Banyan Trees and Babies!

Hello friends! It has been a hot minute (9 months) since I’ve posted new content, hasn’t it?  I’ll explain my absence further down in this post, but first let me start by sharing a beautiful art project with you that my 5th graders absolutely loved.

Banyan Tree Art LessonFirst, let me say that I did not invent this art project. You’ve probably seen these trees floating around your Pinterest feed if you’ve searched for upper elementary art lessons before.  But I’m here to share with you what worked, and didn’t work, for my classroom as we created our trees as well as give a little tutorial that you can follow when you’re ready to try it with your students!

Without further ado, here’s your tutorial!

Supplies Needed:

  • White Construction Paper
  • pencils
  • oil pastels
  • black paint or black sharpies OR black oil pastels

Step 1.) What is a Banyan tree anyway?  You’ll want to start by giving this information to your students. I pulled up a bunch of pictures of real Banyan trees as well as the Wikipedia page about them and we looked at them on my Promethean board.  What’s really cool about these trees is they actually grow roots downward from the branches.  It’s a bit more technical than that but I’ll let Wikipedia tell you all about it. Here’s a picture you can share with your students:

banyan tree

Step 2.) Draw the Tree: This project really takes several days or class periods to do.  On the first day, after introducing what a Banyan tree was and really looking at the shapes of the trees, we drew them. This was pretty stressful for some of my students who don’t consider art their first love.  For those students, I did a guided drawing on the Promethean board that they could follow. It’s best to start with the trunk, then add 4-5 main large branches, followed by filling in the smaller branches.  If your students want to have the tree over water (to show a reflection), remind them to leave room below the trunk.  Also, I find that its key to leave large enough spaces between all of the interweaving branches so that the students can really blend two colors (see step 4).

banyan trees drawingStep 3.) Paint the Tree Black: On day 2, using black tempera paint, we painted in our trees. BUT- we didn’t love how this turned out.  The black just wasn’t black/dark enough.  Later, many students ended up going over the black portion with black oil pastels.  I think maybe a different type of paint would have worked better.  If you don’t have paint, you could even use large black sharpies to color it in, like I do with my Sunset Silhouette art project.

Step 4.) Color the spaces between and below the branches: The goal with the coloring is to have students blend from one color to another in each individual space that they have created between the branches, and then to create and blend a sunset below the tree’s lowest branches. Finally, they’ll need to learn how to show a reflection in the water if they chose to do so. I HIGHLY recommend showing how to properly blend oil pastels (under a doc camera if you have one) before you pass out supplies and let them at it.  Warning: this part results in lots of messy oil ‘pastely’ fingers.  Some students found that they liked to roll up some paper towels and use them to blend. But blending is key! Blend, Blend, Blend!

banyan trees step 2You can see in the pictures above how the oil pastels sometimes blended over the black painted portion. This was another reason that most students chose to go over their black paint one final time after they were done with the colors.

Step 5.) Hang and observe the beauty!: I love how they all turned out so different.  Even students who didn’t consider themselves artists were proud of their Banyan trees!

banyan trees in hallway

banyan tree 1

banyan trees 2

banyan tree 3

Now on to a more personal note….

We had another baby!

elle collage

This is our second girl. Her name is Elle and she was born on July 30th.  I had a rough pregnancy (I was sick well into my second trimester), and a very challenging class last year.  So as I dealt with those things, I took a step back from blogging and from making new products for my TPT store.  Now that my little babe is here though, I’m feeling much more like myself again (with the exception of majorly lacking sleep!).  I’ve filed away many great ideas for your classrooms that I can’t wait to share with you.  Here’s to a great 2015-2016 school year!


  1. Amber;

    Another Meridian teacher on TPT 🙂
    Also a U-of-I grad although quite a bit older than you…1991 😉

    Stumbled upon your blog, nice work and your store looks great!
    Wondering how long have you been a tpter and is there any type of TPT club/group for Idaho or Meridian?

    Congrats on Baby #2, enjoy this time because it goes extremely fast.. my little ones are already in HS and Middle school (next year).



    • Amber Carlson says

      Hi Kelso! Go Vandals! I have been a TPT’er for a few years now – I love it! I have often thought about putting a TPT group together for the Boise area- I don’t know of one that there is yet and would love to start one so I’ll let you know when I do for sure. What is your TPT store called?

  2. I know I’m posting on an old blog post but I was wondering something. You mentioned that some students went back over the branches to make them blacker after using the colors. How about having students draw the branches, outline the branches with a sharpie, use the colors in between and then paint the branches last? Would that work? Will the paint stick over the oil pastels? Thanks!

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