Boy, do I love sunflowers! I wanted my young art stu- dents to love them as much as I do . . . but not with the
old sunflower in a brown pot art lesson; To me it needed a new kick, so I
decided to go big and grow big.
Sunflowers are easy to grow, so I
started the lesson four months earlier
with inexpensive seed packets. Plant
them around Mother’s Day in a sunny
spot next to your house or a fence.
They are a hearty plant and easy to
care for, even if you don’t have a green
thumb. There are many different
types to grow; just follow the directions on the back of the seed packet.
I plant many
varieties, but I
most like the colors of the Mexican sunflower
and the dramatic
height of the
Mammoth sunflower. All summer I enjoy them in
my garden, and when school begins in
the fall, they are at their most beautiful.
Using sunflowers as a life study, I
had my kindergarten and first-grade
students touch and sketch the plants
cut from my garden. They felt the
seeds and we had a great discussion
about shapes, line, pattern, and tex-
ture. We also read the book, Camille
and the Sunflowers, a story about Vin-
cent van Gogh by Lawrence Anholt.
We talked about van Gogh and his
paintings of sunflowers in the brown
pot, but our paintings were going to be
different—they were going to be spec-
Drawing and Painting
For the paintings, we used 18 x 24" ( 46
x 61 cm) 80 lb. white drawing paper.
Students drew a large circle on the
paper with crayon and then, looking
at the flower, drew the triangles for
petals. I gave them one paint tray and
a large brush. We used yellow, red, and
paint with no
water available to
clean the brush. I
to mix the colors
directly on the
paper. In the last
few minutes of painting, I gave them
green for the petals. That way, the
green stayed in limited areas of their
Using sunflowers as a life
study, I had my kindergarten
and first-grade students
touch and sketch the plants
cut from my garden.
and textures that we saw with the
original garden sunflowers. Using oil
pastels, I let students go wild! The bold
and intense colors on each student’s
artwork made each one unique and
successful. The large paper created a
wonderful effect in the hallway when
they were on display.
At the end of the lesson, the seeds
from my garden sunflowers were
placed in individual snack baggies (ten
seeds per pack) and distributed to my
artists in the spring to be planted in
their yards. I can’t wait until summer
when our community’s front yards will
be full of color.
Now the only problem I have with
this lesson is my older students asking
when they can make their own spectacular sunflowers. Oh well, I do have
a big garden to harvest.
Molly McNeece is an art teacher at
Schoenhals Elementary School in Southfield, Michigan. mcneecemk@southfield.
Students identify connections between
the visual arts and other disciplines in
Adding Patterns and Textures
When the tempera paint was dry, it was
time to add the shapes, lines, pattern,