WE ARE ALL CONNECTED – Species at Risk, Patterns

Students create a mixed media artwork about an at-risk species using black shapes on a white background. They paint each black shape with small, beadlike circles in a style similar to that of Métis artist Christi Belcourt.

Required Time

120 Minutes

Grade Level

Grade 3 to Grade 8


Language Arts
Visual Arts
First Nations, Metis, Inuit


balance colour contrast endangered species extirpated species focal point geometric shapes organic shapes pattern special concern species threatened species


Crayola Construction Paper - Black Crayola Scissors Crayola Glue Sticks Crayola Round Paintbrushes - 4 Count Crayola Acrylic Paint - 6 Count Crayola Watercolour Pencils - 12 Count Crayola Coloured Pencils - 24 Count Water Containers Paper Towels Pencils Drawing Paper - 30.5 cm x 45.7 cm (12" x 18")

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WE ARE ALL CONNECTED – Species at Risk, Patterns - Step One

Step One

  1. Brainstorm a variety of species at risk.
  2. Use coloured pencil to draw plants and animals that may be of special concern, threatened, or endangered.
  3. Include the names of the different species in your drawing.
  4. Choose one species to focus your artwork on.
WE ARE ALL CONNECTED – Species at Risk, Patterns - Step Two

Step Two

  1. Use black construction paper to cut out the shape of the endangered species or species at-risk that you have chosen for your focal point.
  2. Glue this shape onto the centre of a large piece of white drawing paper.
  3. Cut out a variety of geometric and organic shapes and place the shapes in a circular pattern around the shape in the centre.
  4. When the pattern is complete use a glue stick to secure the shapes.
WE ARE ALL CONNECTED – Species at Risk, Patterns - Step Three

Step Three

  1. Reflect on the variety of images of Traditional Cree and Ojibwe beadwork.
  2. Examine examples of beadwork, notice the gradation of colours from light to dark, or dark to light.
  3. Imagine you are creating a beaded artwork. 
  4. What colours would you choose? 
  5. Use acrylic paints and a very fine paint brush to create small beadlike circles on the black shapes.
  6. Create patterns with the colours and beadlike circles.
  7. Fill in all the black shapes with coloured patterns.
WE ARE ALL CONNECTED – Species at Risk, Patterns - Step Four

Step Four

  1. Use watercolour pencils to write the name of the endangered, threatened, extirpated, of special concern, or at risk species on the artwork.
  2. Gently paint into the watercolour pencil with water to soften the lettering.

Learning Goals

Students will be able to:

  • create a balanced, circular pattern using black shapes (organic and geometric) on white paper;
  • identify an at-risk species in Ontario, and create a black organic shape to represent the species;
  • use acrylic paint to create patterns of colour in the same style as traditional Ojibwe and Cree beadwork; 
  • share their understanding of the Métis artist Christi Belcourt, and the meaning of her artwork Wisdom of the Universe.


Have students:

  • further explore and research at-risk species in Canada;
  • create posters educating community members about at-risk species in the area;
  • go on a nature walk and observe the diversity of plants and animals in the area;
  • discuss why biodiversity is important for life;
  • brainstorm what we can do to help promote and care for a diverse ecosystem.


  1. Prior to the lesson download background information about endangered/threatened species. The following is a link from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry where the list Species At-Risk List in Ontario can be found. Download photos of birds, plants, and other animals from this website.        
  2. Gather examples of traditional beadwork, download images from the Internet, and/or find images in books or magazines. The following links are examples of traditional Ojibwe and Cree beadwork:                                  
    Ojibwe Beadwork
    Cree Beadwork
  3. view several videos about Christi Belcourt and her work, e.g.,
    AGO - Wisdom of the Universe
    Belcourt - My Heart is Beautiful
    Inside the Studio
    So Much Depends On Who Holds The Shovel

    - Wisdom of the Universe, 2014, is a beautiful example of an artwork deeply connected to the natural world. 
    So Much Depends Upon Who Holds the Shovel profiles how Christi Belcourt creates her art                                                      



  1. Introduce students to the Métis artist, Christi Belcourt.
  2. Share Christi Belcourt's painting, Wisdom of the Universe, 2014. Read aloud her Artist's Statement. Discuss the meaning of the artwork communicated by the plants, animals, and style of painting.
  3. Watch the video on Christi Belcourt titled, So Much Depends On Who Holds The Shovel and discuss the process the artist uses to create her paintings.
  4. Share images, artifacts, and books about traditional Ojibwe and Cree beadwork. Discuss the similarities between Christi Belcourt's paintings and traditional forms of Ojibwe and Cree beadwork.
    What techniques did the artists use?
    - How do the artists use colour?
  5. Have students explore the connections between Christi Belcourt's painting and the species at risk in Ontario.
    How has the artist made her audience aware of the plants and animals at risk in Ontario?
  6. Discuss the differences between the following terms: special concern, threatened species, extirpated, and endangered species.
  7. Ask students to choose an at-risk species to use as the focal point of their artwork.


The Challenge

  1. Discuss the meaning of Christi Belcourt's artwork, Wisdom of the Universe, and the techniques she used to create it.
  2. Explore at-risk species in Ontario and choose one.
  3. Create a mixed media artwork using geometric and organic shapes. 
  4. Create a balanced circular composition.
  5. Create beadlike, colour patterns.

The Process

  1. Have students brainstorm a variety of plants and animals that have captured their interest.
  2. Ask students to identify, draw, and colour (using coloured pencils that accurately describe the species' natural colouring) the at-risk species that they are interested in.
  3. Guide them to choose one species for the focal point of the artwork.
  4. Demonstrate how to cut out the shape of the chosen species from black paper.
  5. Guide students through the steps outlined in this lesson plan.
  6. Observe students as they work.
  7. Provide individual assistance and encouragement.


  1. Begin by sharing observations and understandings of the meaning of Christi Belcourt's painting, Wisdom of the Universe.
  2. Ask students to reflect on how we are connected to our natural world.
  3. Once all the artworks are complete ask students to bring their mixed media artworks into a large circle.
  4. Invite each student to share the at-risk species they chose as their focal point and explain why they chose it.
  5. During the circle discussion include references to shape (organic/geometric), colour, and focal point. Discuss why certain colours were chosen.
  6. Ask students to share how they have created balance, contrast and patterns in their artworks.


  1. Observe students as they work – thoughtful focus, discriminating, seeking more information, elaborating, experimenting.
  2. Observe students as they discuss their artworks – speaks with a clear voice, looks at audience while speaking, points to areas on the picture, 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 - Connected_tracking.pdf)
  5. Have students reflect on their own artworks in their sketchbooks. Ask students:                                                                                       
    What worked well in your artwork? Why?
    - What would you change or do differently next time?
    - Explain how you prefer to learn, and what life experiences inspire you to wonder.