Barking Up the Right Tree

Barking Up the Right Tree lesson plan

Explore and display textures of tree bark in a patterned arrangement of positive and negative space.

  • 1.

    Measure and cut at least eight 6-inch (15 cm) squares of manilla paper. Peel the paper wrappers from Crayola® Multicultural Crayons.

  • 2.

    Find several different textures of tree bark. Make crayon rubbings with various colors. Try different pressures and combinations of colors.

  • 3.

    Select at least six of the squares. Arrange them in an original repetitive pattern. Cut shapes from the other two squares to make more intricate patterns. Use positive and negative shapes (shapes remaining when a positive shape is cut out and removed). Experiment to find the design that is most interesting.

  • 4.

    Glue finished designs to a larger piece of paper for display, or create a class mural.


  • Students measure and cut squares of manila paper.
  • Students observe and compare different tree-trunk textures.
  • Students make a variety of crayon rubbings with natural materials, then arrange them in creative repetitive patterns using positive and negative shapes.


  • What a great way to involve parents or student partners. The rubbings are an ideal weekend homework assignment-just send the materials home with each child.
  • Adapt the exploration to match children's skills. For students with mobility and motor coordination challenges, for example, find a partner or use masking tape to hold the paper while the child rubs the crayon.
  • Use the same idea to tune children in to leaf shapes, seed pods, or other designs in nature.
  • Compare and contrast types of tree bark. Exchange rubbings and information on the types of trees found in different areas of the world, perhaps with grandparents or another classroom.