This morning I participated in a mock, sea turtle release at our local beach. I brought an armload of these amazing sea turtle soft sculptures we’ve just finished up in my live classes and set them free on the sand!
I live in Florida where this is a common site during the months of March through October:
90% of all sea turtle nesting in the United States occurs here in Florida. Nearly all species of sea turtles are classified as endangered, so it is a crime to tamper with their nests, which can contain anywhere from 70-150 eggs! We learned all kinds of sea turtle facts while working on our art… did you know sea turtles imprint the unique magnetic “signature” of the coastline where they were hatched and use the earth’s magnetic poles to migrate back to their nesting site when they are ready to lay their own eggs? Pretty darn amazing!
This was such a fun way to photograph the culmination of all of my students’ hard work! I love how, just like the real hatchlings, they are crawling across the sand, seeking the light–although, if this were the real deal, I would have been required to stage this under the moonlight, and that wouldn’t have given you guys a very good look at these beauties!
This was a fun, high-interest project from start to finish. I did this with kindergarten through fifth grade. The kinders needed extra support but handled the drawing challenge quite capably.
Here’s how you and your children can make your own sea turtle soft sculpture project at home:
- 14 X 17 white paper, 2 pieces, I use the Canson Mix Media Pads
- pencil and eraser
- oil pastels, I love Crayola Oil Pastels
- plastic grocery bags (2-3)
- * Optional: watercolors, paintbrush, cup of water. These are a nice set: Angora Watercolors and these Crayola Watercolor Pan Sets are super easy to come by.
~Table or desk covered with a plastic party tablecloth or newsprint paper.
~Paper towels and/or wet wipes for oil pastels
~Pictures of sea turtles from the Internet for visual reference
Step One: Draw Your Sea Turtle:
We first spend a few minutes looking at photos of real sea turtles and discussing the shapes we see. Then we begin by drawing a large oval for the carapace (shell) diagonally on the paper so the turtle’s head will fit in the corner and there is room for the larger front flippers. Describing the front flippers as a “banana shapes that curve toward the back feet” helps. The back feet are simple rounded rectangles. Add half-circles to the side of the head for eyes.
Next, draw a smaller oval inside the first oval and add slightly curved lines to connect the two ovals.
Now add geometric shapes to the inside of the oval to form the “scutes” on the turtles carapace, or shell. Kids can make these shapes realistic, by observing pictures of turtles from the Internet, or may prefer instead to make funky, random shapes. (This would be a great time to integrate math concepts such as irregular polygons, rhomboid shapes, pentagons, hexagons, etc. as well as discussing angles and points.)
Step Two: Color Your Sea Turtle with Oil Pastels
You may experiment with different color combinations in the white space of your turtle page since we will be cutting out the turtle in a little while. You may choose to color everything with a dark value by pressing down firmly with the oil pastel, or you may prefer a lighter value by not pressing down as hard. It also looks great to add VARIETY to your composition by doing BOTH!
Once your turtle is filled in, take some time to go back and see where you can add darker patterns on top of lighter areas to add some DEPTH and the appearance of SURFACE TEXTURE. You may also choose to blend your colors into the paper more by smudging and smearing the pigment with your fingers. This creates a softer look like in some of the teal areas of the turtle below:
Oil pastels are one of my FAVORITE mediums to work with because of their ability to layer and blend. Your hands will get messy, so keep the paper towel or wet wipes handy, especially if you are doing a lot of finger blending and need to switch colors.
Step 3: Cut Out Your Sea Turtle
Step 4: Trace Your Sea Turtle on the Second Sheet of White Paper
Now you have a second turtle to cut out! If time permits you may color this second turtle like the underside of a sea turtle, however it is not necessary; we left ours white. I did, however, have one student who was inspired to draw the internal organs of her turtle on the backside of both papers!
Step 5 (Optional): Add a Watercolor Wash Over the Top of Your Oil Pastels
This is nothing more than picking a color of watercolor and painting it right over the top of your oil pastels with a large brush. The paint color will only settle into whatever white spaces are showing from the paper, so if the turtle is completely covered with oil pastels, skip this step. If you are incorporating this step, you will need to grab a cup of water for rinsing your paintbrush. Also, wait a couple of minutes to let the turtle dry before moving on to Step 6.
Step 6: Staple Turtle Papers Together Halfway
For this step, I started stapling at the head of the turtle. I tried to keep the staples close to the edges and also tried to place the staples where they wouldn’t show up as much. I went all the way around the head, shoulders and front flippers, stapling every two inches or so.
DO NOT STAPLE ALL THE WAY AROUND THE TURTLE AT THIS POINT:) You want to leave the back end open so you can do…
Step 7: Stuff Turtle with 2-3 Plastic Grocery Bags and then Finish Stapling Together.
I thought it was very fitting that we were finding a way to reduce and recycle the very plastic bags that have a horrible reputation for ending up polluting our oceans and harming marine life like sea turtles!
Several of my students asked me to leave a portion of their sea turtle open in the back so their turtle could “lay eggs”! Too Cute!
Step 8: You’re finished! Time to Ooo and AHH, and get out the camera and stage your own sea turtle release!! You don’t have to live near the beach to have fun with this… the sea turtles took over my backyard pathway too!
Here are some more of our fabulous sea turtle soft sculptures for your inspiration:
If you are schooling at home, this project links especially well with a unit on marine biology, conservation, geometry, and environmental science.
Did you know you can adopt a sea turtle?
For ways that you can help our endangered sea turtle populations visit: http://www.gumbolimbo.org/AdoptionLanding
We Love our Sea Turtles!!
For a list of five things you can do to help save sea turtles visit: