Second Graders Create Critters of the Methow Valley

Winter 2019

by Ashley Lodato

Education Director, Methow Arts Alliance

When do you get to see the Methow Valley Elementary School art room filled with eagles, cougars, rattlesnakes, herons, and black widows? Second graders know the answer to this–when Bruce Morrison visits the school, that’s when. Bruce, a Twisp-based artist and teaching artist, has been leading residencies for Methow Arts in three school districts for nearly three decades, and led the annual papier-mâché  residency for second graders in the Methow Valley this year. The residency integrates 3D art into the “Sharing the Planet” International Baccalaureate unit.

The residency begins in the classroom with research on “critters of the Methow Valley.” Students consider: What is an ecosystem? What are the needs of living things? What are some of the threats to animal habitat?  How do animal adaptations help them survive?

During the unit of study, students engaged in research, applying their curiosity, critical thinking, communication, and organizational skills in an effort to make sense of the interdependency between animals of the Methow Valley and the ecosystem that we call home.

Students select a local animal, learn about its habitat, locomotion, diet, and physical characteristics. Working with Methow Arts teaching artist Kim Bondi, they then draw pictures of the animal’s exterior and what they imagine the skeletal system inside to be.


At this point the residency moves into the art room and students begin to shape their animals limb by limb, wing by wing, using wire, wadded up newspaper, and masking tape.  This is the “armature,” the framework of the sculpture.

Phase two is sticky and fun, involving flour & water paste and strips of newspaper–the papier-mâché (“chewed paper”) part of the residency. Layer by layer the students build up the critters until each one is rigid, balanced, stable, and reasonably sturdy.  


Phase three is a simple coat of primer paint (although managing 25 kids each with a paint brush and paint can is never simple, despite the fact that Morrison makes it seem so). When the primer dries, the students begin adding distinguishing features to their animals–painted feathers and fur, dots, lines, whiskers, paws, and eyes. Talons are created from wire, sharp predator teeth are formed from clay.

It takes a village to facilitate a residency like this, and parents were true troopers in supporting this residency. Thank you, parents!

The critters are displayed in the cafeteria at Methow Valley Elementary School.

This residency was brought to students by Methow Arts’ Okanogan Region Arts Education Partnership.  The partnership serves more than 5,200 students and 370 teachers across Okanogan County with arts programs in classrooms in the Omak, Okanogan, Brewster, Bridgeport, Pateros, and Methow School Districts, and in the Paschal Sherman Indian School. Residency sponsors in the Methow Valley include the the Public School Funding Alliance, ArtsWA, the Methow Valley School District, Icicle Fund, the Robert B. McMillen Foundation, and the Methow Valley Fund of the Community Foundation of North Central Washington.

INFO: Methow Arts Alliance, 509.997.4004,