Pinned Butterfly “Specimen” Project

If you aren’t quite ready to take the plunge into pinning real actual butterflies, why not try this butterfly specimen project instead?

I am a big fan of natural history, and of incorporating nature into art at every chance. With summer just around the corner, we get the urge to spend as much time as possible in nature, and to save and catalogue the treasures that we find. This project scratches that itch with just a few materials, none of them actually dead.

Materials Needed:

  • Pencils
  • Watercolor paper
  • Watercolors and brushes
  • Butterfly books (for reference)
  • Thumbtacks
  • Cork sheets
  • Scissors
  • Frames (optional)

Prepare the Project:

  • If necessary, trim the cork sheets down. This is an optional step; butterfly specimen frames come in different shapes and sizes, so there’s no right or wrong way to do it. When I did this project with a summer program class of elementary kids I cut 12×12 sheets of cork in half to make sure I had enough to go around.
  • Draw and cut out butterfly shapes from watercolor paper for younger artists who may struggle with this step.
  • Set out your watercolors, water, brushes, and water color paper. It’s helpful to have a few books strewn about with pictures of different types of butterflies for reference. Printed photos work well too- laminating them may extend their life. Check out my Pinterest board for lots of ideas!

Make Some Art:

  • Fold the watercolor paper in half, and with a pencil draw half of a pair of butterfly wings on one side. Make as many butterflies as you can all the way down the sheet. This step ensures the wings are symmetrical when you cut the butterflies out.
  • Cut out the butterfly shapes.
  • Lightly with your pencil, draw whatever designs you want on the wings- or if you feel like freestyling, jump right into the next step!
  • Paint those babies!
  • Allow your painted butterflies to dry fully.
  • Once they’re dry, pin the butterflies to the cork.
  • You can place your cork inside the optional frame if you wish; this will give it a gift-worthy finished look!

 Extensions:

  • Use this project to learn about the differences between butterflies and moths, create some of each to pin on your cork board.
  • Identify the Latin name of each butterfly and write it on a thin strip of paper. Glue the paper beneath each butterfly.
  • Older kids will enjoy trying to make their butterflies as realistic as possible- encourage them to mix colors to match their reference butterflies as closely as possible.
  • Why limit yourself to butterflies? Do a pinned beetle project, or even spiders (but I will not be making an example of those, *shudder*)

Pssst… have you signed up for your FREE art project download yet?

Spooky Milk Jug Monsters

We’ve got a ways to go until Halloween, but you can make these spooky milk jug creatures year-round (and a simple change in mouth shape can easily change their mood). This project is incredibly simple and translates well across age groups.

Materials Needed:

  • Empty, clean milk jugs
  • Spray paint primer
  • Acrylic or tempera craft paint
  • Googly eyes
  • Craft foam or cardstock
  • Feather boa
  • Tinsel
  • Hot glue gun

Prepare the Project:

  1. Cut out a gaping mouth shape toward the base of the jugs with sharp scissors.
  2. In a well-ventilated area, spray the jugs with a coat or two of primer (this is an important step! The paint will not apply well if you leave this step out.)

Make Some Art:

  • Paint the jugs however you like. Some kids go for as many colors as possible while others prefer a theme like pumpkin or bat.

  • Allow the jugs to dry. A hair dryer is useful here to speed this up, especially if the paint is thick in places.

  • While the jugs are drying, trace the kids’ hands and feet onto the craft foam and cut them out. One of our art camp kids did wings instead of hands! Love it!
  • Draw and cut out tooth shapes from craft foam or cardstock.
  • *This is a job for the adult* Using a hot glue gun, attach the googly eyes, the teeth, and the hands/feet. You may try standard liquid glue here in place of a hot glue gun, but in my opinion it’s too much of a hassle to hold everything in place until it’s secure. And just when you think they’re attached, you turn around and next thing you know an eyeball is sliding down the face.

  • Now add the accessories- we used tinsel for “barf” but it could also make some funky hair. You can also snip small sections of feather boa for hair, or perhaps create a spooky bird creature and line it with boa feathers!

Extensions:

  • Create names and stories for the creatures. Where do they live? What do they eat? Are they scary, or nice? They make an excellent creative writing prompt.
  • You can easily begin your art session with a simple primer on color mixing. Provide only the three primary colors and help the kids experiment with mixing new colors. When we ran this project as a three-hour art camp, we spent the first hour just exploring with the paints and mixing colors. We also used this exploration time to learn what happens if you add water to your paint.
  • Use a piece of posterboard to paint a spooky backdrop for your creature, and then display them together. It makes delightful Halloween decor!

Pssst… have you signed up for your FREE art project download yet?