Beacon Lesson Plan Library

Pop into My Community

Julie McBride


An intro to shapes, architecture, and depth in art. Students distinguish cityscapes from seascapes & landscapes and explore the features of a community. Then, they create a pop-up paper city showing foreground, middleground, and background


The student uses two-dimensional and three-dimensional media, techniques, tools, and processes to depict works of art from personal experiences, observation, or imagination.


- Visuals of your community (lighthouse, silos, banks, courthouse, etc.) these can be obtained from the chamber of commerce, AAA travel and tours, or teacher generated photos, color Xeroxes, or slides.
- Cityscape or Urban environment visuals from Crystal productions Take 5 Art Prints. See web links.
- Large art visual, one of each: cityscape, landscape, or seascape. See web links. Good examples are:
Landscapes: Starry Night by Vincent van Gogh,
Cypress Trees by Vincent van Gogh. Seascapes:
Tthe Great Wave by Hokusai, Breezing Up by Winslow Homer, Gulf Stream by Winslow Homer, Fog Warning by Winslow Homer, Watson and the Shark by John Copley
- 3 large printed labels with cityscape, landscape, or seascape written on each one.
- Scissors for each student
- Glue for each student or 1 for every 2 students
- 18 x12 white or manila tagboard for each student
- Assorted small medium and large shapes (squares, rectangles, ˝ circles, triangles) of colored construction paper and tagboard
- Water buckets
- Watercolor sets (1 for every 2 students)
- Large round brushes, one for each student
- Oil pastels (1 set for every 2-3 students)
- Small(1/4’) squares of Styrofoam or matboard to pop up buildings or other city features
- Toy megaphone and/or touring cap for teacher
- Three large labels printed with cityscape, landscape, or seascape
- Clear acetate sheets (9x12) 10-15 sheets
- Viv a vis pens or grease pencils (2-5)
- Assorted colored const. paper (or one color for each class) 18x24 or21x15 to frame the finished artworks and the artist statements.


1. Gather materials from the materials list for the activity.
2. Display visuals around the room.
3. Have ready megaphone, touring hat, and labels


Day One
1. Before students enter the room, display large visuals of the community, a seascape, a landscape, and the Take 5 cityscape art prints around the room.

2. Greet students at the door dressed as a tour guide (with a toy megaphone and/or touring cap in hand). “ Welcome to our (name of town) community tour.”

3. Once the students are seated, tell them, "We are going on an imaginary tour of our community." Ask students to recognize and name buildings in their community. List these on a chart, overhead, or board as students name them. As students name a building, ask them what purpose that building serves.

4. Ask students to point out buildings in the large visuals displayed around the room. Point out and list their features: domes, columns, windows, entrances, etc. Ask students to name the shape of that feature. As a student names a shape, provide him/her with a piece of clear acetate and viv a vis pens or grease pencils to trace the shape right over the visual. You can reuse the acetate sheets as they become filled with traced shapes.

5. Explain to the students that they will be creating an artwork about their own city. Tell them that an artwork of a city is called a cityscape. Display together a cityscape, landscape and seascape. Show the class the three large labels printed with cityscape, landscape, and seascape. Ask a student which one of the 3 large labels (cityscape, landscape, and seascape) he/she would put with each artwork. Hand a student the labels to attach to each of the 3 prints for the class to see. After the labels have been placed and the similarities and differences discussed, put away the seascape and landscape examples. Keep out the cityscape.

6. Dramatically peer into the cityscape. Exclaim, ”Hey, how did this artist make that _____ (road, building, lamppost, car, etc.) look like it is far away?!” Wait for students to generate the correct response (he made it smaller, he put it up higher in the artwork, etc.). Exclaim, “Hey, how did he make this ___ (road , building, lamppost, car etc.) look close up?!” Wait for students to generate the correct response. (he made it larger, he put it lower in the artwork, etc.).

7. In a stage whisper, tell them, "There is a secret way of making things look close up and far away in a flat picture." Have ready in your hand 3 labels with foreground, middleground and background on each separate label. Ask, "Where did the artist make things look farthest away?" Have students point out the background. Explain that usually things and people in the background are placed higher up and are made smaller. As students respond correctly, tape or paper clip the correct label to that part of the cityscape.

8. Ask, "Where did the artist make things look closest?" Have students point out the foreground (clarify, not the number four) and explain this is where things and people are usually placed near the bottom of the artwork and are made largest.

9. Dramatically ask “And what do you think we should call the middle of our cityscape, where things are medium size; not too small and not too big?" Place the final label (middleground) in the correct place.

