Creativity, teamwork, and art integration are what you’ll find in these lessons.
You have come to the right place if you are a classroom teacher, art teacher, parent, or caregiver.
Classroom teachers: There are many ways you can use these ideas to infuse art into your lessons. The first activity uses watercolor and salt — great for your science lessons to reinforce water absorption. The second activity, my collab poster, is great for Earth Day. Students can make my poster and pair it with a custom sign that says, “Save the Sea Turtles.” You can pair my poster with any nonfiction text about sea turtles to create a great lesson— Earth Day or any day!
Art teachers: Every lesson in here would be great in an art classroom. The first lesson is how to draw sea turtles and paint them with watercolors — perfect for the art room. You can talk to your students about the techniques of watercolor paint and maybe even a lesson on monochromatic (all shades of green). My collaboration poster is great for fostering teamwork in your class or among several of your classes.
Parents: If you are a parent homeschooling or who has a child that is enthusiastic about Sea turtles then you have come to the right place. I have three very cool activities in this post for your child. If you decide you like my collaboration poster, you can modify the poster size by printing at 50%. You could also use the pages of the poster as an incentive to your child – have them do one a day for a month and then slowly create the final poster. These lessons are great for supporting creativity in your children.
All to say, there are a lot of great uses for these projects, and since I’ve done them all myself, I know what to expect. So, let’s get started!
**Be sure you download my free How to Draw a Sea Turtle handout that is included in this post.**
Watercolor Sea Turtle Painting with Salt — Art + Science
To connect this project to science, we used salt on our backgrounds. This is a chance for students to visually see how salt and water interact and how the salt absorbs the water.
I gave each student a poster board to create HUGE paintings so that they have plenty of space to experiment with how the salt changes their paintings…but more on that later; I’m getting ahead of myself because I can’t wait to share this Sea Turtle activity with you.
First, let’s talk about the supplies and materials you’ll need for this project.
- Large paper or poster board
- Pencil and eraser
- Permanent marker (optional)
- Watercolor paint and paintbrush
- Cup of water and paper towels
- FREE How-to-draw a Sea Turtle handout that you can download HERE.
Step 1: Practice Drawing
Before students draw their sea turtle on their large piece of paper or poster board, I recommend having them practice following the directed drawing steps. They can do this in a sketchbook or on a separate sheet of paper. Practicing will help them feel confident in their ability to draw a sea turtle.
Drawing large is another skill in and of itself. It’s nice for kids to feel confident about the steps before they try to draw large.
Step 2: Draw an Outline
When it’s time to draw on the poster board, I remind my students to draw lightly with their pencils so that they can easily erase if they want to change anything. I also encourage my students to take up the whole page. Drawing on this scale is not something most kids are used to doing, and it helps to have the reminder as they work to draw big!
After your students have their sea turtle how they want it, they can outline over their pencil with a permanent marker. Drawing a permanent marker outline is optional, but I recommend it. The darker outline will make the shape of the sea turtle stand out clearly against the watercolor. As always, do what works best for you and your students!
Step 3: Paint Turtle
Now, your students are ready to add watercolors to their sea turtles. I encouraged my students to start by painting only the sea turtle at first so that they could save the background for the next step.
Watercolor Painting Tip
When you paint, it’s helpful to start with light colors like yellow or orange and work toward dark colors like blue or purple. This helps to keep your water cleaner for longer and keeps the colors in your artwork looking bright.
I was working with some students who were already familiar with my salt-in-watercolor painting trick. They felt comfortable combining this step with the next, opting to add salt throughout their painting instead of just in the background. (These students had previously worked on either the version of this project where we painted hummingbirds or the version where we painted lions!)
Step 4: Add Salt
Next, it’s finally time to put your science goggles on (just kidding!) and pull out the salt! Since salt absorbs water, adding salt to wet watercolor paint creates crystal patterns in the paint. This happens because when the salt absorbs the water, it pulls in the color along with it. The result is a beautiful crystal design in the painting.
I like to have my students wait to paint the background until I’ve explained how the salt works because it’s easier to work quickly when using just one color. For the backgrounds, I give students just one color of liquid watercolor with a large brush. This way, they are able to cover the background and add salt before the paint dries. This will be less of an issue if you are working smaller.
