Tar Beach Contemporary Art Lesson for Kids

Beach Collage

An art lesson on collages!

Students learn about the Contemporary American artist Faith Ringgold, and create their own story quilt collage inspired by her book, Tar Beach.

Grade Level: 2nd - 4th grade

Time Required: 3 45 minute class periods

Vocabulary: Collage, Imagination, Quilt, Illustrate, Scene, Rich/Vibrant

National Core Arts Standards:

Creating: #1, 2, 3

Presenting/Producing: #4, 5, 6

Responding: #7, 8, 9

Connecting: #10, 11


Faber-Castell Tempera Paint

Brushes – medium and small

Pencils, scissors and glue

Scraps of decorative paper

Faber-Castell 9x12 Watercolor Paper

Tar Beach Book

TAR BEACH, by Faith Ringgold, 1991

Tar Beach is a beautiful picture book about the power of imagination. It is about a young girl’s imaginative ability to be able to magically fly over and tell the story of the favorite places and experiences she’s had in her life during the Depression era. The story and art reflect the African American culture of the period in a series of paintings framed by a border resembling a quilt. In this lesson plan, students create their own “story quilt” collage based on a favorite memory of their own, inspired by the work of the famous writer, painter and quilter, Faith Ringgold.

Sketch of a beach

1. Begin by having students think of a favorite memory, simple enough that they feel confidant illustrating it. Have them work it out on scratch paper. Prep final 9x12 papers with a centered 6 x 9 in. box. Students then draw their scene of a favorite memory.

Sketch of a man

2. On a second piece of paper, demonstrate how to draw a simple 4-1/2 in. image of themselves in a horizontal flying/floating position. Suggest ways to have fun with arm and leg positions and clothing, shoes or hats.

Landscape of water

3. Decide what coloring materials you would like to set out for students. Pictured here is a painting in tempera. However, markers, colored pencils, or crayons could be used, as well. Encourage rich, vibrant colors.

Painting of man

4. Have students color their own images with whatever they used for their memory illustrations. They can then carefully cut out their figures.Painting of a beach Creating the quilt-like border

Pictured here are 1-in. pieces, cut and then cut again into irregular bits from painted paper scraps. Pre-cutting the pieces for students can save a lot of time. The pieces can be positioned butted up against each other and around the edges of the art, or spaced out as shown. Gluing them down a bit crooked gives the overall look a fun, folksy feel. For details on creating painted paper in the classroom, refer to the directions from December’s Dream Snow lesson plan. This border art could also be made from patterned scrapbook paper or magazine pages.

Adding the personal touch

Have students handwrite or use a computer to describe their memory in a simple sentence. Begin with “If I could fly.” They then cut it out, position and glue along the border of the illustration.

Flying figure

Students position the figures of themselves flying over their scenes, and glue it down.

Mount final art on black construction paper to set off the colorful artwork.

Artist Biography - Janis Doukakis


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