10. Hold up an 18x12 tagboard. Explain that students can create their own cityscape either horizontally (hold it horizontally) or vertically (hold it vertically). Remind students to write their names and class on the back of their own tagboard as the cityscapes will be completed another day.

11. Using an oil pastel, show how to draw 3 main roads for the cityscape. These do not have to be straight lines and, in fact, are more interesting if at least one is not straight. The roads should be drawn from one side of the paper to the other. This is the beginning of a cityscape. Ask students the following questions: "What can be added to the background, middleground, or foreground to let the viewer know that this is our town? (bridges, mountains, trees, certain buildings, etc.) Can you tell what time of day it is? Can you tell what the weather is like in this city?"

12. Demonstrate how to use watercolors to create a wash over the oil pastel roads, moon, stars, sun, rain, or buildings; whatever is included in the cityscape. A wash of watercolor has a lot of water in the brush and a little watercolor paint. Encourage students to use more than one color to create their wash.

13. Appoint students (I call them my Dream Team) to pass out tagboard for each student and sets of oil pastels. Wait to pass out the watercolors,water, and brushes until students show some effort in drawing each of the 3 parts of their cities. As students complete painting the wash, lay the completed paintings flat to dry either in a drying rack or along a counter or wall.

Day 2
1. Review the art vocabulary from the previous lesson by having students teach the class. Call on students to identify a landscape, seascape and cityscape displayed in the room. Using the labels from the previous lesson, label each one correctly. Ask individuals to find the middleground, background and/or foreground in a displayed seascape, landscape, and finally a cityscape. Then, ask students to describe what they see in each of the three areas of each painting.

2. Demonstrate placing several different sized construction paper shapes as buildings in the cityscape. Deliberately misplace one or two and ask students to respond by asking such questions as, "Do you think this one should be moved? Why or why not?" Demonstrate gluing the Styrofoam or cardboard squares on the back of some of the buildings to make them pop.

3. Ask students the following questions: "What else would make my cityscape interesting? Do you think it is too quiet? What could I add to show sounds of the city? How will the people get around in their city?" Elicit responses such as transportation, people, animals, etc.. Tell students that they may draw and cut out these features and include them in their cityscapes.
** Engage students in learning by giving them the following directions for completing their own cityscape:

4. Using the tray of assorted paper shapes, create the buildings for your cityscape. Remember that your largest buildings will be near the bottom of your paper and the smaller ones will be near the top.

5. Buildings can be created with several shapes or simply one and new shapes may be cut. Use oil pastels to create details and features of each building.

6. Once buildings are in place, use a “little dab will do” glue method to paste them down flat or use a small square of Styrofoam or cardboard to make some of your buildings “pop up”.

** Instructions for the teacher:
7. Display rubric and go over rubric criteria with the class. Have the Dream Team (art helpers) pass out cityscapes from the first lesson, trays of paper shapes, glue, oil pastels, and scissors.

8. As students near completion of their work, walk around with a notepad and pencil and ask each student to tell you about their cityscape. As they dictate, write down the student's name next to the statement about his/her artwork. Limit to 3-5 sentences. This extra effort is invaluable formative feedback and provides a strong connection between writing and drawing. This could also be done on a laptop computer or by several older art helpers. Gage the age of the class, if they are capable, they may write down their own statements . The statements are then either glued onto the back of the completed artwork or glued onto the front of the frame.

9. Provide feedback

10. Display finished cityscapes in an informal class art gallery and hold a class critique. Ask students to point out a cityscape that has an interesting foreground. "What did the artist do to direct your attention to the foreground?" Ask the same question about the middleground and foreground using several different student artworks. Read several of the statements students dictated while finishing thier cityscapes.
Finished artworks will go home accompanied by a parent/information and student/activity letter (see associated file)


Assessment of the finished cityscape is in the form of a rubric.
See the associated file contained in a Microsoft word document


This lesson can be modified to encompass creating a large class cityscape, developing cooperative learning and reinforcing the concepts taught (showing depth through size relationships in foreground, middleground and background).

An extension would have students create a city from a specific time and place.

An extension would have students creating, pointing out and describing geometric shapes in the cityscape.

Web Links

Web supplement for Pop into My Community
Crystal Productions

Web supplement for Pop into My Community
Sherwood Print Sets

Kennedy Center for the Arts website
Kennedy Center Arts in Education

Attached Files

A rubric for finished project and parent / student activity letter     File Extension: pdf

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