“Me and the World Around me”

An exploration of place-based education through eco-art

Cosy Corner by Carl Larsson, 1979

By Mary Finney
A 5th Grade Art Unit Lesson

Merriam-Webster defines a treasure as something that is valuable and kept in a
safe place. When we think of “treasure”, the object of value often changes from person
to person; whether it is money, gold, gems, etc. Whatever the object it is common
believe that a treasure worth having is always hard to find. There is one treasure
however that you already possess, and may not have thought of. It allows you to
breathe fresh air no matter where you’re standing. It provides all of the food you eat. It
even provides you with a place to live. It’s your environment. Although it’s not often seen
as the marvel that it is, we would be nothing without it. Many in the past have realized
the amazing benefits that our environment has to offer, and taken its availability for
granted. Have you ever thought about how different things would be if we didn’t have
the earth to provide us with everything we needed to live? Would we even exist? Would
we be as happy? We live a very opportunistic life because of the resources that the
earth provides; and in order to keep it that way, we have to take care of the earth. We
need to think about how we impact on the earth both positively and negatively. David
Sobel said if we want children to flourish to become truly empowered, then let us allow
them to love the earth before we ask them to save it. What kind of impact do you have
on your environment? What choices will you make to take care of your environment and
the place we call home? In this elementary unit for 5th graders the students will explore
their own definitions of home throughout their environment and community by exploring
the works of artist like Barry Rosenthal, Monika Margrett, Carson Ellis, and Robin
Wood. Over the course of 3-50 minute classroom sessions, the students will create 3
mixed media pieces that aim to express the students awareness and significance of
their role in the community and environment that they call home.

Enduring Ideas/Essential Questions

How can symbols be used to represent home?

What kind of impact do you have on your environment?

How are we all affected by the good and harmful things done to the

How can my actions affect my environment?

State Standards:
I have aligned the lessons to correspond accordingly to the North Carolina Curriculum
Standards in Visual Art. Through discussions and open critiques used in this unit, the
students will able to use the language of the visual arts to communicate effectively.
When provided with the lesson objectives as well as the information regarding the
subject matter, the students will apply creative and critical thinking skills to artistic
expression in order to solve the problem with a solution that works. After reviewing the
relevant resource material the students will create art using a variety of tools, media,
and processes, such as relief print processes and installations safely and
appropriately. By reviewing various types of resources the students will understand
the global, historical, societal, and cultural contexts of the visual arts in regards to
the theme “Me and the World around me”. In order for the students to understand the
interdisciplinary connections and life applications of the visual arts they will have
to research the subject matter and Use critical analysis to generate responses to a
variety of prompts such as class presentations and critiques; to discover how the
references of subject matter related to their own personal experiences.
Lesson Objectives
In this following lessons, the students will: (1) recognize and discover the importance a
sense of place can bring to our ideas about home, how this perspective can change the
way we we view our environment, and the effect we have on the world around ; The
students will (2) explore various ways the earth is being harmed by people as well as
ways to assist in environmental preservation; and (3) research how other artists have

used their artistic expression in different ways to made creative statements about the
Lesson 1: “Home Sweet Home: Me and My Home”
How do you define the word home? Merrian-Webster defines “home” as a place of one’s
residence; or the social unit of a family living together. Author Joseph C. Neal wrote a
popular saying “Home is where the heart is.” In the Pixar animated movie Finding
Nemo, one of the main characters named Marlin’s fought through a long trying journey
only to find that his long lost son was dead. In sunken dismay Marlin no longer wanted
the company of his companion Dory. In response Dory replied, “I remember things
better when I’m with you. When I’m with you, I’m home.” What do you think she meant
by that? How do you define home? Write students’ responses on the board. Then, read
and present Carson Ellis’ book Home, and openly discuss possible meanings of home
presented in his work.
Using each of these examples as a reference, ask the class to write down what their
definition of home is and if they could visually symbolize it, what would that symbol look
like? Next have an open discussion and share everyone’s symbols.
Tools and Materials
Acrylic Paint, Foam/wooden blocks, small collected material (buttons, puzzle pieces,
etc.), Glue, Magazines, White drawing paper
Following the discussion on “What defines home?” have each student write their
answers down in their journals, which they will create on the first day of class. Each
student will share his or her answer that they wrote into their journals. Along with their
“home” definitions, have students brainstorm things in their life that make their
residence fit their definition of home. Review Carl Larsson’s “Cozy corner,” his life, and
the meanings of different symbolic things in his artwork. Following our discussion, ask
students to identify memorable and notable things that they like about their homes and

