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You guys just made me think of a lesson I used to do with 3rd graders
that (thinking back) solved this problem. I called it "What color is the
sky?" For a little introductory game, I mounted a bunch of calendar
pictures of beautiful landscape scenes (like Sierra Club stuff), each
having a sky color OTHER than all blue, onto poster boards. For each of
these pictures I cut a matching rectangle of white paper, drew in the
"horizon line" which I interpreted as everything that wasn't sky...so
included rock formations, waterfalls, tree lines, etc., and colored the
land portion a solid color, leaving the sky white. In effect they are
like silhouettes of the landforms. Then I held them up one at a time and
had the kids figure out which silhouette matched which calendar pic.
This exercise really made them notice that land-meets-sky. We also
talked about all the different colored skies and why they weren't blue.
For the production they did crayon resist landscapes, with
fore/mid/background and also they had to use more than one crayon color
in each object or landform, i.e. tree trunks had to have more colors
than just brown, mountains more than just purple, anything white had to
be colored white really hard. They were not to put ANYTHING in the sky
unless it was a night time picture and they wanted moon and stars or
lightning (after one of the calendar pics). Everything in the picture
had to be colored hard, hard, hard except water which could be colored
I showed them my example with a wet-on-wet wash of a sunset (Ooooohhh!
Aaaahhh!) and explained how the land and water reflect the colors in the
sky (evident in many of the calendar pics). When they were done
coloring, I showed them how to do the sunset wash over the entire
picture with yellow above and below the horizon, then other sky colors
mirrored in the land/water. It was a very successful lesson, and I don't
remember being frustrated with that ribbon sky/grass thing after we did
I'm also wondering how much of the ribbon sky relates to their own
experiences of the outdoors. There are so few places anymore where kids
can actually see a horizon. How many kids get to see a wilderness
sunrise or sunset? The only time they go outside to play is in nice
"blue sky" weather. They are surrounded by architecture and the sky is
"UP." Do kids who live on farms or near the shore do this less than
urban/suburban kids? How about kids who spend their lives in front of TV
and video images, or in between soccer/football/dance lessons? How can
we expect them to understand the visual relationship of sky to land when
they never lay down on a grassy hill and watch a storm come rolling in?
Get out the Bierstadts!
Linda, who will watch this morning's sun rise between the twin towers of
the nuclear power plant on Michigan's Lake Erie shore.