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National Parks/Utah Biomes Landscapes Lesson Plan

Author: Kirsten Anderson

Year: 2015

Artform: Visual Art

Subjects: Science

Grade: 4th

Duration: Three 45 minute sessions

Overview: In honor of the anniversary of the creation of the National Parks, students will study desert and forest biomes and their appearance in Bryce Canyon, Cedar Breaks, Arches, and Zion National Parks. Students will create a landscape that showcases a particular landmark at one of these National Parks. Then they will write about the different biomes present in that park, information about animals, weather, and plant life in that area. The writing could be persuasive in nature similar to a travel advertisement or informative in nature. It will be posted below art work or in a brochure format.

Standards and Objectives

1b: blocking in
1c: portray cast shadows
1d: use value, color, texture to create interest

1a: Discuss how height placement creates an illusion of depth
2a: Draw the base of a distant object higher up on the page that objects in foreground. (Rules of atmospheric perspective)
2b: Portray a consistent light source.
1: Describe the physical characteristics of Utah’s wetlands, forests, and deserts.
2: Describe vegetation and animals found in Utah environments and how these organisms have adapted to the environment in which they live.

Present information, findings, and supporting evidence such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning.

Write informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information
The students will be able to identify different characteristics of forests and deserts that are present in four of the preselected National Park’s (in our vicinity). The students will be able to create a landscape using the rules of space: background, middle ground, foreground, and atmospheric perspective. The students will be able to demonstrate the use of cast shadow. The students will increase skill in the usage of chalk pastels. The students will also be able to intelligently discuss why someone would want to visit that National Park and what they will find if they went there.



(The students in our school visited Zion National Park the year prior so they had a bit of base knowledge before going in to this lesson.)

The instructor shows various photos of 4 of the National Parks while students share what they learned in core class about the characteristics of forest and desert biomes.

The instructor then introduces the element of space, specifically background, middle ground, foreground, and the rules of atmospheric perspective to create a convincing landscape.

The instructor will also show examples from local plein air artists.


The instructor will demonstrate how to start blocking in the landscape with simple organic line and shapes starting with the background toward the top of the page and moving down towards the foreground at the bottom. Tracing over the pencil lines with black marker is optional.

In session 2 after the students have completed drawing their landscapes, the instructor will demonstrate how to apply chalk pastel starting with background first then moving down the page. The students must use more blue and purple in nature towards the top of the page and colors will get more vibrant the further down they go. They will also add more detail and show objects getting larger the further down they get.


Students will select a photo reference from one of the National Parks to work from. They will block in with pencil on construction paper. This will take most of first session and part of second session.

Then after the instructor demonstrates with the chalk pastels they will block in areas with color and then go back and apply details mostly to the foreground and cast shadows. In their core classes, the students will write informative text to accompany the landscape.


The students will present their landscape to the class and share biome characteristics of that area and why we should visit that place. Students could also share why they chose that particular area to focus on and key points about their artwork they enjoyed, learned or struggled with.

Much of the academic background and writing is done is the core classroom. This lesson is a good way to integrate science, language arts writing, and speaking and listening skills. These projects will be shared with our community in celebration of the anniversary for the National Parks.
  • What are biomes and their characteristics?
  • What is atmospheric perspective?
  • Which National Park in Utah would I most like to visit and why?
Extra guidance will be given on an individual bases for those with special needs. To teach how to draw what you see, you could have students trace over features with dry erase markers on the laminated photos, so they can see the basic Lines and shapes. Then they draw on their paper accordingly.
  • Biomes
  • Forest
  • Desert
  • Adaptation
  • Deciduous
  • Coniferous
  • Bird
  • Insect
  • Reptile
  • Mammal
  • Fish
  • Atmospheric Perspective
  • Space
  • Vibrancy
  • Dull
  • Landscape
  • Background
  • Middle Ground
  • Foreground
  • Blocking-In
  • History of the National Parks
  • WPA National Parks Posters
  • Plein Air Painters of Utah
Class discussion about biomes and prewriting.

Final Artwork, final writing, and student presentation


  • Photos of landmarks in Bryce Canyon, Cedar Breaks, Arches, and Zions National Parks
  • 8 x 10 Blue Construction Paper or Canson Paper
  • Pencils
  • Black Markers
  • Chalk Pastels