Magical Oaxacan Animals

Magical Oaxacan Animals lesson plan

Bright colors! Intricate patterns! Fantasy creatures! Discover the delights of unique Oaxacan wood carvings. Decorate an imaginary animal.

  • 1.

    The Zapotec people of Oaxaca (Wa-HAH-ka), Mexico, craft intricate animals from copal wood. They paint their carvings with multicolored, intricate patterns. Some of these animals look real, while others are pure fantasy. Find out more about this unique art form that is practiced by just 200 families whose work is famous worldwide.

  • 2.

    To draw a similar animal, use a black Crayola® Fine Line Marker to outline a fantasy creature. You can create it by combining several different animals into one or use your imagination to invent a new one.

  • 3.

    Add important details, such as eyes and a mouth. Fill the animal shape with small drawings. Use natural motifs, such as flowers or vines, as well as other patterns. Fill the whole animal with color!


  • Children research the wooden sculptures of Oaxaca, Mexico.
  • Children draw a fantasy animal that is decorated in the Oaxacan style using color and patterns.


  • Research the families that produce Oaxacan art and the impact this craft had on this Mexican town’s economy. Read some of the myths and legends upon which their work is based.
  • Create a 3-D sculpture based upon the Oaxacan carvings. Sand and paint wood in a similar style.
  • Assessment: Children describe their decorative techniques and compare them to the Oaxacan style of painting wooden sculptures.