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Animal Artists Paint for Fun, Food



  • Arts & Humanities
    --Visual Arts
  • Science
    --Life Sciences
  • Social Studies
    --Current Events
  • Grades

    Grades 2-up

    News Content

    Maggie the seal and Janey the orangutan have become accomplished artists.

    Anticipation Guide

    Before reading, ask students for a show of hands. Do they agree or disagree with this statement?

    Animals can be trained to do anything that humans can do.
    Invite students to share stories they know about animals that do very human-like things. They might share stories of animals that do truly helpful things, such as a dog that serves as the eyes of a blind person or a dolphin that has been trained to locate underwater explosives, or silly things, such as a cat that has been trained to swim underwater or a dog that can ride a skateboard.

    News Words

    Next, introduce these words that appear in the News Word Box on the students printable page: canvas, challenge, easel, orangutan, orphaned, and reward. Discuss the meanings of any of those words that might be unfamiliar. Then ask students to use one of those words to complete each of these sentences:

  • On his trip to the rain forest, my uncle spotted an _____ hanging upside down in a tree. orangutan
  • The baby squirrels were _____ when their mother was hit by a car. (orphaned)
  • Auntie Anne gave Maria $10 as a _____ for getting five As on her report card. (reward)
  • Rodney asked me if I wanted to race him to the other end of the field, and I took him up on the _____. (challenge)
  • I could have watched for hours as the artist painted an ocean scene on a sheet of _____. (canvas)
  • The hotel manager propped a big "Welcome sign on an _____ in the main lobby. (easel)

    Read the News

    Click for a printable version of this weeks news story Animal Artists Paint for Fun, Food.

    You might use a variety of approaches to reading the news:

  • Read aloud the news story to students as they follow along.

  • Students might first read the news story to themselves; then call on individual students to read the news aloud for the class.

  • Photocopy the news story onto a transparency and project it onto a screen. (Or use your classroom computer's projector to project the story.) Read the story aloud as a class, or ask students to take turns reading it.

  • Arrange students into small groups. Each student in the group will read a paragraph of the story. As that student reads, others might underline important information or write a note in the margin of the story. After each student finishes reading, others in the group might say something -- a comment, a question, a clarification -- about the text.
  • More Facts to Share

    You might share these additional facts with students after they have read this weeks news story.

  • Kesha Phares works with Maggie twice a day at the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium. Painting is not Maggies only skill. She can also brush her teeth and do backflips.
  • Maggie has a half-sister, Zoey, who wants nothing to do with painting. When offered a paintbrush, Zoey often throws it in the water.
  • Maggie recently made a special appearance on the CBS Early Show.
  • Experts say sea lions are very smart animals and painting is thought to help keep their minds active.
  • You can see some of Maggies paintings on the Web site of the Pittsburgh Zoo at Maggie Paints.
  • Janey the orangutan was born in Borneo. Workers at the San Diego Zoo say the 130-pound orangutan is the most intelligent of their primates, and the most social too. She is about 45 years old and has been at the zoo for 22 years.
  • Animals have painted for many years. In the 1950s, animal behaviorist Desmond Morris taught chimps to paint in an effort to better understand chimp and human creativity. Desmonds most famous painting prodigy was named Congo. Born in 1954, Congo produced about 400 drawings and paintings between the ages of 2 and 4. In 1957, Morris organized an exhibition of chimpanzee art at London's Institute of Contemporary Arts. Congos works were among them. It is even said that world-famous painter Pablo Picasso owned one of Congos paintings.
  • Check out some artwork by another animal painter, Lucky the Elephant of the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

    Comprehension Check

    You might follow-up that activity by asking some of these questions:

    Recalling Detail

  • How does trainer Kesha Phares reward Maggie the seal for painting? (She gives Maggie a fish.)
  • How old is Maggie the seal? (11 years old)
  • How long did it take Phares to teach Maggie to paint? (about three months)
  • Why does Kesha Phares choose the paints that Maggie will use to paint? (because seals dont see in color; they are colorblind)
  • Why did workers at the San Diego Zoo sell some of Janey the orangutans paintings? (to raise money to help apes in the wild)

    Think About the News
    Revisit the Anticipation Guide at the top of this lesson; ask students to respond again to the statement Animals can be trained to do anything that humans can do. Did the article change their opinions in any way?

