Crossing Borders/Breaking Boundaries
The Arts of India, 1556-1658
June 23 - July 1, 2008
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Unit of Study:            Fine Arts, Life Science

Lesson Title:             Drawing a Realistic Peacock

Discipline:                 Art / Science

Grade Level:             1st Grade

Author:                      Jennifer Grall

County:                     Wicomico County, MD

Time Period:             Two 45-minute lessons



This lesson is created specifically to fit into the 1st grade curriculum standards for the state of Maryland in both fine arts and life science, but can be adjusted for any K-5 classroom. 

This lesson was developed after a study of the culture of India, specifically through the Mughal Miniature Albums during the Crossing Borders/Breaking Boundaries Summer Teacher Institute 2008. It is created to be an art lesson using materials to explore realism in the drawing of birds and animals as well as a science lesson studying birds and their features.  There is inherently a heavy emphasis on the history of a different culture and an understanding of the cultural symbols used to represent that culture.


Before teaching this lesson, it is important to be aware of the rich heritage of the Mughal Miniature Albums.  Indian emperors would employ a large group of artists to document many aspects of their life and reign in a scrapbook type album.  The consequential books that were created for the library of the emperor were richly decorated and had detailed pictures.  During the reign of Jahangir, there was a strong movement towards representing the natural world.  Due to his love of nature, there was an increase in drawing realistic animals, flowers and fauna. These miniature books included beautiful borders embellished with floral designs.  In these books, flowers and animals are not only used for embellishment but are even used as main subjects.  When birds or animals are displayed, they are depicted with extreme sensitivity to detail and realism. 

The animal that will be the main focus of attention in this lesson is the peacock. The peacock has been and still is held sacred by certain Indian groups. It became the official national bird of India in 1963 and is protected by law in its native habitat. The Indian peacock, Pavo cristatus, is a colorful, swan-sized bird, with a fan-shaped crest of feathers, a white patch under the eye and a long, slender neck. The male of the species is more colorful than the female, with a glistening blue breast and neck and a bronze-green train of around 200 elongated feathers. The female is brownish, slightly smaller than the male and lacks the long train. The male performs an elaborate courtship dance by fanning out his tail and preening his feathers to attract a female.

Materials Needed:

  • Large reproductions of Moghul Miniature paintings, or pictures to show on an LCD projected computer
  • White 8 ½ by 11 paper
  • Watercolor pencils, bowls of water and paintbrushes
  • Crayola “Pearl-it” texturizing medium
  • Floral wrapping paper (preferably gold metallic) to create a border for the finished drawings, scissors and glue


Muraqqa’ Imperial Mughal Albums from the Chester Beatty Library, Elaine Wright, 2008.

Fine Arts Standards:

1.0 Perceiving and Responding: Aesthetic Education – Students will demonstrate the ability to perceive, interpret, and respond to ideas, experiences, and the environment through visual art.
1. Identify and describe observed form
2. Identify and compare ways in which selected artworks represent what people see, feel, know, and imagine

2.0 Historical, Cultural, and Social Context: Students will demonstrate an understanding of visual arts as an essential aspect of history and human experience.
3. Differentiate among works by artists representative of different times and cultures

  1. Creative Expression and Production: Students will demonstrate the ability to organize knowledge and ideas for expression in the production of art.
  2. Create images and forms from observation, memory, and imagination

Science Standards:
1.0 Skills and Processes
C. Communicating scientific information

3.0 Life Science
A. Diversity of life
1. Compare and explain how external features of plants and animals help them survive in different environments.
C. Genetics
1. Explain that there are differences among individuals in any population.

Social Studies Standards:
2.0 Peoples of the Nation and World
            A. Elements of Culture
1. Observe and describe ways that people of different cultural backgrounds meet human needs and contribute to the community

5.0 History
A. Individuals and Society Change Over Time
1. Examine differences between past and present time
2. Compare people and objects of today and long ago

Fine Arts Objectives:

1.1. Identify and describe observed form
a. The student will describe colors, lines, shapes, textures, and forms found in observed objects and the environment
b. The student will represent observed physical qualities of people, animals, and objects in the environment using color, line, shape

1.2. Identify and compare ways in which selected artworks represent what people see, feel, know, and imagine
a. The student will identify ways that artists represent what they see, know, feel, and imagine

2.3. Differentiate among works by artists representative of different times and cultures
a. Categorize selected artworks by theme and content
b. Compare how selected artworks are similar in theme and content

3.1. Create images and forms from observation, memory, and imagination
b. Manipulate art media, materials, and tools safely
c. Create artworks that explore the uses of color, line, shape, texture, form, and selected principles of design, such as pattern and repetition, to express ideas, thoughts, and feelings

Science Objectives:
1.0 Skills and Processes
1.c.1. The student will describe things as accurately as possible and compare observations with those of others.

