Monthly Archives: January 2022

Polar Bear Art Activity Based on The Icebergs by Frederick Edwin Church

God has given polar bears many unique features to help them survive in cold arctic regions. In this art project children will learn about some of these features as they draw and put together a collage of a polar bear framed against the colorful aurora borealis.

In this post you’ll find:

  • Supply list
  • Step-by-step Directions
  • Helpful Hints
  • Containing the Mess
  • Variations and adaptations for older and younger children
  • 6 Ways this activity aids children’s mental, physical, social, and spiritual development
  • Molly the Artsy Corgi picture

Let’s get started!


  • White and black construction paper
  • Pastels (There are 2 kinds of pastels—chalk-like soft pastels or crayon-like oil pastels. Either kind works for this project. If you or your child is bothered by dust, choose oil pastels instead of the soft ones)
  • Pencil, black marker, and scissors
  • White glue or glue stick


Start with the background of ice floes and

the aurora borealis:

  1. Tear jagged pieces of white paper that will stretch across the width of the black paper (tearing these gives a more natural look)
  2. Place the torn strip on a paper scrap and color blocks of pastels along the edges of the paper. Apply the color heavily.
  3. Place the strip a little below the top of the black paper and with your finger, “push” the color up and away from the white paper and onto the black paper. You can apply more pastel to the strip if it’s not dark enough.
  4. Repeat this with other strips and colors, moving the strips down a ways each time. Children can do as many layers as they wish.
  5. If you’re using soft pastels, you can clean off the dust with a tissue.
  6. Polar bears live and hunt out on ice floes, so cut white paper for the ice floes and arrange on paper to look as if some are farther away. Glue these down.

Next the polar bear

mother polar bear and cub, public domain, wikimedia

My elementary students are all drawing animals right now. Some classes are doing owls or seahorses, while others are drawing patterned animals, such as giraffes.

In each class we begin by looking carefully at the animal to see its unique features, head and body shape, and nose and ear size and placement.

Looking at these things not only gives them a greater appreciation for how our wise and creative God has made each animal just right for its environment, but it also helps them draw more accurately.

The bear we draw here is simplified for drawing by several ages, but we still want to make it show some of a polar bear’s unique features.

So as we go through drawing a polar bear, I’ll  do the same thing so you can help your child look carefully at the bear’s special features and draw these more accurately. It’s often best to draw on another paper first to make a pattern for the “good” paper, especially if it’s a collage. Draw the head and body separately  and then glue together.

polar bear out on ice floes, public media, wikimedia

  1. Bears have circular-shaped heads, and so do polar bears, but they are thinner and have thinner heads than many other bears.
  2. So its head is a circle that narrows more as you get to the chin.
  3. Polar bears have rounded ears, but they’re small so they don’t lose too much heat through them. Notice the wide placement of them toward the side of the head.
  4. Notice that polar bears have a longer snout than many bears that ends in a very large nose. Snout and nose together, make polar bears super smellers. For the snout draw an inverted triangle that’s rounded under the nose.
  5. Polar bears have smallish eyes that are close together in the front like most predators. They need to be able to see well in front of them to catch and grab their pray. Look carefully at where the eyes are in relation to the snout.
  6. In this drawing we’re looking at the bear face on and only see those powerful shoulders rising behind and around the head in an inverted U shape. Make another, much smaller u, to forms the front legs.
  7. Polar bears have huge feet, the size of dinner plates! These spread their weight so they can walk on thin ice. Their foot pads have little bumps that give them traction on ice and snow. They have long claws to help with traction and grab and hold onto slippery seals.
  8. I’ve just tried to show the enormous size of the feet without much detail.
  9. Outline your bear’s head and body in black marker, cut out and glue together.
  10. When cutting the bear’s body try making it a little jagged in places to suggest the thick fur polar bears have to keep warm, in addition to layers of fat.
  11. To finish, glue your polar bear wherever you’d like on the background.

