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Bright Butterfly Art Project: Teaching Students With Learning Disabilities

written by: Anne Vize • edited by: Elizabeth Wistrom • updated: 1/5/2012

This butterfly project for special education art classes is a great activity for developing fine motor skills, as well as promoting language, literacy and independence. The end result of this easy art project is a bright butterfly to hang on a wall, or incorporate into a class mural.

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    What You Need

    Butterfly Art Project To begin this easy art project you will need the following:

    • at least three different colored paints (try to choose colors that blend well together, such as purple, pink, green or a combination of autumn colors like red, orange and yellow)
    • black paper
    • plain white art paper or butcher's paper

    From a teaching point of view, you also need to do some specific goal setting for your students with disabilities. An easy project is great, but it is made even better if you set goals for areas such as developing fine motor skills, building communication and increasing social and interpersonal skills. So decide exactly what is is you hope to achieve for each student. For example:

    Jenni will work on developing fine motor skills such as grasp and release of a paint roller and exploring the texture of a pipe cleaner 'feeler' for the butterfly.

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    Timeframe

    This project can be completed in a single session of around 60 minutes, or it can be done over two sessions with the pasting and pipe cleaner feelers added in the second session. Vary the time allowed depending on the special needs of your students. Remember that the hands on nature of special education art classes means you may need to increase the timeframe somewhat so that you can adequately allow for the specific physical needs of your student group. For example:

    Jenni needs co-active assistance to hold and use a paint roller to apply paint to the butterfly. Her helper in special education art class needs to focus on her developing fine motor skills and goals in this area, and allow time for her to work towards these goals.

    Although this may be an easy art project in terms of the artistic product, it is still a useful vehicle for helping students in developing fine motor skills, communication, social skills or any other parameters that are areas of need for your student group.

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    Steps in the Butterfly Project

    The first step in this easy art project in teaching students with disabilities is to paint the white paper with the bright colored paints, using whatever design takes your fancy (and that of your students!).

    Invite your students to explore and experiment with different effects, such as swirls, dots, lines, or blending of colors together. Once the paper is covered, fold it in half so the two painted sides meet together. Ask students to pat the paper so the paints blend together, then gently peel the paper open again. This is a great task for developing fine motor skills - too hard and the paper may rip, but too soft and the paint won't blend completely.

    Leave the paper to dry for a short time - in the sun near a window can speed up the process if you are in a hurry. While you wait, read a story such as 'The Very Hungry Caterpillar', or talk about the science of caterpillars changing into butterflies. Ask students who have seen a butterfly before, and talk about the various species which are found in your region. This is a neat way of making links across the curriculum - an easy art project in special education art class blends into an English and communications class, or a science class, or...

    When the paint is dry, draw a rough butterfly shape on the reverse side, then cut it out with safety scissors, board mounted scissors or other tools used by your students. Remember that students who are developing fine motor skills may have imperfect abilities when it comes to making contact with their hand on a pair of scissors, so always allow room or error and encourage students to approach complex tasks such as holding and using a pair of scissors when they are fresh and focused, not when they are tired and frustrated.

    Paste the butterfly onto the black paper, then poke a hole near the top with a pencil. Thread through a pipe cleaner folded in half so you have two pipe cleaner ends poking out on the front side of the butterfly. Twist them slightly to give a curled 'feeler' effect.

    Add some eyes or any other decorations you like, then display the butterflies on the wall, or as part of a large class mural. This easy art project is great as part of a theme on forests, the tropics, insects or seasons.

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