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Not so scary Scarecrows: Scarecrow Watercolor and Collage

Scarecrow-art-project from DSS

This two-part lesson for first graders is one of my favorite fall art lessons. I love the collage aspect of this project as it teaches many skills: oil pastel resist, applying watercolor wash, cutting and pasting plus composition. It requires at least three, 40 minute classes or 2 one-hour classes.

Background supplies

12″ x 18″ watercolor paper
Palettes of liquid watercolors (blues, yellow, green, orange and brown)
Oil Pastels (white, green, black and brown)

Scarecrow Supplies

Craft paper
Popsicle sticks
Assorted small buttons
Black marker
raffia or yellow paper for “straw”
pencil, scissors and glue stick

Painting the background

The first phase involves oil pastels and watercolor paint. I prefer to use liquid watercolors for this project, rather than watercolor cakes, as the results are pure, not muddy. If you aren’t convinced, check out my post on liquid watercolor paints. After looking at pictures of fields and farmland, the kids are instructed to draw a few lines in oil pastel. We start with a rolling horizon line, add a few vertical lines for the fields and wavy, horizontal lines to break the large fields up. The kids use a white or yellow oil pastel to draw the sun and white oil pastel to draw and color in clouds.

The students paint the sky blue and watch the clouds appear like magic. Green, orange, brown and yellow watercolors are used to paint their fields. Some children will use the green oil pastel to add crops in the fields (but trythfully, I don’t have many first graders who get to that point!) Set aside to dry.

Making the Scarecrow

An easy way to make the scarecrow is to use templates. They’re easy to make and reduce the level of frustration most kids experience when trying to cut out a pair of pants. I make simple shirts and pants from cardstock and set the tray of the templates on each table. The children use the templates to trace onto craft paper and then add patches, buttons and raffia.
Making and assembling the scarecrow takes a little time but one time saver is to help the children tape (instead of gluing) the scarecrow to their Popsicle sticks. Of course, many children will glue it themsleves, but if you have extra adults in the class, put them to work!

Adding raffia underneath the pants and shirts is an adorable way to spice up the little scarecrow, but if you don’t have it  or run out like I did in this particular class, then you can use yellow paper.

Scarecrow Activity Pack




  1. Mrs. Palmer

    I am a deepspace groupie. I teach Kindergarten at a Catholic school in Tennessee. I have used your projects with great results. I would love to see some religious themes for Christmas. ann


    October 4, 2008

  2. Hi Ann,
    Thanks for stopping by! I’ll love sharing art projects so if you know of any links of great sites to share, that would be great!
    As a public school teacher, I don’t do religious themes so this might not be the right blog for that search…

    Patty P

    October 5, 2008

  3. regarding the scarecrows they are marvelous. What kind of paper do you recommend using for the project? Thanks


    October 27, 2008

  4. I use watercolor paper for the background and a variety of colored paper for the cut-outs. If you have a paper scrap box in your art room, now is the perfect time to get it out!

    Patty P

    October 27, 2008

  5. Hi …..you speak so glowingly of liquid watercolor. What kind (brand) do you suggest for elementary? I’ve always just used the Prang pan boxes. They’re fine, but the liquid type shown in your images seems much more intense! Suggestions, please!

    rebecca c

    October 8, 2010

    • Hi Rebecca,
      I do love liquid watercolor, especially for the younger students (K-3). The colors are glorious and the children marvel in their easy application. I buy Sax brand regularly, but I think Prang makes a good one as well. Honestly, I buy the cheapest brand available at the time. They’re all wonderful. You really should try them…and then let me know if you like them!


      October 8, 2010

  6. Love the use of liquid watercolors! How do you set these out for the kids? Do you use palettes? Thanks; I am a mobile art teacher always looking for organizational tips.


    October 16, 2010

    • One thing to do is to buy the 6-well plastic muffin tin palette. But instead of placing the watercolor paint inside, pour the paint into small condiment containers with lids. The palette will keep the plastic containers from tipping and spilling and then after the class, you can put on a lid.
      This is great for any type of specialty paint. You can save, rinse or reuse the paint, but not have to wash the palette. I think I need a photo don’t I?


      October 17, 2010

  7. Wow! I love your blog, Patty! I teach in a low income school district and we unfortunately don’t have art…I am loving this scarecrow idea (I teach 1st grade)!!!! You are so creative. Your staff should feel lucky to have you.

    Megan Wheeler

    October 21, 2010

  8. I love this lesson and have taught it with 4th graders for two years. This year I introduced Grant Wood’s Stone City, Iowa work of art before the students created their landscapes. Because we are from the midwest, this was a great opportunity to share the talents of an artist from our region. It also made it easier for them to create their “patchwork landscapes” and as a special surprise we added the scarecrows. So beautiful . . . I want to leave them up all year!

    Debi Baumert

    September 23, 2011

    • I’d love to see pictures…can you post them on DDS’s Facebook page? Or do you have a blog?


      September 23, 2011

  9. Patty, I am seriously considering getting liquid watercolor for one of my 1st grades. I have such a challenging class that drives me absolutely bananas and I’m thinking that using these instead of watercolor palettes could make my life easier! whats your opinion on the liquid water colors and what brand would you suggest?



    September 29, 2012

  10. Love these! I am wondering what kind of paper you recommend for painting with liquid water colours?


    September 21, 2014

    • Watercolor paper 90 lb school grade (more expensive paper isn’t necessary)

      Patty Palmer

      September 23, 2014

  11. Any tips for the rolling horizon and fields? I found this tricky to explain / model with grade ones 🙂 isome have depth (foreground) while others not so much. Thanks!


    September 27, 2014

    • Do a guided instruction for this part: point out the top and bottom of the paper. Ask kids to find the middle then place oil pastel, one hands width down from the middle. Place oil pastel on edge of paper and draw a slightly wavy line across the paper to the other side.
      Now draw a hill or a curved line on top of the curvy line. You get the idea. Just break down each line and do it step by step.
      Some kids can recognize the lines easily while others have awarder time. As long as there is some type of horizon line, then be okay with it.
      Hope this helps!

      Patty Palmer

      September 27, 2014

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