Wondrous Water

Lesson Plan


Students will enjoy moving like the birds in Blumenschein’s painting Mountain Lake (Eagle Nest). They will then use their powers of observation to learn what water looks like when it’s still versus when it’s moving and apply what they learn when examining the lake in the painting.

Intended Age Group

Early childhood (ages 3-5)

Length of Lesson

One 30 minute lesson

Standards Area

Visual Arts


Students will be able to:

  • feel comfortable using their imaginations and bodies when participating in movement activities;
  • describe what they see and hear when watching water move; and
  • apply their observations to the water depicted in the painting.


  1. Warm-up: Ask children to look at Blumenschein’s painting Mountain Lake (Eagle Nest). Ask them: What animals do you think live around here? What animals do you see? Tell them to imagine they are birds and to move like they’re on the water, taking off from the water, and flying in the air.
  2. Looking back at the piece and ask students if the water looks like it’s moving. Why? How can they tell?
  3. Fill a bucket, sink, or water table with water. Experiment with moving the water and have children share their observations. How can they tell the water is moving just by looking at it? If they close their eyes can they still tell it’s moving? How? Take pictures during the experiment and print them to compare to the water in the painting.
  4. Come back and look at the water in the painting. Ask the children if the water in the lake is moving. How do they know? Use the pictures from the experiment and compare them to painting. What is similar? What is different?


  • A water table, large bucket, or sink that can be filled with water
  • Water
  • A digital or Polaroid camera for photographs
  • About the Art section on Mountain Lake (Eagle Nest)
  • One color copy of the painting for every four students, or the ability to project the image onto a wall or screen


CO Standards

  • Visual Arts
    • Observe and Learn to Comprehend
    • Relate and Connect to Transfer
  • Language Arts
    • Oral Expression and Listening

21st Century Skills

  • Collaboration
  • Critical Thinking & Reasoning
  • Information Literacy
  • Self-Direction

About the Art

Mountain Lake (Eagle Nest)

Mountain Lake (Eagle Nest)


Ernest Blumenschein

Who Made It?

Ernest Blumenschein (BLOOM-en-shine) was born in Pennsylvania and raised in Dayton, Ohio. He traveled west on an assignment for McClure’s magazine in 1897, and visited northern New Mexico a year later, where he was immediately and profoundly inspired. Speaking of the West, Blumenschein said, “I was receiving the first great unforgettable inspiration of my life…I was seeing [nature] for the first time with my own eyes…Everywhere I looked I saw paintings perfectly organized ready for paint.” For two decades, Blumenschein painted in New Mexico every summer, and taught at the Art Student’s League in New York the rest of the year. In 1919 he moved with his family to Taos, devoting himself full time to painting. Along with a man named Bert Phillips, Blumenschein founded the Taos Society of Artists, which was active from 1915–26. The purpose of the Taos Society was to promote, exhibit, and sell its members’ art. It was made up of a group of artists who saw the West as a place of peaceful isolation, and felt a sincere connection to the local landscape, local color, and the mix of Hispanic, Indian, and Anglo people of Taos. A disagreement about including painters who followed modern art trends ultimately brought the Taos Society to an end.

What Inspired It?

An avid fisherman, Blumenschein visited Eagle’s Nest Lake many times in the 1920s and 1930s. He appreciated the rhythm and harmony of New Mexico’s colors and land forms and wanted to capture his first impression—what he called a “jolt” from nature—to communicate the power and fullness of his experience of the scene. He created small sketches on-site to remind himself of his original emotional reaction. He would transfer the sketch to canvas, taking great care not to change the proportions, shapes, or angles for fear of losing the power of his first impression. It then took him several months to paint in every detail.


Large Blocks of Color
Large Blocks of Color

The picture has four basic layers from bottom to top: land, water, hills, and sky.

Variety in the Water
Variety in the Water

Within the larger masses, a good deal of variation can be found. Look for the variety of textures, colors, and shapes on the water. These variations give the water a sense of movement.


Dark edges help emphasize curvy shapes.


Blumenschein used short, visible brushstrokes to create texture, rhythm, and pattern in several places. You can find patterns of both spots and lines in the lower left corner, plus the artist’s tiny initials.


A flock of ducks sweeps diagonally across the painting, almost from corner to corner. Up close you can see that some are still swimming, some are just taking off, and some are much farther away than others.

Funding for lesson plans provided by a grant from the Morgridge Family Foundation. Additional funding provided by the William Randolph Hearst Endowment for Education Programs, and Xcel Energy Foundation. We thank our colleagues at the University of Denver Morgridge College of Education.