    Follow-Up Activities

    Dictionary skills. Ask students to identify the number of syllables in each of the words that appears below. The number of syllables for each word appears in parentheses. If you teach older students, you might provide them with 10 of the words and have them list the two guide words on the dictionary page where they find each word. If you want to turn the activity into a game, arrange students into teams, call out a word, and have all students look it up. Who finds the word first and correctly identifies the guide words on the page? Give that students team a point. Once a student has found a word and earned a point for his/her team, you might remove that student from the competition so others will have a chance to earn a point for their team.

    reward (2), fish (1), artist (2), perfect (2), habitat (3), Pittsburgh (2), taught (1), stroke (1), challenge (2), paintbrush (2), easel (2), animal (3), smooth (2), canvas (2), create (2), orangutan (4), weave (1), earned (1), orphaned (2),

    Geography. Janey the orangutan is a native of Borneo. Locate the island country of Borneo on a world map. Share information about the country, such as:

  • Borneo is the third-largest island in the world. (Only Greenland and New Guinea are larger.)
  • Borneo is south of Hong Kong, east of Singapore, and north of western Australia.
  • Borneo is divided into four political regions. The largest part, the southern region of Kalimantan, is part of Indonesia. Two smaller regions, Sarawak and Sabah, are both part of Malaysia. The fourth region is the tiny oil-rich independent state of Brunei.
    After sharing those facts, challenge students to do additional research about Borneo. Have them provide the three most interesting facts they can locate. You might let students vote for the five most interesting facts that are found. Students who found those facts might receive some kind of reward, such as a first-in-line privilege or a "homework-free night coupon.

    Creative thinking. On the David Letterman Show, a regular feature called "Stupid Pet Tricks spotlights people and their pets. The pets that appear on that segment have quite unusual talents. Among the pet tricks were a dog named "Muggsy" that would sneeze on command, and another dog that would answer the phone. In order to qualify to appear on the Letterman show, the trick must be "fun, unique, and safe. Animals must perform voluntarily and be treated humanely. All types of animals are welcome. Share those ground rules with students, then challenge them to come up with a trick they would like to teach a pet to do. Students might work on their own or in pairs to complete this activity in creativity. (To get students juices flowing, you might share a few short video clips of "stupid pet tricks. Type stupid pet tricks into the search window, then click Video/B> to locate video of stupid tricks on the Web. Be sure to fully screen any video you might share with students.)


    Use the Comprehension Check (above) as an assessment. Or have students work on their own (in their journals) or in their small groups to respond to the Think About the News questions on the news story page or in the Comprehension Check section.

    Lesson Plan Source

    Education World

    National Standards

    National Standards

    FINE ARTS: Visual Arts
    GRADES K - 4
    NA-VA.K-4.3 Choosing and Evaluating A Range of Subject Matter, Symbols, and Ideas
    NA-VA.K-4.5 Reflecting Upon and Assessing the Characteristics and Merits of Their Work and the Work of Others
    NA-VA.K-4.6 Making Connections Between Visual Arts and Other Disciplines
    GRADES 5 - 8
    NA-VA.5-8.3 Choosing and Evaluating A Range of Subject Matter, Symbols, and Ideas
    NA-VA.5-8.5 Reflecting Upon and Assessing the Characteristics and Merits of Their Work and the Work of Others
    NA-VA.5-8.6 Making Connections Between Visual Arts and Other Disciplines
    GRADES 9 - 12
    NA-VA.9-12.3 Choosing and Evaluating A Range of Subject Matter, Symbols, and Ideas
    NA-VA.9-12.5 Reflecting Upon and Assessing the Characteristics and Merits of Their Work and the Work of Others
    NA-VA.9-12.6 Making Connections Between Visual Arts and Other Disciplines

    GRADES K - 4
    NS.K-4.3 Life Science
    GRADES 5 - 8
    NS.5-8.3 Life Science
    GRADES 9 - 12
    NS.9-12.3 Life Science

    See recent news stories in Education Worlds News Story of the Week Archive.

    Article by Ellen Delisio and Gary Hopkins
    Education World®
    Copyright © 2006 Education World