Students learn about endangered animals through art sculptures
Warm Springs Intermediate School students in fourth grade teacher Christie Butts’ class learned about several animals at risk for extinction through an endangered animals art class with artist Lynn Lavin.
Lavin worked with Butts’ students and intermediate school art teacher Marianna Ruggiero for seven weeks before Christmas break to study and create sculptures of tigers, penguins, burrowing owls and polar bears, all of which are endangered species. The Morgan Arts Council sponsors Lavin’s art integration class.
Lavin taught children how to work with clay pinch pots—balls of clay with a hole inside—and pinch out the animal’s arms and legs. For the tigers, kids rolled out clay coils for the body and added arms and legs.
She also instructed them in the art of underglazing and glazing to give their sculptures color and shine before the clay animals were fired in the kiln.
Lavin said she likes working with the children a lot. Kids get to be creative and solve problems about how to make animal forms. They learn patience and a little art too, she said.
As they introduced the lesson on each animal, they discussed the animal’s characteristics, habitat and the reason why it’s endangered, Ruggiero said. As they sculpted and painted, they talked about its anatomy and development.
Lavin said they talked about the issues behind species being endangered, which can include global warming, environmental pollution, human destruction of their habitat, disease, invasive species competing for the same resources and being over-hunted for their fur, meat or other parts.
Tigers are endangered because of poaching and loss of habitat. Tiger parts are used in Chinese medicine, she said.
The students love learning about animals and care a lot about their plight, Lavin said. They also took a lot of pride in making their sculptures.
In science class, Butts introduced children to the animals’ food webs and showed them websites where they could research more about the animals.
An endangered animal book box was also added to the art classroom so children could explore more background about each animal, Ruggiero said.
The fourth graders were so enthusiastic about these endangered species and often surprised them with obscure facts which they already knew about them, she said.
Art integration has been a great success at the intermediate school, Ruggiero said.
“Most students had never worked with clay before, and this was a wonderful introduction to ceramics,” she noted.
Her class has been very fortunate to have been involved in so many activities this year, Butts said. Her students also participated in the student mock elections and planted the school garden.