This project could work to reinforce learning about salt or as an opportunity to practice making scientific observations that you can discuss as a class. It is also a great time to talk to students about salt and how it affects our bodies, why we are thirsty when we have a lot of salty food, etc.
Tips for Working with Salt
- Salt works best in places with little pools of water/paint.
- Once the salt is added, you can’t add any more paint to that section of the artwork, or you will paint over the crystal design.
- Using too much salt in one spot will make the crystal designs hard to see or muddied.
Once the paintings are dry, the final thing your students will need to do is wipe off the salt. I highly recommend having your students hold their paintings flat until they are outside or over a trash can. This helps to avoid a mess of salt everywhere.
Download my FREE directed drawing Sea Turtle handout HERE.
Pop Art Turtle Collaboration Poster — Team Building
My Pop Art Sea Turtle collaborative poster is a great way to start a unit or cap one off. It is also an engaging way to practice working together and show that everyone’s contribution is important.
My Pop Art Sea Turtle Poster works in the same way as my other collaboration posters. Each kid will color one of the 35 pieces of the poster. Each piece fits on a standard 8.5″ X 11″ sheet of paper.
After your students have colored their individual pieces of the poster, then they can cut their pieces out and assemble them side by side to create the final poster.
You could help them assemble the poster, but I highly recommend letting them try it so they can work on problem-solving and teamwork. However, this will depend on the age of your students. If your students are too young to work on putting the poster together, you could do it and then surprise them with the final poster.
There are two options for the pages of the poster. The first option is where kids can color according to a color key. The second option has no color key, so kids can color with whatever colors they (or you) desire.
Both options will make a beautiful poster that measures approximately 35″ X 63.” This size is perfect for a door decoration! If that is too large for your space, you can adjust your printer settings. For example, you could print two “pieces” to a page of paper and make a smaller version. Reducing the size of the poster is great for homeschooling families. Or for classrooms with limited space.
This sea turtle activity is a great way to complement lessons about sea turtles, ocean life, or Earth day and is a great way to introduce students to Pop Art. Having a gorgeous student-created classroom decoration is the icing on the cake!
I love working with Pop Art because it encourages students to use colors and patterns in new and unexpected ways. Pop Art gives students permission to use “unusual” colors in their work.
Group collaboration posters are a lot of fun and leave a lasting impression. However, students don’t get to walk away with anything tangible to show their families (unless you do the next sea turtle activity in this post). For this reason, I have included a bonus 2-page coloring sheet with my Pop Art Sea Turtle poster. So your students have something to keep. These pages are very useful for early finishers as well.
You can find the Pop Art Sea Turtle Collaboration Poster HERE.
Finish-The-Picture Activity — Creativity
We used the pieces from my Pop Art Sea Turtle Poster for this activity. After we were done displaying it in our classroom, that is. This is a variation on an activity that I call “Finish the Picture.” Where we take an existing image, glue it to a blank sheet of paper, and create new art that includes that image (disguises and hides it in our new art). More on that at the end of this section.
To start, I carefully disassembled my Pop Art Sea Turtle Poster. Then, I gave my students a piece that they hadn’t originally colored.
Next, I prompted my students to create a new artwork incorporating the piece. I asked them to do so in a way that disguised the original piece.
My poster pieces are designed to be printed on a standard 8.5″ X 11″ page. For this reason, I gave my students a larger paper. I wanted them to have enough room to work! I gave my students a 12″ X 18″ paper to work with.
If you have to use smaller paper, you could always cut the poster pieces down into smaller pieces. Either way, give your students a piece of paper that gives them plenty of room to express their creativity in their new design. I’m so proud of what my students came up with. I knew they would blow my socks off—and they did! When given a little jump start, or as I like to say, a creativity stARTer, kids will make some pretty amazing things! We just have to learn to trust them for the artists that they are.
I’ve written a blog post that includes more on “Finish the Picture” and other creativity stARTers that you can see HERE. Also, I have creativity stARTers in my TPT store that I call “Card stARTers.” You can find one set for Valentine’s Day HERE and one for Christmas/Holidays HERE.
Thank you for reading and making art with your students!