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


Art Techniques
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 Black Construction Paper Pencils Paper Towels Drawing Paper 30 cm x 45 cm (12" x 18") Glue Sticks Water Containers Watercolour Pencils Coloured Pencils


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

Step One

Brainstorm a variety of species at risk. Use coloured pencil to draw plants and animals that may be of special concern, threatened, or endangered. Include the names of the different species in your drawing. Choose one species to focus your artwork on.

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

Step Two

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. Glue this shape onto the centre of a large piece of white drawing paper. Cut out a variety of geometric and organic shapes, and place the shapes in a circular pattern around the shape in the centre. 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

Reflect on the variety of images of Traditional Cree and Ojibwe beadwork. Examine examples of beadwork, notice the gradation of colours from light to dark, or dark to light. Imagine you are creating a beaded artwork. What colours would you choose? Use acrylic paints and a very fine paint brush to create small beadlike circles on the black shapes. Create patterns with the colours and beadlike circles. Fill in all the black shapes with colour.

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

Step Four

Use watercolour pencils to write the name of the endangered, threatened, extirpated, of special concern, or at risk species on the artwork.

Learning Goals

Students will be able to:

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



  1. Have students further explore and research at-risk species in Ontario.
  2. Create posters educating community members about at-risk species in Ontario.
  3. Take students on a nature walk observing 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 in Ontario can be found. Download photos of birds, plants, and other animals from this website.        
    Species at Risk List
  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:                                  
    Museum Beadwork
    Ojibwe Beadwork
    Cree Beadwork
  3. The following link has an artist statement from Christi Belcourt, and gives background information about the artist. The link is connected to her painting, Wisdom of the Universe, 2014, a beautiful example of an artwork deeply connected to the natural world. There is also a short video connected to this link which profiles how Christi Belcourt creates her art, the video is titled, So Much Depends Upon Who Holds the Shovel.                                                       
    Christi Belcourt
  4. Gather information about species at risk, distinguishing between species of special concern, threatened species, and endangered species. The following link from the National Wildlife Federation has information about At-Risk Species:
    National Wildlife Federation                                                                                                           


  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 Upon 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 from Ontario 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/geomentric), 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 - exploring, experimenting, adding detail, thoughtful focus.
  2. Listen to and observe students as they discuss the artworks - attentive listening, insightful contributions.
  3. Use a checklist to track progress (Download - CONNECTED_tracking.pdf)
  4. 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.