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Nature's Impressions & Poetry

An adapted Getty  Lesson: A Natural Balance in Photography and Poetry based on the works of Anna Atkins ~ C Schell

Grades/Level: Lower Elementary (K–2)
Subjects: Visual Arts, English–Language Arts
Time Required: 3–5–Part Lesson
Three 40-minute class periods
Author: Julie Lambert, Second Grade Teacher
Washington Elementary School, Burbank Unified Scho



  1. Anna Atkins
  2. Anna Atkins was an English botanist and photographer. She is often considered the first person to publish a book illustrated with photographic images. Some sources claim that she was the first woman to create a photograph. Wikipedia
  4. BornMarch 16, 1799, Tonbridge, United Kingdom
Anna Atkins

Lesson Overview


Students will brainstorm a list of adjectives to describe two early photographs called "cyanotypes." Next they will create their own cyanotype photograph.

Students will then write original poetry using the nature-inspired cyanotype photograph.

Learning Objectives

Students will be able to:

Discuss Anna Atkins cyanotype photographs using the language of art,(elements of art and principles of desigh) paying particular attention to composition, textures, and balance.

• brainstorm a list of adjectives.
• answer in complete sentences.
• write a poem using adjectives.Feathers/Osuna• create a balanced photograph

using nature's gifts.

Feathers, Viridiana Osuna, Washington Elementary School


• Reproduction of Arrangement of Specimens by Hippolyte Bayard
• Reproduction of Leucojam Varium by Anna Atkins and Anne Dixon
• Pencils and paper
• Assorted gifts from nature: leaves, flowers, sticks, or transparencies of butt

• White paper (same size as NaturePrint® Paper)
• NaturePrint® Paper
• Cardboard
• Pins or binder clips
• Clear transparencies (to hold down items from nature)
• Timer
• Large container of water like trays so you can submerge the paper.
• Paper towels
• Black construction paper
• Student Handout: "A Balanced Poem"
• Glue

Lesson Steps

Day One


  1. Introduce these vocabulary words to students:

           nature, photography, line, shape, balance.


     2. Display a reproduction of Arrangement of Specimens by

            Hippolyte Bayard and ask students the following questions.

            Direct students to respond in complete sentences

            (e.g., "I see a __________.").


  • What do you see?
  • What do you think?
  • What do you wonder?
  • What makes you say that?
  • Then focus on elements of art
  • What do you see?
  • What kinds of lines do you see?
  • What kinds of shapes do you see?
  • What objects do you see?
  • What would you have called this work of art


3. Point to the answers to the previous question, "What objects do you

see?" Now draw a tree map on the board that includes these headings:

Size, Shape, Appearance, Texture, and Other.


4. Invite students to brainstorm a list of adjectives to describe the

objects they saw in the work of art, using the sentence frame, for

example, "Plants can be __________." Record the students' adjectives

under the correct heading on the tree map.

4. Invite students to brainstorm a list of adjectives to describe the objects they saw in the work of art, using the sentence frame, for example, "Plants can be __________." Record the students' adjectives under the correct heading on the tree map.

5. Display a reproduction of Leucojam Varium by Anna Atkins and

Anne Dixon. Ask students the same questions listed in step 2. Direct students to respond in complete sentences (e.g., "I see a __________."). Add adjectives describing the objects to the tree map

as appropriate. 

6. Point out that the lines and shapes on the left of the image are balanced by the lines and shapes on the right. Ask students to identify which lines and shapes appear balanced.

7. As a class, write a "balanced" poem, using the adjectives under one

of the headings on the tree map. For example:

Leaves (title: 1 item you see)
Tiny, petite (2 adjectives related to size)
Crooked, curved, narrow (3 adjectives related to shape)
Graceful, flawless, delightful (3 adjectives related to appearance)
Crisp, smooth (2 adjectives related to texture)
Nature (synonym for title)

Point out how the number of adjectives per line are balanced if you split the poem in half (i.e., compare three lines on top to three lines on the bottom).

8. Tell students that both images they discussed are photographs that were made a very long time ago. The photographs were made with special paper that can make a picture without a camera. Tell students they will make their own photographs with special paper. 

9. Assign homework to students. Ask them to bring to class at least three items from nature from around their homes or school (e.g., leaves, sticks, feathers, flowers) to use for their art.( Have some on hand forfriends who forgot.)


Day Two

1. Allow students to choose at least three items that they brought to class. Give them a piece of white paper that is the same size as the NaturePrint Paper. Have students play with arranging their selected objects from nature on the piece of paper to create balance. Have students share with their partners how they created balance with their objects.

2. Once students have balanced compositions, tell them they will transfer their compositions onto NaturePrint Paper. Distribute to each student a piece of cardboard, to use as a base, and a piece of NaturePrint Paper. Tell them to carefully move the items from the white paper onto the NaturePrint Paper, retaining the same balanced composition. They can use pins or transparencies as needed to hold the items down and keep them from shifting.

3. Carefully take the papers with the items outside into direct sunlight and expose them for around two minutes. The paper should turn light blue.

4. Soak the papers in cool water for one minute. 

5. Allow each of the students' papers to dry flat on a paper towel that is labeled with the student's name.

Day Three

1. Give each student the NaturePrint Paper composition they created, that you have mounted on a piece of black construction paper. 

2. Direct students to look at their own photographs. Tell them to think of a title for their art (possibly using the most predominant item from their composition, such as Leaves orButterflies). 

3. Pass out to students the handout "A Balanced Poem," which uses a form based on the cinquain format. Using adjectives from the Day One lesson for inspiration, guide students to select adjectives from the tree map that can be used to describe their own works of art. Have students complete the handout by writing their own balanced poem. 

4. Ask students to have a peer edit their poem for spelling and for the use of the best adjectives. Then have students rewrite their poem neatly on another piece of paper. Then have them use glue to mount their poem on the black construction paper just below their print.

 From My absolutely favorite Literacy Web Site: Literacy TA. "Peer Review helps students learn how to talk about and revise writing. In this collaborative learning environment, students take turns reading each other's work, commenting on structure, punctuation, word choice, and overall coherence. After the Peer Review session, students use their classmates' comments along with their own ideas to revise their written work.


Students will be assessed on:
• participation during discussion.
• use of balance in their photographs.
• ability to follow directions in creating their own poems.
• use of descriptive adjectives in their poems.






Title (Choose one item you see.)




____________________,  ____________________

Write two words to describe the item’s size.




____________________,  ____________________,  ____________________

Write three words to describe the item’s shape.




____________________,  ____________________,  ____________________,  

Write three words to describe how it looks.



____________________,  ____________________

Write two words to describe how it feels.





Synonym for title

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