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John Colt Pond Tokens

Lesson Plan | John Colt: Monoprints of Underwater Life – MMoCA


Pond Tokens, 1991, lithograph 


Visual Art, Social Studies, Language Arts, Science 


Margaret O’Connor-Plotkin and Kathy Engebretsen 

Grade Level



  • Students will closely observe an artist’s composition and discuss color choices and techniques that effect mood. Students will explore monoprint techniques and practice to improve results. Students will understand the difference between printing processes to create multiples, versus a monoprint. Students will research to discover life forms that exist in a pond environment with possible use of magnifying glasses or microscopes and slides. 


Create an underwater composition using a mono-print technique with added drawing details.

Discussion Questions

  1. What words might you use to describe Pond Tokens to someone who has not seen it?
  2. Think about your feelings and how the artist was able to help you understand his idea of a pond. Do you think John Colt did research before creating his print? What might that have been?
  3. Do you think this is a view of the surface or beneath a pond? Could it be both? What evidence can you point that supports your observation?


Ask the students to take a careful, quiet and focused look at Pond Tokens. Tell them to describe the colors they see and what materials the artist may have used. Ask for anyone to describe a visit to an aquarium or zoo where one could observe underwater creatures. Discuss what bodies of water are near where you live or vacation, and what grows in that water (both plant and animal life). Ask them to think about whether life forms found in fresh water are different from those found an ocean. How?

Demonstrate color blending to create a realistic background of what one might see beneath the surface of a river, lake or pond. Discuss that light does change in relation to depth, and explore the use of adding white paint or more water to convey that effect. Compare using dark paper and light paint with using light paper and dark paint. Use large brushes on plastic placemats to apply areas of color; experiment with both wet and dry paper to compare printing results. Allow time for students to try small samples and judge what results they wish to use for a larger background, which will then have details added with drawing. Fine markers or small brushes could be used to add details to either the wet-painted print, or after it has dried. Students might apply what they have learned from science books to draw mosquito or dragonfly larvae, water snails, tadpoles, bladderwort, leeches, etc., or to invent pond life of their choice.


Ask students to use a list of descriptive words to create a poem about a pond. Ask them to speak to their librarian to help them find science books about pond life and write a paragraph about a creature that they have discovered in their research. Ask students to think about what they could do to keep a pond healthy. Tell them to take time with their family, friends, or classmates to pick up litter near a shoreline so that man-made materials will not fall into a lake, river, or pond and affect the health of life forms living in the water. If they are not able to to travel to a lake or pond, help them to learn about groups such as the River Alliance of Wisconsin that promote protection of the state’s waterways, and write postcards to their county and state representatives about the importance of protecting natural areas such as wetlands and rivers. 


National Core Arts Standards

VA:Re.8.1.4a; VA:Re.7.1.3a; VA:Re.7.1.2a / VA:Cr.2.1.5a

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