Aurora Borealis Mixed-Media Nightscapes


I came up with this project in response to the ever-present dilemma of creating non-denominational winter holiday cards.We made full-size (9″x12″) landscapes to display as well as quarter-size (4.5″x6″) landscapes for the holiday cards, and they were all beautiful. This lesson has been successful so far in Grade 5, and should be appropriate for any intermediate grade, though it has potential as a small group lesson in the primary grades. 


Learning Intentions:

  • Students will be able to see how using light materials on a dark background creates a glowing effect.
  • Students will be able to use chalk pastel smudging techniques deliberately to create the desired effect.


  • Blue construction paper
  • Black construction paper, cut lengthwise in half
  • White paint
  • Little cups and/or containers (for the white paint…palettes work too)
  • Toothpicks
  • Glue (white glue or glue stick)
  • Chalk pastels

Step 1: 

Use chalk pastel to draw squiggly lines with wide horizontal sweeps from the bottom corner of the blue construction paper to the opposite top corner. Do not blow or shake off chalk dust, as you will need it in the next step.

image(3)         Tricky spot aurora 1

Tips for Success in Step 1:

  1. I recommend using 3-4 colours of chalk pastel, and one of them should be white.
  2. Instead of tracing the same line exactly with every colour of chalk pastel, picking and choosing where to add colours to your line makes the aurora borealis look like it is changing colour.
  3. Use white to brighten certain areas, and darker colours like forest green or navy blue to help other areas fade into the night sky.

Step 2:

Place your finger or thumb directly on the line. Press down and drag the chalk pastel up towards the top of your page. Repeat this process working either from the bottom of the page to the top, or the other way around.


Step 3: 

Use a toothpick dipped in white paint to dot the starry sky. Don’t forget to put stars everywhere, including ones that shine through the aurora borealis.


Step 4:

Use scissors to cut a jagged line into a black construction paper strip. Vary the line to make your trees more interesting, instead of having ones that are all the same height.


Step 5:

Cut little details and texture out of the tree line.

Tricky spot aurora 2




Step 6:

The starry sky should be mostly dry by the time you finish the details on the tree line, which is perfect because it is now time to attach the tree line. Carefully line up the bottom of the tree line strip with the bottom of the page and glue this in place.



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