Sunday, January 23, 2011

Polar Bears Revisited

Last year I did a post on my Polar Bears but did not have many pictures of it's adaptation for the classroom. 

I completed this year's Polar Bears with Grade 1 last week and presented it as part of this weekend's workshop with Calgary teachers so I thought I would update this post for all of you out there in blogland!

At school we do this project on paper that is about 12 X 18............

so when I scan it you only see a portion of the picture.

- watercolor paper
- blue and purple tempera disks
- paintbrush
- gesso or white liquid tempera
- stencils (see template 1 and template 2)
- plastic cling wrap
- salt
- plastic cup
- kleenex
- fine sharpie

Tape down your paper to an art board.  I get the kids to lightly pencil in a horizon line.

They paint in a purple sky.

While the paint is wet we quickly wrap a Kleenex on the bottom of a plastic cup....

and then press onto the painting where we want the moon to be...count to 10 and then lift the cup.
We then take a little salt and add it to our sky hoping to get a little snow effect....make sure to leave that salt on until the sky is fully dry.

Paint in your ice.....

Have your plastic cling wrap ready to go and while the blue paint is still wet......

...lay it on the blue paint along the horizon line.

smoosh it a bit trying to get some wrinkles and little air pockets so you get that ice crystal appearance.  Leave the plastic wrap on to dry.

If the paint has dried before you were able to wrestle that plastic wrap onto it just re moisten it with another pass of the brush.

Take the template, cut it out and trace it onto thin cardboard (cereal box).  Then cut it out...I always cheat and just cut through one of the sides, I then just tape it back together.

I find with kids it's good to have lots of cardboard space outside of the stencil shape as they can get a little eager in their pouncing.

At the weekend workshop I gave everyone a little bear stencil that I cut out using the Cricut (come in handy when you need 80 stencils), using transparency sheets.

This art project can easily be adapted to a black bear project making a summer or fall background (note to self: Make up a Black Bear Stencil Project) hopefully you'll see that one soon posted!

When the background is dry remove the plastic wrap and brush off the salt.
The kids hold the stencil in place and pounce in white liquid tempera or gesso.  The gesso is nice because it so thick it actually adds a furry texture.

You need to wipe off the stencil a bit with paper towel before using it with the next student so you won't have any smudges.

I have the kids practice pouncing up and down, you don't want brushing back and forth as the paint brush bristles may actually get under the stencil.


Let dry and then using the sharpie you can add the nose, eyes, and a few claws.

That's it...Great work Grade 1!!

See you next time.


  1. This is so beautiful and easy!

  2. As usual,work simply and impressively! I admired and inspided you!

  3. I love it. Thanks for sharing the step. I will have to put this in my 'future file'. Thanks again for sharing!

  4. And just when I thought you couldn't top one of your projects - you have! Love the colors and the techniques you've used for texture.

  5. Very impressive work! I'll teach this to my son. Thanks for the tutorial!

  6. Just found your blog when I was looking for Valentine crafts. I just wanted to thank you for sharing your step by steps and templates so that I can do these with my boys. We recently moved from one state to another and the new district we are in only has 1 art teacher for several elementary schools and she is on a rotation among them, so my boys only get art once every 6 weeks instead of the once a week they were used to. Your blog will be a blessing for us! Thank you!

  7. We did this today. Both the parents and children were impressed with the results. Thank you very much for sharing.

  8. I am always so impressed with the projects you create for your students and how wonderful they look when completed. I don't work with children, I actually teach art classes for Seniors who live in Assisted Living, Memory Care etc. I have used a couple of your ideas with my classes- and we are now working on your Eggshell mosaics with the watercolor backgrounds. We will be finishing up these projects this month and I will post on my new blog at Hope you will check me out sometimes! And thank you very much for all of your great ideas!

  9. Hi Gail,

    I absolutely loved this project! It's so well thought out and uses fun techniques. I did it this week with my two children during their Winter Break from school and linked to you here:

    Thanks for sharing!

  10. Hi Gail - I love this project and have just borrowed your idea (again). Check out my version.

    Thanks so very much!

  11. Those are so great. Thanks for sharing.

  12. Thank you so much for your tutorials! I'm a general education teacher and we did this in class as part of a social studies/science unit on Antarctic exploration. I made a couple changes: we used watercolors instead, and rather than stencil penguins, I printed a bunch of still images from a PBS video we watched for the kids to look at, and we drew in silhouettes of Ernest Shackleton's shipwreck, penguins, lifeboats, tents, sled dogs, seals, etc. with black permanent marker. They turned out great! I'd love to submit a photo so you can see how your lessons are being taught in other classrooms, but I'm not sure how.

    Chantelle Kley

  13. These are so beautiful! I can't wait to try it with my students (at some point) Too many cool projects out little time!

  14. Thank you so much! My class have been asked to produce polar bear art to be exhibited in a gallery and I had no idea where to start. I now know exactly what we need to do to create amazing art!

  15. What Cricut cartridge did you use for the polar bears?

  16. Hey Pam
    I didn't use a circut cartridge. I found a picture I liked, cut it out, traced around it on cardboard/chipboard and then cut out the image to make the stencil.

  17. I love this and I linked your site to my blog so people could follow your directions. I tried this with my kinders and I think there were just too many steps for them. But I so appreciate your use of unconventional tools to make art! Thanks for the great idea!

  18. This was a terrific project! We used it as part of our celebration of International Polar Bear Day this week and had lots of fun with it. Thanks!

  19. a great project, and if I were working with kids, I'd be using it. Instead, I'm using the walking polar bear stencil in my bedroom--where I just painted the walls purple! Thanks!

  20. Amazing idea!! Thank for the perfect instructions!

  21. This is a beautiful lesson idea. The final artworks look so good. I would def like to try it with my art class. Thanks so much!

  22. These look wonderful! I just wondered whether it needs to be tempera paint to get the correct effect, or will any school paint work? Thanks!

    1. Hey anonymous,
      You can use disk tempera or watercolour paint. Liquid tempera won't give you that ice effect with the plastic wrap.
      Hope that helps.

    2. Hi! I teach weekend, Spring Break and Summer camps at my local wildlife rehab center in Oregon. Next Saturday the theme is Polar Bears and Penguins. I can't wait to try out this idea! I absolutely love your site. Your step-by-step instructions and pictures do the trick for someone like me who is artistically challenged

  23. Think these pictures look absolutely stunning, can't wait to try with my 4-5 yr olds.

  24. These pictures are amazing! Will it work with poster paints? That's all we have!

  25. Oh, this is soooo beautiful!
    I'm definitely making it with my daughter!
    Thank you so much!

  26. My little 4 years old just finished this artwork on a canvas. She absolutely loves the ice effect. Wrinkling the plastic wrap was really fun! :-)

  27. I'm the Editorial Assistant for Fun Family Crafts and I wanted to let you know that we have featured this project! You can see it here:

    Thanks for a yet another outstanding project idea!

  28. You work is amazing. Thank you for sharing

  29. How long is the suggested drying time for background before polar bear addition? We have one hour for parent-led art lesson - any suggestions on how to accomplish the effects in this time? Thank you & looking forward to seeing our 4th/5th graders'works of art!

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  30. It takes a little while for the backgrounds to dry. In order to speed this up you can bring a hair dryer or 2 and blow them a bit. This is what I do in my studio when I am working.