Keywords: dissolve, absorb, transparent, dense, polar, cohesive forces adhesion, watercolor, wash, medium, values; Lesson Plan Grade Level: fourth through sixth grade; Total Time Required for Lesson: 40 minutes as one continuous time block; Setting: art room classroom

Goals for the Lesson

  • The students will become aware of the properties of water
  • The students will concentrate on polar, cohesive forces, and adhesion of water.
  • The students will experiment with the cohesive quality of water using various water color techniques.
  • The students will mix designated color combinations together and observe what colors are created due to the cohesive quality of water.
  • The students will create a water color wash using various color combinations.

Materials Needed

State Standards Addressed: E & E Standards Watersheds and Wetlands (4.1.4 B); National Visual Arts Standards: Media, Techniques, and Processes (5-8.1 A&B)

Teaching Model: The 4MAT System

Subjects Covered: science, art

Topics: properties of water, watercolor, wash, transparency, color-mixing

Instructional Phase

Read over section 3 page 7-8 in Incredible water With the Water Lion . (10 minutes) Have enough copies of Appendix I worksheets Have students experiment with the qualities of water and paint mixing using the various techniques described on worksheet.(15 minutes) Create a water color wash using a combination of colors suggested in directives.(10 minutes) Cleanup (5 Minutes)

Doing the Activity

  • Read pages 7-8 in Incredible Water With the Water Lion together (take turns reading). Water can dissolve many substances. Water can absorb a lot of heat before changing temperature. Water is transparent. Water is most dense at 39 degrees F and less dense at temperatures above and below 39 degrees F. Water molecules have a charge and are polar. These attractive properties between molecules are called cohesive forces. Water is also attracted to other substances which is called adhesion. Attraction between water molecules enables us to create beautiful effects in using water color paint and allow the natural mixing of paint.
  • Explore the cohesive forces of water by working together on the distributed worksheet.
  • In the first area as directed, please wet your brush slightly, rub on a color of your choice on the paint strip, dab the brush once on the paper towel and apply to the "Dry on Dry" area on the worksheet.
  • Next use more water, rub on the paint, do not dab the paint on the towel and paint directly in the "Wet on Dry" area of your worksheet.
  • Clean your brush totally in your dirty water container. Dip your brush in the clean water container and paint clear water right onto the worksheet. Wet the brush again, rub it in the paint, dab it on the towel and apply paint to the wet splotch on the paper. " Dry on Wet."
  • Clean your brush in the dirty water, Dip it in the clean water. Paint the worksheet with water only, wet the brush and rub it in the water color. Apply it directly to the wet splotch, "Wet on Wet", on the worksheet without dabbing it on the towel.
  • Discuss the effects created by using the different techniques of using water and the application of paint. Especially note the effect created by using wet paint on wet paper. What property of water made this happen? How are the values (intensity on color) effected by the water.
  • Using the color combination explained below and the technique of using "wet on wet" create the mixing of colors. Allow the paint to mix itself. The cohesive forces of water will allow this to happen.


Using what you know about the qualities of water and the effect of different color combinations, create a water color wash (Wet on Wet) over the entire sheet of water color paper. We will be using your water color wash papers for another lesson to be discussed at a later date.


"I hope you enjoyed creating your lovely wash of colors and the natural mixing of colors. This technique of using water colors is all possible due to the unique properties of water. Using what we know about water can enhance our artwork and make it pleasing to the eye. Using the cohesive forces of water can bring a subtle and not harsh quality to our work."


Sharpe, William E., and Sanford S. Smith. Incredible Water With the Water Lion, 4-H Water Project Unit 2 . University Park, Pa.: Center for Water Stewardship, The Pennsylvania State University.

Hubbard, Guy (1967). Art in Action. Coronado Publishers Inc.


Janet Bartlett, St. Philip School, Crafton, PA