3.0 Life Science
3.a. Diversity of Life
1. The student will use the senses and magnifying instruments to examine a variety of plants and animals to describe external features and what they do.
3. The student will use the information collected to ask and compare answers to questions about how an organism's external features contribute to its ability to survive in an environment.
3.c. Genetics
1. The student will classify organisms according to one selected feature, such as body covering, and identify other similarities shared by organisms within each group formed.

Social Studies Objectives:
Peoples of the Nation and World: Elements of Culture
2.2.1 The student will observe and describe ways people in their school and community meet human needs for food, clothing, shelter, and other commonalities, such as recreation, music, and stories
History: Individuals and Society Change over Time
5.2.1 The student will classify events as belonging to past or present
5.1.1 The student will construct meaning from informational text and text features about the past

Mughal—of or relating to the Mughal emperors of India during the 15th-17th centuries AD
Peacock--a male peafowl with a crest of upright feathers and a greatly elongated loosely webbed upper tail which is mostly tipped with iridescent spots and is erected and spread in a shimmering fan usually as a courtship display
Cool colors—purple, blue and green generally know in the art world as “cool colors” for the feelings they evoke when used
Bird—a warm blooded vertebrate with feathers, wings and a beak that creates eggs for repr0duction
Beak—the bill of a bird
Egg—a hard shelled reproductive body by a bird that develops into a new life form of the bird
Feathers—a shaft with barbs that forms the external covering of birds
Indian—anything coming from or deriving from the subcontinent of India
Border—the outside edges of a picture or painting
Concentric—having a common center

Day 1:

1.   Start out by showing the students a picture of a peacock in a Mughal painting.  Have them go through the exercise, “I See, I Think, I Wonder”
As a class, list what the students see in the picture (a peacock should come out in this discussion)
Next, ask them what they think about the picture.
Finally, ask them what they wonder about the picture.
2.  Explain to the children that peacocks are an important bird in India.  As groups, have them discuss what the creature has to have in order for you to know it is a bird.  (Feathers, beak, lays eggs)
3.  Discuss how the peacock is a unique bird because of its bright, jewel colors and long plumage.
4.  Show a power point presentation of different pictures of peacocks being sure to note the difference between males and females. Explain that females are often brown or tan.
5.  Explain that they will be drawing a peacock in the very realistic style of the Mughal paintings and then adding a floral border to it.
Scope and Sequence

Teacher Directed

  • Remind the students of the list of features of a bird that they created previously,   i.e. Beak and feathers. 
  • Have the students take out the cool colored pencils to be sure they do not accidentally use a warm colored one.
Guided Practice
  • Draw for the students each part of the bird as they follow along on their own papers.  
  • Show them how to create a feather with the shaft in the center and barbs coming off on either side by using a “V” shape.
  • Show them how to create the “eye” at the end of the feathers by making concentric circles using different cool colors.

Day 2:
Independent Practice

  • Allow the students to finish coloring in their peacocks using only their cool colored pencils.
  • Once completed, give them a cup of water and paint brush and let them gently dab some areas of the feathers to blend the cool colors reminding them to use only a small amount so as not to dilute the detail that they drew.
  • Pass out strips of the floral wrapping paper for them to glue around the borders of their painting, cutting as necessary to fit.
  • Once completed, give the students diluted bowls of the “Pearl-it” texturizing medium in order to paint a thin wash over their entire peacock.  This should give it the iridescent quality that peacock feathers have.


Use the exit sheet to assess student understanding.  It includes the following questions:
1. Fill in a box with a cool color used in your peacock…
2. Draw one part of the peacock that proves it is a bird…
3. Was your peacock male or female?


  • Have students compare and list the ways in which their picture is similar to the Mughal Miniatures.
  • Show various pictures and have them identify if it is a bird.  If not, explain why not. What features are missing?
  • Hang student artwork or do a gallery walk to show off the different ways they drew their peacocks.
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Sponsored by
the Center for Renaissance & Baroque Studies
and the Maryland State Department of Education