There are certain units in art class that take on a life of their own and just GROW! My Cave art unit turned out even better than I had anticipated and grew into a Pre-K – Grade 5 theme due to the overwhelming interest of the students. Displaying children’s work is so important to me so this had to be BIG! And how was I just going to achieve this? Re-creating a cave similar to the Lascaux Caves in France filled with all my students’ work of course! I wanted them to fully understand the importance of those early cave paintings as the first-ever examples of art in history.
We first began by looking at actual prints of paintings from Lascaux and looking at the subject matter chosen by the cave people. There are plenty of good websites to show kids plus youtube has a ton of short videos and information.
Google image search is wonderful and I created a slideshow of many cave paintings. I also included petroglyphs so that my older grades could learn the difference between a pictograph (painted picture on a wall) and a petroglyph (carved/engraved picture on a rock or cave wall) because they would eventually make their own.
Pre-K and Kindergarten couldn’t wait to start drawing and painting their big animals and hunters. I saved quite a large amount of brown packing paper so everyone got a large piece of paper as their canvas. After a discussion of what animals were acceptable to draw the kids took right off.
I gave the older students the opportunity to stick their paper under the table to give them that feeling of how the cave people painted. The students ‘painted’ with chalk pastels–all in earthy colors. These are the pastels we used which are my favorite and are incredibly versatile for so many art projects–see these gorgeous Modigliani inspired self-portraits here and Georgia O’Keefe flowers here.
The paintings were finished by ‘signing’ their work with a stencil of their hand. Watered down paint was put into a spray bottle and the kids sprayed their hand to leave an outline.
Grades 1-5 made tools and weapons with cardboard and string. Their challenge was to make a tool that they think would have been useful for hunting or painting and they could only use string to put pieces together. This was a challenge for many of the kids because they immediately wanted glue sticks, tape, etc. When this wasn’t an option they had to ‘think’ and they came up with some great ideas!
Next up was learning about petroglyphs. Our school is surrounded by construction at the moment so there were plenty of rocks to go around. These rocks were quite hard to carve into but after a little experimenting, the kids covered the rock faces with chalk pastels. On a piece of paper, they drew a variety of animals and hunting scenes they wanted to copy onto their rock faces. Carving with an opened paper clip was perfect and the petroglyphs were wonderful!
With all the paintings I then created a large cave outside my classroom in the hallway. I covered the sidewalls and the roof. The students helped put the tools and petroglyphs inside the cave and added the remaining tools and weapons on two nearby bulletin boards. We invited parents and kids to come at night time and the rule was to bring a flashlight! All the lights were turned off and everyone had a great time!
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i wish i could walk through that “cave”….it is wonderful, wonderful.
i have in my plans for my preschoolers to paint on paper taped under a table next week…i’ll add in this angle!
You’re welcome! I loved this project with my kids–it was very rewarding. Hope your lesson goes well! I really like your site and the things you do! I loved seeing the collage pizza color wheel too! Have fun.
Your display is breathtaking! I am immediately inspired to do some cave art with my students! Thanks for sharing your wonderful work!
Thank you!! I went over to your site and I love all the great stuff you are doing! I hope you don’t mind me adding you to my favorite links!
Wow – amazing project!! I bet the kids LOVED it! I just found your site and added it to my list of favorites!
Thank you! I was actually looking at your site yesterday for some inspiration! You are on my list of favorites too!
I love the process throughout, and the display really brings home the big idea. Fantastic idea to have viewers look at the art at night with flashlights! Great unit!
All I can say is wow! I just found you via Teach Kids Art. I will be back often! You will definitely be going on the blogroll!
Thank you!!! I love your site too and you’re on my blogroll too.
THis is Amazing! So inspirational!
Thanks for the nice words–It’s great that you like it.
Love this unit. What a great teacher you are to dedicate this much space and energy!
i wanted so much to try this awesome lesson and here it is….
i absolutely love your cave, i wish i had the space to organize one too.
What a fantastic unit! I LOVE how you displayed it all!
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Absolutely love this post and have linked to it today. We too have been doing cave art having read Julia Donaldson’s newest book, Cave Baby:
Thanks for the link. You have a lovely blog by the way.
This is so wonderful!
My daughter came home from school talking about cave art. They are doing ‘dinosaurs’ as their topic this term and she’d been learning about pictographs and a petroglyphs.
This morning, after breakfast, I suggested she did a google search and told her about some of the amazing cave art in Europe. She came across your blog and was in awe of your classes art work.
