Tar Beach

Tar Beach lesson plan is inspired by the work of the famous writer, painter and quilter, Faith Ringgold.

Grade Level: 2nd – 4th grade

Objective: Students learn about the Contemporary American artist Faith Ringgold, and create their own story quilt collage inspired by her book, Tar Beach.

Time Required: 3 45-min. class periods

National Core Arts Standards
Creating: #1, 2, 3
Presenting/Producing: #4, 5, 6
Responding: #7, 8, 9
Connecting: #10, 11

Tempera Paint
Brushes – medium and small
Pencils, scissors and glue
Scraps of decorative paper
9×12 Watercolor Paper


TAR BEACH, by Faith Ringgold, 1991
Tar Beach is a beautiful picture book about the power of imagination. It is about a young girl’s imaginative ability to be able to magically fly over and tell the story of the favorite places and experiences she’s had in her life during the Depression era. The story and art reflect the African American culture of the period in a series of paintings framed by a border resembling a quilt.

In this lesson plan, students create their own “story quilt” collage based on a favorite memory of their own, inspired by the work of the famous writer, painter and quilter, Faith Ringgold.

Tar Beach Lesson Plan

1. Begin by having students think of a favorite memory, simple enough that they feel confidant illustrating it. Have them work it out on scratch paper. Prep final 9×12 papers with a centered 6 x 9 in. box. Students then draw their scene of a favorite memory.

Tar Beach Lesson Plan

2.  Next, on a second piece of paper, demonstrate how to draw a simple 4-1/2 in. image of themselves in a horizontal flying/floating position. Suggest ways to have fun with arm and leg positions and clothing, shoes or hats.

Tar Beach Lesson Plan

3.  Then, decide what coloring materials you would like to set out for students. Pictured here is a painting in tempera. However, markers, colored pencils, or crayons could be used, as well. Encourage rich, vibrant colors.


Tar Beach Lesson Plan

4.  Finally, have students color their own images with whatever they used for their memory illustrations. They can then carefully cut out their figures. Creating the quilt-like border Pictured here are 1-in. pieces, cut and then cut again into irregular bits from painted paper scraps.

Creating the quilt-like border

·         Pictured here are 1-in. pieces, cut and then cut again into irregular

·         bits from painted paper scraps. Pre-cutting the pieces for students can save a lot of time.

·         The pieces can be positioned butted up against each other and around the edges of the art, or spaced out as shown.

·         Gluing them down a bit crooked gives the overall look a fun, folksy feel. For details on creating painted paper in the classroom, refer to the directions from December’s Dream Snow lesson plan.

·         This border art could also be made from patterned scrapbook paper or magazine pages.

Adding the personal touch:

·         Have students handwrite or use a computer to describe their memory in a simple sentence.

·         Begin with “If I could fly.” They then cut it out, position and glue along the border of the illustration.

Flying figure

·         Students position the figures of themselves flying over their scenes, and glue it down.

·         Mount final art on black construction paper to set off the colorful artwork.

We’d love to see your student or child’s artwork!  Tag us on social media #GreatArtStartsHere

To download the Tar Beach Lesson in a PDF file, click here.

Tar Beach Lesson Plan

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