Art Lesson Plan: Underwater Sea Turtles - Water Color Resist

Underwater Sea Turtles Resist

Submitted by: Patti Caiola, Reynolds Elementary School in Toledo, OH
Unit: Art-Science Integration - Oceans
Title: Sea Turtles Underwater

Grade Level: 4th – 6th Grades


Time Needed:

Two class periods (1 hour each)



Students will explore the characteristics of the sea turtle and it’s environment. Texture, color, balance and pattern are emphasized in these wonderfully colorful sea turtle paintings.




Class example completed, sea turtle photos, sea turtle books, Finding Nemo. ®PIXAR/Disney.



Sea Turtle, ocean, Australia, texture, resist, balance, pattern, contour lines.



Sea turtle, nature, National Geographic Society publications/posters




Sea Turtles: A Complete Guide. - An evocative portrait of the seven sea turtle species and their valiant fight for survival.

Into the Sea. - Grade 1-4: Experience the life of a female sea turtle as she breaks from her shell, splashes into the sea, and navigates for survival, eventually returning to the place of her birth to lay eggs.



Students will be able to...

  1. Describe the characteristics of the sea turtle and it’s environment.

  2. Construct a drawing of a sea turtle using the principles of texture, color, balance and pattern.


  1. Begin by discussing the different types of sea turtles using many visual references. (An excerpt from Finding Nemo that features the sea turtles would also grab attention.)

  2. Discuss the different characteristics of the sea turtles anatomy, head, flippers, tail, and shell.

  3. We are going to pretend that we are looking over the edge of a boat in the ocean, looking down through the clear water to view a swimming sea turtle. Using the paper vertically, students begin by drawing an outline of a large oval shell in pencil. Then create an oval head at the top of the paper, two large front flippers, two small rear flippers and a tail. (Teacher may complete each step along with students on the chalkboard)

  4. Next, students create the pattern on their turtle shell by creating contour lines both vertically and horizontally. Discuss how artist use contour lines to make flat shapes on their paper appear to be three-dimensional. The vertical contour lines can be described to the students as making the number "11" that bend outward in the middle. The horizontal contour lines can be described to the students as two frowns on top, and two smiles on the bottom. This creates the shell design.

  5. Students then take their white paper and crumple it into a ball, being careful not to force or hit the paper ball, which would cause the paper to rip. (Wrinkling the paper creates creases that will accept more pigment of the watercolor step, gives the illusion that light is refracting through the ocean water.)

  6. Using photo references, students will color their turtles only with oil crayons. NO BLUE is the only color limitation. (Blue color will get "lost" when turtles are painted with blue watercolor, students will need more than one reminder). Emphasize the importance of pattern and variety. White oil crayons will work well if they press very hard. Students may mix colors on their papers. Color the head, flipper and tail using shades of green, white and brown. (I allowed students to use non-traditional colors for the shells like the ones used in the movie "Finding Nemo.".

  7. Next, use the blue watercolor paints to paint over their entire paper…turtle and all. Explain that we have drawn our turtles under water; this means we have to paint them under water, starting at the top and working our way down the paper. (Basic watercolor resist idea)

  8. Discuss how water looks under the ocean or in a pool with sunlight passing through the water. The light reflects and refracts into these geometric stylized shapes of dancing light. The crumpling of the students paper, combined with the watercolor painting technique, will give the sea turtles the appearance that they are swimming under the sea. As students are painting in their turtles, let them experiment with sprinkling salt upon their wet works of art.

Evaluation after the lesson:

Great success with every student, fun and engaging. Be sure to use the heaviest white paper to decrease the chance of ripping, after crumpling and painting the projects become quite fragile. Students liked creating both realistic turtle shell patterns, and using their imagination for creative and unique patterns. Wonderful tie in with the student’s ocean life sciences curriculum. SEE DISPLAY OF STUDENT WORK


Ron G Steven- paintings of the underwater critters from the thousands of exceptional dives he has experienced world wide, but primarily on the Great Barrier Reef, Coral Sea, Papua New Guinea, Caribbean, Tahiti, Mexico and the colder waters of the west coast of Canada.



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