Helpful Hints:

  • Children often need to see how to tear shapes.  Quick tears result in random shapes, so show children how to tear jagged pieces of paper by tearing slowly in one direction then changing direction to tear slowly again.
  • If older children decide to add the blue shading, I mostly gathered the blue on my finger and then brushed it across the edges of the bear’s fur and on the ice. In a few places, I made some scribbles with the pastel stick itself.

Containing the Mess:

  • Place a tablecloth or large sheet of paper under your work. Pastels are a little messy. If you used the soft pastels, you can just shake out the cloth outside. Watch out for what direction the wind’s blowing though!
  • Have paper towels and tissues to clean up hands and paper between colors and steps.
  • Place wax paper under papers as you spread glue on them to prevent them from sticking.

Variations and adaptations for older and younger children:

  • Instead of a black background with the aurora borealis, use blue paper for daylight and add snowflakes with white paint. You can spatter the paint or use Q-tips.
  • Younger children may need help with drawing and cutting, but if you show them shapes like the U and circles, they will learn to look and draw more accurately, too.
  • Younger children will enjoy coloring  and pushing the pastel colors onto the black paper, but may need help moving the paper down each time.
  • Older children may want to use deep blue pastel to add shading to the bear and the ice
  • Older children may want to study more polar bear pictures and try drawing one from the side
  • Use the same method to draw and create a smaller polar bear for a cub next to the large bear.
  • Send your polar bear to your grandparents or display on the fridge!
  • Use as an illustration or cover for a school report on the amazing polar bear!

6 Ways this activity aids children’s mental, physical, social, and spiritual development:

  1. Using pencils, scissors, and other art tools helps develop fine motor skills.
  2. Looking carefully at what they want to draw helps develop better observation and drawing skills.
  3. Learning about the polar bear’s special features enhances their appreciation of God’s creativity and care for all His creatures.
  4. This activity helps develop visual/spatial skills and how to understand and use visual information—important in learning to interpret photos, graphs, maps, etc.
  5. When children make choices in creating art, it enhances problem-solving skills.
  6. Making art enhances creativity and refreshes minds and eyes tired from screens.

Before You Go:

If you’d like more activity ideas and devotions for art, history, and nature, curriculum connections, and links to more resources, be sure to sign up for my newsletter and receive a free guide to 5 Ways Art Benefits Children’s Cognitive, Physical, Spiritual, and Social Development, with a Few Fun and Easy Activities to go with each Benefit

Visit my website where you’ll find free downloadable puzzles, how-to-draw pages and coloring pages for kids and an updated list of my hands-on workshops, chapels, and presentations for all ages.

Molly the Artsy Corgi Picture

Molly loves snow and she hopes you enjoy making this mixed media picture of a polar bear!

Sign up for our blog and don’t miss more art fun!







A Devotional based on an Iceberg that Played Hide and Seek

Have you ever hidden so well during a game of hide and seek that no one could find you? Was it a little scary? Can icebergs play hide and seek? In 1999 an iceberg the size of Rhode Island broke away from Antarctica and went missing! That’s right, but let’s back up a little.

In the Northern Hemisphere, from February to July, chunks of ice break off or calve from Greenland’s glaciers. Some also calve from glaciers in Alaska. Chunks may be small or as large as the ones shown in Church’s painting. Most of an iceberg is out of sight below the water, and it’s this part that’s so dangerous to ships.

The Icebergs by Frederick Edwin Church, Dallas Museum of Art, public domain

In the North Atlantic, ocean currents often carry icebergs from Greenland to an area off Newfoundland called Iceberg Alley. This was where Church went to study and sketch icebergs for his painting. So many icebergs in this area important for fishing and shipping, have caused the loss of many ships and lives over the years. Ship crews had to be constantly on the alert for this threat.

But everything changed on the clear and calm night of April 15, 1912 when the Titanic hit an iceberg on her maiden voyage from England to New York.  Titanic sank within 2 ½ hours, and over 1,500 passengers and crew drowned.

The disaster prompted several countries to meet and establish an International Ice Patrol to keep track of icebergs in the North Atlantic and warn ships of their locations.

This patrol, part of the United States Coast Guard, still operates. At first Coast Guard ships patrolled Iceberg Alley from February to July. Since WWII they use airplanes to spot and keep track of icebergs.