She has forwarded on the link to this post to her teacher. I think we’ll be doing a bit of our own cave art at home too. Wonderful. Thank you so much for sharing your inspirational ideas.
Thank you for your kind words, it has really made my day! If your daughter needs any inspiration drop me a line and I
Will post something for her!! 🙂
love love love this lesson! intend to do one of my own!!! thanks for the great idea!
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Wow! Impressive, and wonerfully executed! Your student will forever remember the beginning of art and the Lascaux cave. Bravo!
I absolutely love this. I work in special ed and this is so apt for my kids… the bigger the better. Thank you for sharing.
Love the hallway! As a fellow art teacher, I love finding creative ways to display kids’ art. How did you get them to stick so well to the walls?!
Wow! This is outstanding, and the cave is so impressive. I’m going to have to do this on a much much smaller scale with my wee gang of kids – but I’m sure we will have a ball.
I feel so deprived! I want to be a kid again! This was so exciting to see! You are a very creative person! It is so awesome to let the kids create on their own. Wish we could have done that when I was a kid (back in the dinosaur age)!
Thanks Dee! I get blown away by all the amazing and creative lessons that are going on now in the classrooms. It does make you want to go back to school again right?
I am SO in love with this project! I am going to use this idea tomorrow, as we are starting a cave-painting unit. Can’t wait! Thanks for the ideas 🙂 I’ll share photos when we are finished!
I enjoyed reading this post and i am planning to do this for my class as they are learning about the prehistoric time of man. Thanks for your great input. You are very creative!
this is just lovely. ! I am very impressed.
Thank you! It was a lot of work but very worth it. Would I do it again? Absolutely- and even better actually!! 🙂
Thank you again! I also recommend showing a clip from Cave of Forgotten Dreams and “Ice Age I” the kids can make connection to how cave artists have influenced modern day artists. I will take a picture and let you know how it turns out.
Hi I am a H.S. art teacher in NYC I have been doing cave art with my students for a while. You have inspired me to work MUCH bigger this year. My students don’t like getting too dirty can you suggest any drawing tools used that aren’t too messy…also what type of paper did you use. Staples has brown craft paper. Or do you suggest something else?
Also, did you see Cave of Forgotton Dreams…amazing movie that shows inside the Caves in France. I also use the clip from ICE AGE. Kids really get a kick out of it.
Brown butcher paper that came in the boxes with art supplies is what I used so if you can get your hands on some, it’s perfect for this project.
As for drawing tools…I guess just plain crayons or colored pencils would do,but chalk pastels are the best and I actually wouldn’t give my students the option here other than possibly making natural paint themselves to mimic the actual colors.
Convince your students to get a little dirty- they actually might have some fun! Good luck and I would love to see how your cave art turns out.
8 Oct. 2012
How creative!!!! Thank you very much for sharing!!!!
Thank you very much, im just about to teach my students about cave art. Your work really gave me a lot of ideas. Im an art teacher in Mexico
This is absolutely marvelous! Having the kids paint on underside of the table is borderline genius child engagement, to quote a friend I just showed this to, and I have to agree with him. Thank you for the inspiration 🙂
Thanks for all the ideas! I look forward to trying them out.
What a great installation!
I saw this post at the end of last school year & worked it into my plans for third grade this year. I had the kids on the floor, on the walls, under the tables. They were really into it, when my principal came in for a unplanned walk-through observation. She asked the students about the objectives I had written on the board & they had all the right answers. I tied the art history part of cave art into color theory & where the first (primary) colors came from. We talked about where the cavemen got their colors… Berries, animal blood, minerals in the ground, etc. As the principal was leaving my room, she said it was an amazing lesson…as usual!!!
Woo Hoo!!!! Thank you for posting it!
These are awesome! I noticed the pic of a couple kids painting their animals a solid color. Did they use paint to fill in the animal shapes and then add pastels on top after the paint dried?
This project is amazing! I love how you involved all of the different aged children in this project. It looks beautiful and I’m sure the children are very proud of their work!
Thank you! I have to admit that this was one of my favorite lessons for sure!
I love this art, and the display. How did you stick them to the ceiling?
Hi Tracy- believe it or not I stuck everything with blue-tac!!
This is such a wonderful idea! My Grade 9 classes will surely love this! Thank you so much for sharing a really fun and artsy activity for kids to learn Cave Art in an easy and fun way! Keep it up! 🙂
Love this! Thank you for sharing
You’re welcome. We loved it too!!
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