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Lesson Plan | John Colt: Life in a Pond – MMoCA


Pond Tokens 


Visual Art, Language Arts, Science 


Kathy Engebretsen and Margaret O’Connor Plotkin 

Essential Questions

  1. What is a pond?
  2. What is a token?
  3. What is the environment?

Grade Level



  • Students will gain understanding of life in a pond, identify objects found in nature, and become aware of environmental issues. They will develop drawing skills and understand the difference between realistic and abstract art. Students will learn the meaning of the word, “token”. 


Students work together to design and construct a pond including various life forms found within this environment.

Discussion Questions

  1. Which animals and plants make their home in a freshwater pond?
  2. What are some ways we can learn about what lives in a pond?
  3. How can we protect and sustain wetlands and other freshwater resources?


Tell the students that John Colt was born in Madison, where his father had started an art school. Mention that he later taught art in Australia for a year, and then for thirty years at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

Ask the students to study Pond Tokens for a few minutes. Tell them that John Colt said that he liked to look at nature close up, rather than at big, expansive landscapes. Ask students to silently look at the print for another minute or two. Ask them if they think this is a realistic or abstract image, and why. Ask them to identify the shapes and colors they see. Are they bright colors, or more subdued pastel hues? Do the shapes remind them of anything else, such as human-made objects? Ask them if they see any straight lines in this lithograph. Ask if they think there are any straight lines found in nature, and why that might be.

Tell students that they will work together to create a pond in their classroom. Students will decide on the shape of their pond and cut it out of a large roll paper. The view of the pond could be from above or from the side, showing details that would appear above and below the surface of a pond.

Choose a couple of students to cut out the shape of the pond and select and cut out colors to look like water on the surface. Each student will draw, cut out, and place life forms and objects from nature on the pond.

Students could make picture of coins to “throw” into the pond.  On the back of the coin, the student could write a wish they have, similar to the tradition of throwing coins into water to make a wish.


John Colt’s lithograph, Pond Tokens . Visuals of objects from nature. Construction paper, large roll of paper, scissors. Nature in Focus series: Life in a Pond, Hibbert. 


Realistic, abstract, token, environment 


Students could create Litter Lake by drawing and placing in their pond human-made objects that people might throw in a lake. Discuss why these objects might harm a pond and animal and plant life that live within and around it. 


Visual Arts

VA CR 2.1, VA CR 2.2, VA CR 2.3

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