Today the International Ice Center also uses satellites. In 1999 that dangerously large iceberg calved from Antarctica, went missing. SeaWinds, a special radar to help improve weather prediction, had recently been launched aboard a NASA satellite, and it located the iceberg drifting off the coast of Argentina. Since then, satellites also help track icebergs.

God doesn’t need ships or planes or satellites to keep track of icebergs.

Chapter 38 of Job tells us God has created and continues to care for every big and small part of His creation. He has “walked in the recesses of the deep,” (verse16); has “entered the storehouses of the snow and seen the storehouses of the hail,” (verse 22). God knows “from whose womb comes the ice and who gives birth to the frost from the heavens when the waters become hard as stone, when the surface of the deep is frozen, (verses 29-30).

God created icebergs. They can’t go missing from Him.

Has there ever been a time when you felt lost? Maybe you had an argument with a friend. You got in trouble at school. Or a pet has died. Did you feel confused or scared, or all alone?

We know from the psalms that King David sometimes felt lost and afraid. But in Psalm 139, he writes that God knows “when I sit and when I rise; (verse 2). And “If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast” (versus 8-10).

David knew God would never let him go missing.

Next time you feel lost and alone, remember that no chunk of ice, no matter how big or small ever goes missing from God. They’re always on God’s radar and so are you. He’ll never let you go missing.

Prayer: Thank you, Lord, for always being with us. No matter where we are you will be there to comfort and guide us. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Before You Go

If you’d like more activity ideas and devotions for art, history, and nature, curriculum connections, and links to more resources, be sure to sign up for my newsletter and receive a free guide to 5 Ways Art Benefits Children’s Cognitive, Physical, Spiritual, and Social Development, with a Few Fun and Easy Activities for each Benefit

Visit my website where you’ll find free downloadable puzzles, how-to-draw pages and coloring pages for kids and an updated list of my hands-on workshops, chapels, and presentations for all ages. Add link

Molly and I hope you enjoyed this devotion based on The Icebergs by Frederick Edwin Church. Come on back next week for an art activity based on the painting.


Lost and Found, The Icebergs by Frederick Edwin Church

How could The Icebergs, a 5-foot tall and 9-foot wide painting, be lost for nearly a hundred years?    In plain sight! That’s how.

Read on to:

  • Find helpful vocabulary
  • Learn a little about Frederick Edwin Church
  • Learn the story of this once lost masterpiece
  • See activities to help you and your children explore and enjoy The Icebergs
  • A cute photo of Molly, the Artsy Corgi


These words, which will be in bold green the first time they come up, will help you and your children talk more easily about different parts of a painting.

  • landscape a painting of land, trees, etc. may have some people and buildings, but these aren’t the focus
  • sketch a quick, non-detailed drawing or painting that artists use as studies for more finished works
  • foreground, middle ground, background art words for the front, middle, and back parts of a painting.
  • Horizon where the land or water meets the sky

The Artist

Frederick Edwin Church, (1826-1900) was one of the very few students of Thomas Cole, founder of the Hudson River School of landscape artists. (check out other posts I’ve written about the Hudson River artists)

Like others in the group, Church first painted landscapes along the Hudson River and in other rural areas of New York and New England. In 1857 he hit fame with his 7-foot-wide painting of the Horseshoe Falls of Niagara. Water rushing away from the bottom edge of the painting (which was set at floor level) makes viewers like they’re about to tumble over the falls. Church exhibited Niagara by itself in a gallery in NYC and thousands paid 25 cents to sit in front of it and view the rainbow, mist, and foaming waters.

Church’s interest in science and exploration soon took him to South America to climb mountains and trudge through tropical rain forests,

Heart of the Andes by Frederick Edwin Church, Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC, public domain

to Italy and Greece to study ancient ruins, and to the Middle East to ride camels to reach the fabled city of Petra.

El Khasne, Petra by Frederick Edwin Church, Olana State Historical Site, public domain

From pencil and oil sketches in these places, he painted huge landscape masterpieces.








