Birch Trees Art Lesson

A perfect Fall or Winter birch tree art project. There are lots of variations to this lesson but kids love to paint the colorful backgrounds.

This is an easy art project that you can do with any aged child. Birch trees offer a dynamic contrast to many backgrounds. The opportunities are endless. I did a tissue paper background with my sixth graders in this multi-media birch tree collage and used watercolors for this Monet inspired birch tree art lesson.

Art Supplies

2 @ 12″ x 15″ white paper

Tempera paint (cakes or liquid)

Black tempera paint in small trays

Small and medium brush

White glue

Scissors

Small pieces of cardboard

A perfect Fall or Winter birch tree art project. There are lots of variations to this lesson but kids love to paint the colorful backgrounds.

The Background

I started this lesson with the intent of teaching my second and third grade students the differences between warm and cool colors, but I made a fatal error. I introduced a new art supply. I know. Bad me. I have never used tempera cakes before but since purchasing them for my Kinders, I have not stopped using them. I love ’em!!! Anyway…apparently so does my second and third grade students because they surely recognized the novelty product. Within minutes of my warm/cool color instruction, the children dove into all the colors and painted away adding swirls, lines, rainbows…whatever inspired them.

Sometimes you just have to roll with the wave of creativity!

The Trees

Put the background paper aside and give each student a new piece of white paper (same size as background). Set a tray of black paint, some itty-bitty cardboard pieces (about 3/4″ long) and some small brushes.

Starting at the bottom of one side of the paper, paint a long line up towards the top. I demonstrate how often you need to dip the paintbrush into the paint. I also stress that there are no straight lines in nature, so embrace the curves! (This is what I say to myself every morning afterall.) Paint another line to form the tree. Big tip: Before painting another tree, add bark. Read on…

Adding Bark

Dip one side of the small cardboard bit into the black paint, rest it against the edge of the tree and swipe across the tree. I found that with younger children, it’s best to add the bark to the first tree right away. You want to avoid a white piece of paper with lots of black lines. It becomes really hard for little ones to distinguish the trees and they end up adding bark between the trees. Trust me on this.

Extra flourishes

For early finishers, offer scraps of colored paper to cut into leaves. Have the children scatter the leaves over the trees, just like falling leaves in Autumn. Glue where they fall. Aren’t they beautiful?

Second and Third Grade Birch Trees…

A perfect Fall or Winter birch tree art project. There are lots of variations to this lesson but kids love to paint the colorful backgrounds.


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  • Christy

    I just pinned a few birch tree projects on pinterest if you want to see if one of those is the one you are looking for. I was wondering where that little search box went.

    http://pinterest.com/christy_vilaire/art-projects/

    Love your projects!

    • Amanda Garvin

      Is there anyone who can send me an invite for Pintrest. I have requested several with no avail and am dying to start pinning so I will not have 10 million links in my favorites…Please and Thanks!

  • Allison

    I love seeing all these art projects Patty. I don’t teach, but I find your projects so inspiring and I love seeing what the kids come up with. I find myself doing some of the projects too, and I loosen up and play with materials the way I used to – I think I lost that sense of art play as an adult and with your help I’m tapping into that again 🙂 So thank you Patty -your blog posts are the ones I most look forward to at the end of a busy week.
    x

  • Christy

    Pinterest has their search box back. 🙂

  • Kat

    I just started a birch tree project today with my 5th and 6th graders. Ive done the masking tape method in the past but am using your other version with the cut out birch trees over the tissue paper skys(warm and cool color skys) …. I LOVE the look of these ones- they look very similar to a birch tree painting I pinned on pininterest by an artist found on etsy- check it out!
    http://pinterest.com/pin/27373510204682001/

    Thanks for all your inspiring posts- you have definately saved my neck on some of those long, late night lesson plannings!

  • shannon maynard

    These are beautiful!!!! What a great idea!!!

  • Jill

    Hi Patty! I was just curious what brand of tempera cakes you’ve been using? I’m thinking of trying some next year.

  • Irene

    Love your website and use your projects and buy your lesson plans all the time. One little comment that I did with older students. If you take a sentence strip and cut it in half and then fold it, the kids can dip the sentence strip in the black paint and hold it in a half circle, then they get rounded lines that give the trees a rounded effect.

  • Debbie

    Another teacher told me about your website. I tried your birch tree lesson with my grade three class and both my students and I love the results! It gave us an opportunity to look at some masters like Monet and Van Gogh to see how they painted their skies. We looked at how light hits one side of an object and can create a dark and light side The kids went crazy with their sky paintings. Using the cardboard for putting lines on trees is a quick and effective technique. Quite a few of my students drew their trees overlapping and bent over. This added a little difficulty in cutting them out but visually is very effective! Thanks for sharing such a great idea!

    • Patty

      Hi Debbie,
      This is one of my favorite lessons as well. I did a slightly different background with each of my 3rd grade classes and love them all. Glad you tried the lesson!

  • Sandra

    Beutiful <3
    Greetings from Croatia!

  • Kate

    This is beautiful. I love all the colors! 🙂

  • rae anne reed

    We are so doing this….almost can’t wait for school to start…thanks a MILLION. thats all my classes and students..some students come to school on art day even when were going to stay home.

  • Karen

    Thanks for the great lesson idea! You inspired my team to do this activity!

  • Sandy

    Thank you so much for the wonderful ideas and the wonderful, clear instructions!!!! I really cannot express how happy I am to have found your site. 🙂

  • Pam

    Patty- We are ready to glue our birch trees tomorrow. That kind of glue do you recommend to help the trees lie flat?

  • Dawn

    Hi- I am curious about the tempera cakes. What brand do you use and how do you keep them from getting mixed with other colors? or is that a worry? I am not an art teacher but do art/music experiences with kids with special needs. Thanks so much! Great blog and great art ideas!

  • Moira

    How long is this lesson? Do you paint one day and glue the next? Do the paintings dry enough on day one to glue on them. I’m thinking of doing this lesson the week after next.
    Thanks!

    • Patty Palmer

      Hi Moira,
      I believe I introduced the project, talked about birch trees and painted the background on Day One (40-minute session) then on day two we created the strips birch trees and glued to the dry painted background.

  • Bellarya

    Magnifique !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Bravo !!!

  • Sarah

    How did you plan on teaching warm and cool colors with this project? It is what I’m wanting to do but am unsure as to how to approach it. Were you going to have them choose warm or cool colors for the background or discuss which are warm and which are cool and have them use whatever colors they wanted to?

    • Patty Palmer

      I like to discuss both warm and cool colors and then allow the kids to choose their own color palette (warm or cool).

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