Lesson 2: The Amazing and Beautiful Aurora

Part B. Chalk pastel rubbing


This lesson will require approximately two 30-minute classes:

  • 1 class to complete the oil pastel rubbing
  • 1 class for the follow-up lesson, adding silhouettes to give the impression of depth


Demonstrate the importance of using the languages of science and technology to compare and communicate ideas, processes, and results (e.g., use appropriate terminology such as "constellations," "planets," "moons," "comets," "asteroids," and "meteors" to describe objects in space)
Select and use tools in manipulating materials and in building models (e.g., select appropriate materials to build model constellations)
Record observations using a single word, notes in point form, sentences, and simple diagrams and charts (e.g., use a data table to record night sky observations)

General Objectives

This activity is intended to reinforce students' understanding of the Aurora, expanding on their skills in artistic expression and appreciation. As an introduction to landscape drawing and painting, students will observe in photos and prints the different layers (background, middle ground, foreground) that make up a landscape. Students will experiment with colours and colour intensity to create depth and distance. More detail may be added to enhance this effect in a follow-up lesson, using a cut-out black construction paper silhouette. Students will practice using oil pastels in a creative and controlled way. Students will improve their art vocabulary: background, middle ground, foreground, line, shape, colour, depth, overlapping shapes.

Curricular Connections

  • Visual Arts

Lesson Overview

In this lesson, students will create oil pastel rubbings depicting aurora. This activity will follow the students' research of aurora and will enable them to draw a connection between the science and inherent beauty of the aurora.

Materials and Resources

  • Books or images of aurora
  • Dark blue cartridge paper – trimmed to 11.5" x 17.5"
  • Black paper and scissors for cutting silhouettes (for follow-up lesson)
  • White pencils for drawing and labelling
  • Oil pastels
  • Sponges for cleaning up
  • Photos, prints, calendar pictures, etc., of the aurora borealis
  • Sample image (format JPG, 230 ko)


  • aurora
  • foreground
  • middle ground
  • background
  • magnetic fields
  • corona
  • solar flare
  • photosphere
  • Aurora Borealis
  • magnetic pole
  • charged particles

Developing the Lesson

Introduction: Students look at and discuss pictures of the aurora, observing the lines and overlapping shapes. Explain that they will be creating an oil pastel rubbing of the aurora, in a design of their choosing.

  1. Distribute the dark blue and black paper to students, as well as the oil pastels and scissors.
  2. Show various images of aurora in different designs and colours, and have sample images available for students to study individually.
  3. Show students the sample image. It is highly recommended that the teacher prepare a sample prior to assigning the project to students.
  4. Explain the steps required in completing the project:
    • after choosing an aurora design for their artwork, students should lightly sketch that design onto the blue paper with an oil pastel. Common auroral colours include white, yellow, green, pink, purple, and blue.
    • once their basic line has been sketched, students should layer up their chosen colours along the line.
    • with finger, students will draw colours upward, blending carefully to avoid sharp lines and geometric shapes.
    • stars can be added to the sky with white pastel. Encourage students to depict at least one subtle constellation in the sky.
  5. When aurora is satisfactory, students can proceed to second phase of project: adding silhouettes. Students should decide on a foreground design and draw it on the black paper with a white pencil before cutting it out and gluing it to their aurora pictures.


When artwork is complete, have students write their names in the bottom right corner before submitting for evaluation.


The evaluation for this activity should focus on the artistic aspects rather than on scientific accuracy. Use the following questions to guide the evaluations:

  1. Was colour intensity used successfully to create depth and distance?
  2. Did the student succeed in cutting the silhouettes in a controlled manner?
  3. Did the student make an effort to work neatly and with care?