For The Icebergs, Church chartered a small sailing ship for a month-long summer expedition to the waters off the coasts of Newfoundland and Labrador. From the ship he used a rowboat to get closer to the icebergs so he could do pencil and oil sketches. The sailors thought he was crazy to go so close.

The Painting

The Icebergs by Frederick Edwin Church, Dallas Museum of Art, public domain

Church finished the final Icebergs painting and displayed it before crowds in NYC and Boston, just as he had Niagara. But the Civil War had just begun, and Church couldn’t find a buyer for the huge painting, so he sent it to be exhibited in London. After its successful exhibit, a businessman from Manchester, England bought The Icebergs and installed it in his country estate.

The estate was bought and sold many times over the years, eventually becoming the property of the City of Manchester. At different times the city used the house for a hospital and an orphanage. By 1978 it was a detention home for boys. Except for a short stay at a church that gave it back, The Icebergs remained with the property all those years, because no one knew its true worth. Though many art experts wondered what had happened to the painting, it hung dusty and forgotten, but in plain view, on a little-used stairway.

Then in 1978, the home’s administrator decided to sell the painting to raise a little money to buy some land. Suddenly the world rediscovered Church’s masterpiece. And it didn’t just raise a little money, it sold for 2.5 million dollars at auction (setting a record for American paintings) to an anonymous buyer who donated it to the Dallas Museum of Art, where it remains today, welcoming visitors to the American Art wing.

Activities to Help You and Your Children further Explore The Icebergs

Before doing any other activities, ask children to tell what’s going on in the painting and what tells them that. Enhance their observational and verbal skills by rephrasing words and adding new vocabulary.

  • Help them notice how the foreground ice formation frames the iceberg in the middle ground.
  • Point out how Church has highlighted that middle ground iceberg with sunlight.
  • Encourage them to look way into the background at the distant horizon to see more icebergs.

Though we might expect a painting of icebergs to be mostly white, Church’s interest in science as well as his artistic training, helped him look carefully to see many colors reflected in the towering icebergs.

A friend of Church, who was a pastor, wrote this description of what he saw as he accompanied Church in the rowboat, “the steepled icebergs ,a vast metropolis in ice, pearly white and red as roses glittering in the sunset.” Pastor Louis Noble.

Go to this link to The Icebergs at the Dallas Art Museum and enlarge and scan around the painting,

  • Encourage children to see the details. Have them call out or write down the colors they see.
  • Older children might enjoy coming up with similes for the different colors and textures they see. For example, parts of the iceberg look like peaks of white frosting.

Before You Go

If you’d like more activity ideas for art, history, and nature, curriculum connections, and links to more resources, be sure to sign up for my newsletter and receive a free guide to 5 Ways Art Benefits Children’s Cognitive, Physical, Spiritual, and Social Development, with a Few Fun and Easy Activities for each Benefit

Visit my website where you’ll find free downloadable puzzles, how-to-draw pages and coloring pages for kids and an updated list of my hands-on workshops, chapels, and presentations for all ages. Add link

Pictures of Molly

Molly and I took some photos on a cold day here in Colorado a few days ago. It was so cold that frost and snow froze instantly on every surface! We hope you enjoy them

And we hope you enjoy this first post in a series about Frederick Edwin Church. Next week we’ll have a devotion based on the painting or Church’s life and work.

If you’re new to my blog, this is what you’ll usually find in each month-long series. One post will come each week, usually followed by a newsletter the last week:

Post 1 will engage your children’s minds in art appreciation activities. with background information about the artist and artwork with pictures and links for you.  Then I’ll give you some kid-friendly activities to help you and your children enjoy and appreciate the artwork.

Post 2 will engage your children’s hearts in a kid-friendly devotion based on the artwork.

Post 3 will engage children’s hands in an art activity based on the artwork. There are always suggestions to make the activities doable for a range of ages.

Post 4 may be related books to read or an interview with a children’s author. I include picture books as well as middle grade books.

In my end-of-month newsletter, you’ll find lots of ideas and links to help you make connections to other subjects related to the month’s artwork and artist. I hope this format will help you with games, lessons, and activities to engage your children’s minds, hearts, and hands in learning about and enjoying art.