Aboriginal Art

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1st graders learned about symbolism while creating Aboriginal Art.

I started off by showing pictures of Aboriginal Artwork.  Then, we discussed what each picture had in common.  The students pointed out that there were dots in each artwork and animals.  That led the discussion into symbolism and how an animal could symbolize a person’s personality.  We then discussed what animal would best describe our own personalities.

Materials Used:

  • 12″x16″ brown craft paper (roughly cut, doesn’t have to be that exact size)
  • Pencils
  • Erasers
  • Black permanent markers
  • Black india ink or black tempera paint
  • Small paint brushes
  • Q-tips
  • Three colors of acrylic paint
  • Handout with animal pictures (optional)


  1.  Explain to students that Aboriginal art was most commonly painted on bark, so we are going to try and make our paper look like bark.  Very carefully, tear the edges of your brown paper on all four sides.  Warn students they shouldn’t tear too much paper off or they’ll have nothing to paint on!
  2. This is the students favorite part – Take your brown craft paper and ball it up!  Open the paper, flatten it out and then ball it up again.  Repeat 10 times so that your paper looks more worn and aged.
  3. Pick an animal that best describes your personality and draw it in the middle of your paper using a pencil.  Only draw the outline of the animal.  You will be painting the inside of the animal, so there is no point for drawing a face.  Your animal should be larger then your open hand.  (This is where a handout with animal pictures might come in handy if students don’t know what to draw).
  4. Trace your animal with a black permanent marker.  Paint the inside using a small brush and black india ink.
  5. Using a q-tip and one color of acrylic paint, paint a row of dots around your animal until you’ve gone all the way around.  Switch to a second color and paint another row of dots just outside of the first row.  Repeat again with a third color of paint.  Continue to repeat rows of dots while alternating colors until the entire page is filled.
  6. If a student finishes early, I tell them to paint a simple border around the edges of their paper with black india ink.
  7. Let dry!

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