For years I have been fascinated by the various shows, books, and stories of “unlikely friends.” Predator and prey as BFFs—things like that! Animals that otherwise don’t seem to go together.
The first time I remember this concept of predator and prey as BFFs was when I was visiting Santa Fe a few years ago. There was a man on the Plaza who had a “show” on the street corner. His dog had a cat perched on top of him, and the cat had a mouse on top of him. He had trained them to co-exist and to sit very still for their spectators.
I can’t be sure that these animals actually WANTED to be friends. However, they definitely played along and convinced me and certainly left a lasting impression!
Knowing how much I love animals, my husband gifted me a copy of the book, Unlikely Friendships, which contains all sorts of odd-but-true animal pairings. It’s a book that I have enjoyed looking at for years.
Unlikely Friends Animal Art Project
Recently, I saw the book on my shelf, and it occurred to me that the idea of “unlikely friends” would make a great animal art project for my students.
My lesson is pretty easy and could be modified, adapted, and adjusted in many different ways. I’ll share with you how I did the lesson, but of course, do what works for you. Adapt to fit the needs of the children you teach and the supplies you have on hand.
This is a great homeschool art lesson (that’s how I used it this time around). However, I can only imagine the possibilities of a class full of unlikely friends animal art projects on a bulletin board! In fact, if you do that, email me so I can see them ([email protected])—please!
I’ve also compiled these instructions into a downloadable PDF that you can get HERE.
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Supplies: You will want to use basic art supplies such as…
- Paper (you will need thicker, watercolor paper if you are painting)
- Watercolor paint
- Watercolor brushes
- Cups & water
- Step-by-step animal drawing pages/books like these from Amazon. If you already have how-to-draw animal books, you’ll want to pull them out for your students to use. You could also find some step-by-step drawing pages online and print them for your children. Or you could have your students use their devices to look up the steps to draw the animals they want to use. Also, I have several FREE handouts that you might like to use.
Step 1: Read
It’s easy to integrate art and language arts when you use books. In fact, it’s one of the most common ways that you can combine art and English Language Arts.
I like to reinforce reading with my students any time I possibly can.
To start this lesson, read a few stories from the book, Unlikely Friendships to your students. You could also have them pass the book around and practice reading aloud, or they could choral read if you can procure a class set of these books (PTA maybe??).
Step 2: Draw the hamster (or first animal)
I started this animal art project by having my students practice drawing a hamster. We did this on basic copy paper, and we did the steps a few times together, so they felt comfortable drawing their hamster on the larger, nicer paper. Also, the placement and size of their hamster will depend on what animal they are going to pair with this unlikely friend.
I chose to have them all draw a hamster first since that’s an obvious “prey” that would go well with just about any other animal. However, feel free to have your students choose BOTH of the animals to pair together.
We used a tutorial by Art for Kids Hub on how to draw a hamster.
Step 3: Draw the “unlikely friend” (second animal)
Once the hamsters were drawn on the final paper, I repeated the process of having the children practice drawing their second unlikely friend (cat, snake, etc.) on the practice paper.
Then, when they felt ready, they drew their second unlikely friend onto the final piece of paper.
This is when the relationship between the two friends starts to come together. For example, one of my students wrapped a snake around her hamster, while another drew a cat sleeping peacefully on a wall above hers.
Talk to your students about the background of their pictures as well. Encourage them to draw a “scene” or a design, so the background of the paper is not just blank.
Step 4: Outline with permanent markers
Once everything was drawn, then we outlined our drawings with a permanent marker. This is important if you plan to paint. If you outline using water-soluble markers, they will run when you add water to the paper from the paint.
If you decided not to paint, you could have your students color their final artwork with crayons, colored pencils, or markers (water-soluble is fine if they aren’t painting).
Step 5: Paint
Once their pictures were drawn and outlined, then we used watercolor paint to paint the final pictures. Again, please encourage your students to use light colors first and then work toward the darker colors to help keep their rinse water clean longer.
TIP: If your students haven’t used watercolor paint before, teach them to create darker colors by using less water and lighter colors by using more. They can also create darker colors by adding a second layer of paint to a dry area. By layering colors on top of each other, they will get that classic watercolor look that we all love so much!
This animal art project is an engaging and fun project that I know everyone will enjoy! So, have fun creating “unlikely friends” masterpieces.
If you decide to do this lesson and share it on social media, please tag me so I can see what your students created. Nothing brings me more joy than seeing what your students do with my lesson plans.
Speaking of YouTube. If you are a visual learner, like I am, you might want to see these steps in video format. If so, check out my YouTube video about this lesson. Also, this video is great to use with your students. You can find it HERE.
Take It A Step Further
Want to extend this lesson a step further? Have your students write a nonfiction story about their unlikely friends. This art project lends itself easily to a writing prompt when it’s complete. Students could write about their unlikely friends or switch up the artwork with classmates, and children could write stories about the artwork of their peers.
Want this blog post written in a lesson plan format? If so, download my Unlikely Animal Friends Art Project HERE. This will allow you to print this as a lesson plan to use in your classroom.
Thanks for reading,