have them create a mixed media tile piece using found/collected material that
represents their “home.”
Big Ideas and Essential Questions:
How can symbols be used to represent the meaning of home?
How and why does the meaning of a symbol differ from artist to artist?
What the students will need to know:
What their own definition of home is and how the word home can be symbolized.
What the student will need to be able to do:
Relate a personal experience in regards to the lesson and symbols of home.
Visually articulate what they learned in the lesson.
Following the completion of the assignment, assist in leading an informal discussion in
groups about what students’ pictures symbolize and what they mean to them. Following
the discussion, have the students return to their journals and reflect on what may have
changed in their definition of home. What makes your residence a home to you? What
kinds of things, if they were not present, would change your home into being a
residence or something else and why?
Sample Rubric
Project Criteria


Student is able to
explain symbol of home
Symbol of home is
Use of a variety of





Presentation (design)
Artist Studied
Carl Larson
Carson Ellis
Lesson 2: “All in the numbers: The Environment and Me”
Tools and Materials
Cardstock, Glue/tape, Small collected materials, Construction paper
Review 18th Century Cree Indian Poem:

Only when the last tree has died
and the last river been poisoned
and the last fish been caught
will we realize we cannot eat money
After reading this poem, have the students write in their journals what they feel the
words of the poem mean to them. Then have an open discussion about the students’
responses. What does this poem imply on how humans affect the environment? The
class will review environmental awareness works by Barry Rosenthal and Robin Wood
and discuss the main ideas behind their works. Following the discussion, the students
will research statistics about one subject, animal or thing in the environment affected by
harmful influences and create a mixed media statement piece.
Following the discussion, have the students research statistics about one subject,
animal or thing in the environment affected by harmful influences and create a mixed
media statement piece or informational graphic about their subject and findings.

Big Idea and Essential Questions:
How do humans affect the environment?
How are we all affected by the harmful and the good things done to the environment?
The students will need to know:
How to conceptualize and interpret words into meaning.
How to relate the main idea of literature to personal life.
What students will be able to do:
Recognize the significance of change and moving forward.
Assessments will be peer and teacher critique of assignments (paper & project
assessments). Students will be assessed on how successfully they are able to explain
the meanings behind certain images and big ideas. They must also meet the criteria of
the unit rubric and all of its requirements.
Sample Rubric
Project Criteria






Statistic visually represented
Use of material
Presentation (design)

Artist Studied
Barry Rosenthal (http://barryrosenthal.com/)
Robin Wood (robinwood.de/stop-deforestation)

Lesson 3: “My sustainable ways: My Community & Me”
Tools and Materials
Large white heavy duty drawing paper, Markers, Crayons, Water color paint, Scrap,
paper, Glue
The class will discuss Maslow’s hierarchy of needs in the form of a riddle. What 3 things
would you want to have with you if you were stranded on a desert island? This question
will help guide students around the fact that without the basic needs such as food, water
and shelter, all things that can be provided through nature, cannot be obtained without
nature. Using online resources, we will discuss the top ten air pollution and global
warming contributors known today as well as the harmful effects they have on the
environment. Review works by David Bonazzi and Boris Pelcer to see successful
examples of pollution awareness done by artists.
Using all the information learned as well as reviewed from prior lessons, have the
students create a work of art or information graphic that raises awareness about both
the positive and negative effects human can have on the environment.
Big Ideas & Essential Questions:
How do my actions affect my environment?
How can I help my environment thrive?
What the students will need to know:
Effective steps towards problem solving
What the students will need to be able to do:
Visually articulate an idea

The students must be able to interpret their visual concept and verbally articulate the
meaning behind it. All requirements must be met along with the rubric criteria.
Artist Studied
David Bonazzi (davidebonazzi.com)
Boris Pelcer (borispelcer.com)
Sample Rubric
Project Criteria


Visually shows negative effects on the
earth done by humans
Visually shows positive effects on the
earth done by humans
Use of variety of material