We hope this learning experience will give you the opportunity to spend an afternoon outside with your children, observing nature, learning about playa wetlands, and creating art as a family.
Be silly. Get messy. Have fun!
1st Graders Playa Art
Email your children’s artwork to firstname.lastname@example.org and I will add it to this post!
After completing this lesson families should be able to :
- Identify playa wetlands (and playa lakes)
- Name common animals associated with playas
- Explain the difference between a playa and a lake
- Create a piece of art about playas
- Playa Wetlands – shallow bodies of water (typically less than 1 meter deep) that have frequent wet and dry periods.
- Playa Lakes – these bodies of water have been altered (deepened and/or connected) to provide a storm water drainage system for Lubbock. This term is actually an oxymoron because playas dry up and lakes never do.
First, click here to read information on playa wetlands.
Start with a simple conversation about playa wetlands. You may want to ask your children the following questions:
- Have you seen a playa?
- What does it look like? (e.g., a small shallow body of water)
- Where have you seen one? (e.g., in the park close to their house)
- What kinds of plants and animals do you see around playas? (e.g., ducks, geese, shorebirds, frogs, salamanders, dragonflies, damselflies, etc. Your children may mention fish. It’s important to remember that playas typically dry up, therefore, fish are not naturally found in playa wetlands. In Lubbock, the city stocks playa lakes with fish because they have been deepened and typically do not dry up.)
- What do playas do? (e.g., provide a water source for animals)
- Have you ever noticed anything that would make playas different from other bodies of water, like lakes? (e.g., more shallow, water levels change frequently, tend to have a lot of trash/litter, etc.)
Through this conversation, you want to give children a picture of what playas look like and the function they serve. Maybe they don’t know what a playa is, but they have seen “lakes” in local Lubbock parks. You can explain to them that these bodies of water are altered playa wetlands – here in Lubbock, we call them playa lakes.
After you’ve had an introductory conversation with your children about playas, gather your art supplies (see activities below) and spend a morning or afternoon creating art outside!
Additional information for Older Children
- How playa wetlands got their name – In 1541, Francisco Vasquez de Coronado explored the Southern High Plains and when he came across playas, he described them as “a shallow, bowl-shaped depression a stone’s throw across.” These bodies of water reminded him of the beaches in his home country, Spain. Playa is the Spanish word for beach.
- Have you children image what it would have been like to travel across the Great Plains and come across these shallow wetlands. What do you think they saw? How do you think they felt?
- Playas are unique to the Great Plains – Approximately 95% of the world’s playas are located in the Great Plains region of the United States. There are three hypotheses about how playas were formed: 1) Small amounts of corrosive elements seeped into the caliche, then dissolved creating a depression that gradually filled with water. 2) During the ice age, the movements of glaciers caused depressions which filled with water as the ice melted. 3) Depressions were formed at bison wallows – where they rolled around in the dirt.
- Have your children do a little research on these theories. Which theory has the most evidence? Which theory do they think is correct?
Here we have 3 activities for you to choose from. Pick the activity that best fits your child’s interests or age level. Or, do all 3! You will spend time outside for each one of these activities. Be sure to bring water, snacks, and sunscreen for the family!
Activity 1: Draw a Picture of a Playa
- Something to draw on – paper/canvas
- Something to draw with – crayons/makers/pencils
- Something comfortable to sit on – chair/blanket
- After discussing what a playa is, help your child get their art supplies set up so they can draw.
- Sit next to them as they draw their playa. They may ask a you a question about what animals live near playas, or they may need help drawing a bird. The point is to spend a little down-time together, creating a piece of art.
- I highly suggest drawing your own playa. You can compare pictures and talk about why you included different elements (birds, frogs, grass, etc) into your drawing.
Art by: Melissa O’Connell
Activity 2: Create a Photo Essay of a Playa
- List of what photos they would like to include (optional)
- After talking with your children about playas, you may want to ask them to make a list of all the things they should see when visiting a playa, for example, grasses, birds, frogs, etc.
- Take them to a playa and let them freely take photographs.
- Go home and look through the photos with your children. How many photographs were of things that they expected to see? How many photographs were of things that they didn’t expect to see? Maybe they took a lot of photographs of litter and trash. Ask your children why that might be. Would they be interested in spending an afternoon cleaning up their local playa?
Photo By: Rebecca J. Hopp
Activity 3: Create a Nature Sculpture out of Natural Objects
For a list of materials and instructions, please click here. Instead of doing this activity in your backyard, go to a local playa, collect materials you find on the ground, and create a piece of art.
We want to stress the importance of NOT collecting living organisms. Please don’t break branches off trees or pull up grasses. Instead, collect sticks, litter, or fallen seeds to make your art.
PLAYA ART from the COMMUNITY
This picture was drawn by a young lady at the Wolfforth Water Expo.