Northern Lights


Here is another fun second grade lesson adapted from this 5th grade lesson (Farren Johnson…in the Art Room). This was my first time to use chalk pastels with second graders and they did such a great job!

A second grade student suggested that we create art based on the night sky and I got super excited. When it comes to the night sky I’m not sure anything can top the Northern Lights. Plus there is the added bonus of including the science behind the lights. Our school is focusing on raising our science scores this year so any science done in the enrichment classes will help with that.

I started the lesson by explaining what the lights are and how they work to the students. Then we looked at this time lapse video of the lights.


I paused the video a few times so they could ask questions and to explain some different things like why the stars look like they are moving (YAY more science! Its not the stars moving guys WE’RE the ones moving!) and the shapes of the trees making sure to include the term silhouette.

Then we got to work! We passed out black construction paper, white crayons (name writing only), chalk pastels and paper towels or tissues. I showed them how to turn the chalk sideways and rub it on the paper and then we used the paper towels to smudge it around. I showed the how different it looks smudging with hands vs towel/tissues and we agreed the towel/tissue method worked best for us.

Then we used black tempera paint to create the ground.

Northern Lights step 2

I gave a few different demonstrations on making the trees. We talked about how the dry brush makes great scratchy tree-like lines. I described the motion the brush needs to make as “sweeping a broom” across your painting. In the classes where we were a little ahead of schedule we also took some time to practice on scrap paper.

Then we got to painting our trees. We started by painting a skinny line up from the ground. Then without getting any more paint we started at the bottom of the tree and swept our brush up slowly from side to side making smaller strokes as we got to the top. When the students finished their trees they turned the brush around and added white dots with the end of the brush to make the stars. These have been a big hit so far, every grade has loved seeing them as the 2nd graders finish up.

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