Students create a relief panel that shows their feelings about the environment by pressing natural objects into multiple slabs of air-dry clay, arranging the tiles in a composition, and then painting the dry clay with watercolour paint. 

Required Time

180 Minutes

Grade Level

Grade 7 to Grade 10


Language Arts
Visual Arts


air dry clay balance composition contrast emphasis harmony shape texture unity


Crayola Air-Dry Clay - White Crayola Acrylic Paint - 6 Count Crayola Paintbrushes - 5 Count Crayola Washable No-Run School Glue Crayola Watercolour Paint - 8 Count Wood Panel or Canvas - 25.4 cm x 25.4 cm (10" x 10") - 1 per student Rolling Pins Water Containers Paper Towels Natural Objects Plastic Placemats - 1 per student

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CLAY ENVIRONMENTAL STUDY – Texture, Harmony - Step One

Step One

  1. Collect natural objects from the environment such as sticks, flowers, leaves, rocks, berries and bark. 
CLAY ENVIRONMENTAL STUDY – Texture, Harmony - Step Two

Step Two

  1. Paint a sturdy board or canvas with acrylic paint. 
  2. Choose a colour that would be found in nature.
CLAY ENVIRONMENTAL STUDY – Texture, Harmony - Step Three

Step Three

  1. Roll out a slab of clay that will be big enough for you to cut it into 9 squares that will fit on your board.
CLAY ENVIRONMENTAL STUDY – Texture, Harmony - Step Four

Step Four

  1. Use a square of wood or cardboard as a template to cut out enough pieces to fit on your panel. 
  2. Be sure the tiles will fit onto the panel without too much negative space.
CLAY ENVIRONMENTAL STUDY – Texture, Harmony - Step Five

Step Five

  1. Press a natural object into one of the soft clay squares. 
  2. Roll over it with a rolling pin to make deeper textures in the clay. 
CLAY ENVIRONMENTAL STUDY – Texture, Harmony - Step Six

Step Six

  1. Gently remove the natural objects from the clay.
  2. Allow the shapes to dry for 24 hours. 
CLAY ENVIRONMENTAL STUDY – Texture, Harmony - Step Seven

Step Seven

  1. Brush black watercolour into the textures and let the paint dry.
  2. Make sure the dark colour goes into all the textures. 
  3. Paint lighter colours on top allowing the dark colour to show the textures. 
  4. Arrange the squares on the board in a balanced composition.
  5. Crayola No-Run School Glue to glue them in place. 
  6. Cut out some meaningful words from magazines and glue them onto your clay shapes. 
  7. Allow the work to dry for about 3 hours. 

Learning Goals

     Students will be able to:

  • apply the creative process to create an original artwork using clay and found objects;
  • use the elements and principles of design to communicate their feelings about the environment;
  • apply the critical analysis process to communicate understandings in response to environmental artworks;
  • demonstrate technical accomplishment and creativity; 
  • support their ideas with evidence found in the artworks.


Have students:

  • explore man made textures on clay;
  • work in groups to explore a timeline of the history of clay;
  • create individual tiles representing several different eras;
  • arrange the tiles in order on one large panel;
  • discuss the choices they made;
  • share their work with others.


  1. Create a sample.
  2. Download and display the Principles of Design poster available on this website.
  3. Collect enough magazines for students to share.
  4. Make sure you have a large collection of natural textures such as twigs, leaves, pinecones etc.
  5. Cut panels to size - 25.4 cm x 25.4 cm (10 " x 10"). 
    - Masonite or a wood canvas would work well as the base panel.
  6. Prepare a storage area for the panels and the clay to dry.
  7. View clay techniques in the Techniques section of this web site to see how to roll slabs and make pin tools.
  8. Download the OISE Environmental Ceramic Tiles image from the Internet.
    Environmental Tile Artists    
  9. Download images by environmental artists from the Internet.



  1. View and discuss works by environmental artists such as Andy Goldsworthy and Patrick Dougherty focussing on how texture enhances the meaning of the works.
  2. Show students your sample and discuss how the tiles are made.
  3. Make a list of natural textures to collect.
  4. Introduce the challenge.


The Challenge

  1. Create a relief panel using clay tiles.
  2. Collect objects from nature and impress them into the clay.
  3. Design a pattern for the tiles that will fit on the panel.
  4. Colour the tiles with watercolour paint.
  5. Find appropriate words from magazines that express how you feel about the environment.

The Process

  1. Make sure everyone understands the challenge.
  2. Establish success criteria with your students, for example,
    I know I am successful when I have:
    - created 9 small square clay tiles of even thickness
    - impressed different natural objects into the clay tiles
    - coloured the tiles with watercolour paint
    - arranged the tiles in a pattern that fits the panel
    - glued appropriate words from magazines onto the tiles
    - created a relief panel that expresses how I feel about the environment

    - kept everything in good condition
  3. Demonstrate how to make a pin tool, and how to roll a slab of even thickness.
  4. Guide students through the steps outlined in this lesson plan.
  5. Encourage students to think about balance and contrast as they choose the natural objects they will impress in their clay. 
  6. Observe students as they work. 
  7. Provide individual assistance and encouragement as required.


  1. Once all the panels are complete display them for a group discussion. Remind students of the challenge.
    Look closely at the panels.
    - Choose one that interests you for some reason.
    - Share thoughts about the work.
  2. During the discussion include references to:
    elements – how colour, texture, shape, and line have been used to create contrast and areas of emphasis
    - principles – how balance, movement, harmony and unity have been created
    - technique – how different techniques have been used to create effective textures and contrast


  1. Observe students as they work – thoughtful focus, discriminating, seeking more information, elaborating, experimenting.
  2. Observe students as they discuss their panels – speaks with a clear voice, looks at audience while speaking, points to areas on the panel, provides accurate information, answers questions from the audience effectively.
  3. Observe students as they listen – looks at presenter, asks effective questions, supports ideas with evidence found in the artwork.
  4. Use a checklist to track progress. (Downloads - Panel_tracking.pdf)
  5. Have students use the self-assessment form to evaluate their work. (Downloads - Panel_self-assessment.pdf)