My Years, in Tree Rings

Example by Sarah Alexander

Level – 2 and up


  • The student will learn watercolor resist techniques while using oil pastels and watercolor paints.
  • The student will have to use their long term memory to retrieve very early life memories. They will then use writing skills to record these memories on their artwork.


  • Watercolor paper cut in to 8”x8” or 10”x10” squares
  • Oil pastels or crayons
  • Watercolor paints and brushes
  • Ultra Fine Sharpie markers
  • Stamps, or cut out words/letters (optional)


  • Talk to the student about how you can measure a trees years by the rings in the trunk. Prompt the patient to think about their own years: what they have learned, what they have accomplished, what they have encountered.
  • Using an oil pastel or crayon the student will draw a small circle close to the middle of the paper. This is their first year, then they will draw larger circles around the middle, each ring representing the next year. They can make as many rings as they have years – (10 for 10 years old, etc)
  • Using the ultra fine sharpie marker, they will write short sentences or words that give significance to moments for that specific year in their life. If they choose, they can write many or just one.
  • For example: In the very first circle, you can prompt them to write their birth date in the middle. Then, if there are other events that occurred before their memory kicks in (like a sibling birth, family move, etc) they can write those.
  • Prompt them to fill in as many areas as possible.
  • Once they are done writing, they can paint their tree rings.
  • Using monochromatic colors, they can use the watercolor paints to fill in their tree rings. It looks best if each ring is a slightly different hue.
  • If there are open spaces around the rings, they can use another hue, or a different color all together.

Tweak It:

Use a larger piece of paper and make tree rings for all of their family members. See if they can fit the whole family together on one piece of paper. They will have to be smaller and tighter rinds, so they many not be able to write as much as the first project.

Arts For Life © 2010

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