Lesson Plan — Sculpting Clay Animals


  • Books, photographs of North Carolina animals/wildlife
  • Clay
  • Clay tools
  • Water containers
  • Glazes and / or paint



  • Identify animals / wildlife found in North Carolina
  • Identify animals / wildlife habitats that are located throughout the three regions of North Carolina


  • Discuss how artists portray animals/wildlife in three-dimensional form
  • Create a clay animal / wildlife from a North Carolina region

Crafting•NorthCarolina web site connections:

From the land — Animals: A scavenger hunt of objects inspired by animals


Craft-artist Crystal King works with 4th graders in the classroom


Craft-artist Billy Ray Hussey's Fu Lioness



  • Habitats
  • Three-dimensional
  • Clay sculpture


  1. Have students think about all the animals that live in North Carolina. Begin by making lists on the board. Divide these into the three regions of North Carolina. Explain that wildlife is an important resource for the state. Collect and display photographs of animals that live in North Carolina.
  2. Explain that artists often choose animals as subject matter. Many of these artists are influenced by the animals that live around them in the local environment. Other artists like to create animals that live in other areas or are fantastic creatures of their imagination.
  3. Look at the animals that have inspired North Carolina artists in the From the Land section of the site. How many of these wildlife examples are found in North Carolina today? Look at animals sculptures by clay artists Crystal King and Billy Ray Hussey. What type of animals are found in their work?


  1. Explain that students will make clay sculptures of animals/wildlife that are found in one or all of the three regions of North Carolina. To learn as much about an animal as possible students will need to do some preparatory work.
  2. Have students choose an animal that currently lives in North Carolina. Have students research their animal by making detailed drawings and recording important facts. Have students assemble their information in a poster format that showcases their drawing and lists three facts about the animal/wildlife (habitat, characteristics, etc.) Display students’ posters in the classroom. Students are now ready to turn their investigations into three-dimensional clay sculptures.
  3. Distribute clay. Have students create three-dimensional sculptures. Be sure students understand the concept of three-dimensions (width, height, depth) and of sculpture (art in the round). To begin, students will need to make a hollow clay body for their animal. This can be done by forming the body of the animals and then digging out clay from the underside with a clay tool. Hollow out enough clay that will allow easy drying and reduce the weight of the sculpture.
  4. After forming the body, have students add heads and appropriate appendages. Students will need to be careful to score (scratch the area where the clay meets so that it will adhere better) the clay when adding on these details.
  5. Next have students create the textures found on the animal. An assortment of clay tools will be handy to create the look of feathers, fur, scales, etc.
  6. When dry, use commercial underglazes if desired and bisque fire the sculptures.
  7. Finally, glaze the vessels for the final firing. If this step is omitted, paint the sculptures using tempera, acrylic or watercolor paint.
  8. As an extra step, have students create a three-dimensional diorama of the habitat and place the animal in front of the backdrop. A shoebox makes a good option for a display case for the sculpture and the diorama.


  1. Display the clay sculptures. As students look at them, point out the variety of wildlife that is found across North Carolina.
  2. Do students have an understanding that artists use wildlife as inspiration for their artwork? Can students identify a North Carolina artist that uses wildlife as subject matter in his/her clay art?