Activity Introduction

LordHowe_Joshua Yeldham_FrameQuick summary: Have you ever thought of art as a friend, something that could keep you grounded, safe or help you reconnect with who you are and nature? 

Joshua Yeldham has been drawing, painting and sculpting owls for many years. Throughout the unit of lessons, Joshua talks deeply about his connection with owls and his emotion-evoking journey through adulthood. The artist’s sculptures and paintings of owls became a metaphor for hope and a way for him to unpack his thoughts. Joshua discusses this insight and journey through art-making while he teaches students how to sculpt and mould their very own owl and friend.

Tip: Ensure you remind students that patience and cooperation are needed here as this lesson will span over a couple of days as the plaster will need time to dry and set. However, the reveal will be well worth the wait and your class will have the opportunity to paint and adorn their owl with fresh eyes.

Learning intentions:

  • Students investigate how natural materials can be used to create sculptures
  • Students understand how meaning is applied to art 
  • Students create an owl sculpture.

21st-century skills: 

 CommunicatingCreative ThinkingCritical ThinkingCultural UnderstandingSocial Skills Problem Solving           

Australian Curriculum Mapping

Content descriptions: 

Years 5 & 6 Visual Arts:

  • Develop and apply techniques and processes when making their artworks (ACAVAM115)
  • Plan the display of artworks to enhance their meaning for an audience (ACAVAM116)

Year 7 & 8 Visual Art:

  • Develop ways to enhance their intentions as artists through exploration of how artists use materials, techniques, technologies and processes (ACAVAM119)
  • Practise techniques and processes to enhance the representation of ideas in their art-making (ACAVAM121)
  • Analyse how artists use visual conventions in artworks (ACAVAR123)
  • Identify and connect specific features and purposes of visual artworks from contemporary and past times to explore viewpoints and enrich their art-making, starting with Australian artworks including those of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples (ACAVAR124).

Syllabus outcomes Stage 3: VAS3.1, VAS3.2, VAS3.3, VAS3.4

Syllabus outcomes Stage 4: 4: 4.1, 4.2, 4.4, 4.5, 4.6

General capabilities: Literacy, Personal and Social Capabilities, Critical and Creative Thinking

Cross-curriculum priority: Sustainability 

Relevant parts of Year 5 & 6 achievement standards: 

By the end of Year 6, students explain how ideas are represented in artworks they make and view. They describe the influences of artworks and practices from different cultures, times and places on their art-making.

Students use visual conventions and visual arts practices to express a personal view in their artworks. They demonstrate different techniques and processes in planning and making artworks. They describe how the display of artworks enhances meaning for an audience.

Relevant parts of Year 7 & 8 achievement standards: 

By the end of Year 8, students identify and analyse how other artists use visual conventions and viewpoints to communicate ideas and apply this knowledge in their art-making. They explain how an artwork is displayed to enhance its meaning. They evaluate how they and others are influenced by artworks from different cultures, times and places.

Students plan their art-making in response to the exploration of techniques and processes used in their own and others’ artworks. They demonstrate use of visual conventions, techniques and processes to communicate meaning in their artworks.

Topic: Artist in Residence  

This lesson is part of the wider unit of work: Lord Howe Island – Artist in Residence.

Time required: 110 mins.

Level of teacher scaffolding: Medium- Facilitate class discussion and set up working stations to sculpt owls.

Resources required:

  • A device capable of presenting a video to the class
  • Joshua Yeldham Video – (link provided in the lesson)
  • Sculpting materials (clay, bucket, plaster mixture, water, carving tools, brush) 
  • Painting materials (paint and brush)
  • Portfolio or booklet dedicated to the Joshua Yeldham art lessons
  • Student resource booklet: Joshua Yeldham Student Resource
  • Student Worksheet: How to make an owl sculpture (one per student).

 After each lesson, students should paste, write, draw or annotate their art portfolio.
Portfolios have several important purposes, not only do they serve as a historical checklist of a student’s accomplishments, but they allow students to unpack their creativity and make connections between the process, newly acquired knowledge and experimentation. 

Keywords: sculpture, art, nature, clay, painting, animals, owls, Australian, artist, friend, creativity, portfolio.

Cool Australia’s curriculum team continually reviews and refines our resources to be in line with changes to the Australian Curriculum.


Teacher Worksheet

LordHowe_Joshua Yeldham_LessonFrameTeacher Preparation

Before presenting each lesson, ensure that you have watched the video about Joshua Yeldham and are ready to explore art-making with an open mind and willingness to be outside in nature with your students.
However, before stepping out in nature, make sure that you are aware of any allergies your students might have and have visited each site in advance to ensure it is deemed safe and appropriate. 

Print or send the student resource booklet: Joshua Yeldham Student Resource so that students can refer to artworks by Joshua Yeldham throughout the lessons. 

Learning intentions: Students will...

  • ...investigate how natural materials can be used to create sculptures
  • ...understand how meaning is applied to art 
  • ...create an owl sculpture.

Success criteria: Students can…

  • ...explain how Joshua uses nature to create sculptures
  • ...create a sculpture with natural materials to reconnect with nature
  • ...articulate why and how artists apply meaning to their artw
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Student Worksheet

Thought-starter: “It is important for students to understand that in order to live ethically they must know how to connect with animals, land and country.” — Joshua Yeldham

Step by step guide on how to mould and sculpt an owl

1. Follow the steps below to create your own owl: 

Step 1. Roll out a slab of clay.

Step 2. With a knife, cut out your owl shaped face.

Step 3. Build walls in your clay that are higher than plaster level.

Step 4. Carve eyes into your clay with your finger or tools.

Step 5. You may like to experiment with different tools (varying degrees of sharpness) to carve texture in your owl.

Remember that when you carve down into the clay it will be a positive relief protruding out in your plaster cast.

Step 6. Pour plaster or Hydrostone TB into the mound with a wire bent to hang later and let your owl dry overnight.

Step 7. Remove the plaster and decorate your artwork. 

LordHowe_Joshua Yeldham_owl sculpture

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