Learn How to Make Biosphere Portraits

Description:Paper frames with negative space cut out in the shape of animas found at the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge. Designs are added to frame and the frame then is layered on top of calendar nature images.

1. Understanding of basic elements of design patterns.

2. Individual expression with chosen animals, self-made cut-outs, and added designs.

3. Appreciation of JHNWR animals as well as other organisms and landscapes in order to achieve a comprehensive visual appreciation of the biosphere.

4. Understanding of how one ecosystem may influence another (such as an urban area influencing the marsh), or how distant ecosystems may have similarities.

Author: Blair

Grade level or Target Age Range: Elementary to middle school

Sample, Historical Art Examples, and References:

project sample:
nature meta-frames 2
(red fox)

nature meta-frames

Vocabulary: Design, biosphere, pattern, negative space

Materials: Construction paper, tape, scissors, and markers, crayons or color pencils, and calendar photos

Anticipatory Set: Ecosystems across the globe always have something in common. A red fox’s fur is bleached over time by the sun, whereas the red colors and ring patterns of sedimentary rock seen in the Jalama Beach photo were caused by pressure over time. The photo was also taken at low tide. Discuss how tides influence the marsh.


1. Show finished sample and discuss. Demonstrate by drawing outline of animal shape (bring stencils or templates as needed) and adding designs over top.
(10-15 minutes)

2. Cut out animal shape first by pulling up paper into a soft, uncreased fold and snipping a notch into the center of the negative space. Cut out animal outline from this center notch. After demonstrating, help students as needed.
(10 minutes)

3. Carefully affix paper frame onto calendar photo using rolled pieces of tape.
(5 minutes)

4. Tape a second sheet of construction paper for the back of the frame.
(5 minutes)

5. Allow students to display their biosphere portrait, if they choose. Review similarities of different ecosystems within the biosphere and how one ecosystem may influence another.
(10-15 minutes)

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