird tracks using the collagraph printmaking technique.
  5. Students focus on use of realistic texture and space to create a mixed media tryptic illustration of their assigned bird.
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  1. Students are introduced to John James Audubon by viewing Carolina Parrot and Long-billed Curlew, Jacqueline Davies’ book The Boy Who Drew Birds, and field guides and nature illustrations. Use a discussion strategy such as I Wonder with students to explore the works of art.
  2. Students warm up by sketching birds and their feathers and features from practice sheets on drawing feathers and textures and from video tutorials on drawing realistic textures.
  3. Students are assigned a bird to research and must write a brief essay about the bird using this research and the writing process. Details about the bird and its appearance must be included in the story.
  4. Student must create the track/footprint of the bird from mat board using the collagraph monoprinting technique, with support. See this post on The Art of Ed for instructions. (This is similar to making their own stamp. Store bought stamps of bird tracks could also be used for this step if handmade ones do not work as back up.)
  5. Students must create a triptych (a composition made up of three image panels) to accompany the research and the story with three panels:
    1. wide view with oil pastel
    2. close-up view using scratchboard
    3. track view only using monoprint track students created
  6. Assemble story and triptych into a display for exhibit. See a student example here.

Note: This could be expanded to other animals and plants – not only birds.

Written by Trish Brownlee and Gerard Falls with Kalo Haslem, Mahlia Majka, and Wanda McLaughlin


Students will be assessed with a rubric that will evaluate the following:
● ELA Standard: Does the student’s writing about the bird use accurate supporting details?
● Techniques: Has the student successfully used texture in the work? Did their collagraph print accurately portray the birds tracks? Is their depiction of the bird realistic?
● Science: Does the student’s research on the bird include environmental adaptations? Is that research clearly portrayed in the written and visual elements of the project?
● Craftsmanship: Is the project presented neatly, without tears and smears? Are the three required elements included?

Lesson Resources

NCMA Images from The Birds of America


Jacqueline Davies, The Boy Who Drew Birds

Leslie and Roth, Keeping a Nature Journal

also: books from the Audubon Society and illustrated field guides of birds.

Tutorials on Drawing Birds and Feathers:

How to Draw a Feather

How to Draw Wings

Bird Drawing Tutorials from John Muir Laws

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