Changing Landscapes

Children will tinker with discarded materials to re-create a landscape sculpture.

Lesson Objective

Children will tinker with discarded materials, re-creating art that is a familiar landscape.


What You'll Need

Note: This lesson requires a collection of discarded materials that have been collected in advance.

  • A large, color reproduction or digital image of Suzy’s Sun (for Judy Tyler) by Joseph Cornell – from the North Carolina Museum of Art website
  • Shoeboxes, cereal boxes, or other small boxes – 1 per child
  • Small discarded items (i.e., buttons, small pieces of wood, parts from electronic gadgets, puzzle pieces, and so forth)
  • Objects from nature (i.e., leaves, sticks, nuts, seashells, pebbles, and so forth)
  • Construction paper scraps in landscape colors, such as green, brown, blue, yellow, and orange
  • Cotton balls
  • Tubs (or boxes) – 1 per table
  • Nontoxic tacky glue – 1 bottle per every 2 children

What To Do

Note: Equally divide the small items, nature objects, construction paper scraps, and cotton balls among the tubs.

  1. Display the artwork, Suzy’s Sun (for Judy Tyler). Tell the children that this is a landscape sculpture (see Vocabulary).
  2. Ask the children why they think the artist gave the artwork the name, Suzy’s Sun (for Judy Tyler).
  3. Discuss the different parts of the artwork (see Guiding Student Inquiry).
  4. Ask the children to be detectives and look for clues in the sculpture that can help them figure out what kind of place it shows.
  5. Discuss the clues that the children find (i.e., sun, clouds, flags, shell) and that the items used as clues are representing different ideas.
  6. Talk about how parts of the artwork work together to look like a real place (the beach) even though the artist did not sculpt a real landscape.
  7. Tell the children that they will be making a landscape sculpture using discarded materials.
  8. Have the children think of a place that is familiar to them (mountains, beach, forest, and so forth) that they could re-create.
  9. Place a tub of materials on each table, and give children some time to tinker with the materials.
  10. Ask children to identify any items that can be used to represent other things (see Guiding Student Inquiry).
  11. Demonstrate using items to represent other things – for instance, a bottle cap is round like the Sun, a cotton ball can be a cloud, a twist tie can be a tree branch, and so forth – and glue them onto your demonstration box.
  12. Distribute a box to each child, and place bottles of glue on each table.
  13. Assist children as necessary, and talk with them about their projects as they are working.
  14. Place boxes on a table, and conduct a gallery walk, giving each child an opportunity to discuss their sculpture.

Guiding Student Inquiry

  • Describe the parts of the artwork.
  • Explain which of the parts look real and which of the parts that do not look real.
  • Tell me what kind of place the artwork shows.
  • Describe the clues in the artwork.
  • Tell me what items could be used as a sun/cloud/lake/tree.
  • How many different ways can you think of to use these items?
  • Describe the landscape you have re-create.

Explore, Extend & Integrate

  • Provide tempera paint for children to paint the exterior and selected portions of the interior of the finished boxes.
  • Extend the activity to the block area. Have the children set up scenes using blocks and other small toys. Have other children guess what is happening.

Check for Children’s Understanding

  • Could children describe the various parts of the artwork?
  • Could children describe the artwork as depicting a beach landscape?
  • Could children identify the clues in the artwork, such as seashell, flags, and sun?
  • Could children use items to re-create a landscape?


Did You Know?

A sculpture is a three-dimensional work of art. Sculptures can be made from wood, stone, ceramic, metal, or a combination of different materials. Different materials can be assembled to emerge into a type of abstract art, which is meant to convey the notion of something. Landscape sculptures are meant to portray the essence of a landscape image; for instance, Suzy’s Sun (for Judy Tyler) gives the perception of a beach landscape on a sunny day.

Tinkering with bits and pieces of items is a great way to introduce children to new and different materials. As they explore the items, children can tap into their creativity and think of the possibilities that exist. This type of exploration can help children by promoting independence and decision making. 

Vocabulary: Child-Friendly Definitions

  • tinker – to work with something in an experimental manner.
  • landscape – the land and sky that you can see from one point.
  • sculpture – the art of making statues by carving, chiseling, or molding.
  • familiar – having some knowledge of something.
  • clue – something that helps solve a problem or mystery.
  • re-create – to make again.

Lesson Tips

  • Make sure boxes are stable and can stand up on one side, providing a landscape (horizontal) view.
  • Cover tables with butcher paper for easy clean-up.


  • Come Look With Me: Exploring Landscape Artwork with Children by Gladys S. Blizzard
  • Imagine a Day by Sarah L. Thomson
  • Imagine a Night by Sarah L. Thomson
  • America the Beautiful by Katharine Lee Bates

Home School Resources

Home educators: use these printable lesson PDFs to teach this lesson to your home schoolers. They're available in English and Spanish.

Home/School Connections

Las Conexiones a la Casa

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Content Provided By

Common Core State Standards Initiative – These lessons are aligned with the Common Core State Standards ("CCSS"). The CCSS provide a consistent, clear understanding of the concepts and skills children are expected to learn and guide teachers to provide their students with opportunities to gain these important skills and foundational knowledge [1]. Visit the CCSS