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Let’s Create On Stone

Educational Aim

An activity for Visual Arts classes, secondary cycle one

The Let’s Create on Stone learning and evaluation situation (LES) provides an opportunity for secondary cycle one students to discover the patterns, tools and techniques of rock art featured in the Images on Stone online exhibit.

The activity focuses on the basics of art history and the composition and organization of space in images. It helps students to understand how First Nations used a unique surface of the Canadian landscape to create rock art by exploring the techniques of this form of expression.

The activity encourages students to make connections between the expression of an age-old culture and a corresponding form of contemporary art. It introduces students to the way tools and techniques were used in the past to create rock art.

Learning Areas and Target Skill Sets

The Let’s Create on Stone activity is part of the Media Literacy broad area of learning. It allows students to appreciate how media represents reality (comparison of aesthetic and artistic productions).

Subject Area: Visual Arts

  • Naming artistic periods
  • Identifying elements of the visual arts language in a work of art
  • Identifying means to create gestural marks using a variety of materials and tools
  • Creating personal images
    • Using ideas generated by research on the stimulus of creation
    • Trying out various transforming gestures
    • Handling tools
    • Trying out ways to use elements of the visual arts language

Cross-curricular Competency

  • Using creativity

A Three-step Learning Situation

  • Preparation: Creators from the Past
  • Creation: Images on Stone
  • Integration: Rock Art… Today!

These three steps can be carried out in whole or in part.

At the end of the activity, you and your students will have:

  • Analyzed rock art works;
  • Replicated creative gestures using the tools, techniques and representations of a specific period of art history;
  • Transposed a form of art to a different era and context to make cultural connections.

To take full advantage of your exploration of the online exhibit and proposed activities, please:

  • Read all the information provided at each step of the activity;
  • Explore the individual sections of the online exhibit;
  • Review the annexes.

Step 1 – Preparation – One period of class activity (60 minutes)

Creators from the Past


  • Identify the connection between rock art and Indigenous societies from the past
  • Characterize rock art
    • Patterns, representations, use of rock surfaces
    • Techniques and tools
  • Explore examples of rock art

Series of Steps

  • The teacher shows students examples of rock art from the gallery available here. o If the students have already completed the “Rock art, did you say?” History LES, the teacher can ask them to give the meaning of the term rock art. Otherwise, the teacher can provide the following definition:

Rock art: paintings or carvings made on rock surfaces by civilizations prior to the invention of writing.

  • Is it really art?
    • Archaeologists use the word art in rock art to highlight that it is a deliberate form or visual expression. It reveals a creative practice akin to any artistic work (as it involves design, research of materials to be used like paint pigments, use of appropriate tools, identification of surfaces to be decorated, etc.)
    • However, scientists believe that rock art sites have never been produced for solely aesthetics purposes.
    • Who created the sites? Nomadic peoples. Rock art sites may have been created by shamans, but also by hunters or individuals who simply observed some phenomena at the sites or wished to leave a trace of their passage.
  • Based on these images, what are the characteristics of rock art? Use the Table (Annex 1) to list the characteristics identified by the students individually, in teams or with the full class.
    • What patterns can you observe?
    • Where can rock art be found?
    • How was rock art produced?

    Now that the students have a better understanding of the production of rock art, they will be invited at the next step of the activity to produce images based on rock art codes, in order to understand the creative process through imitation.

Step 2 – Creation – One period of individual work in class or not (60 minutes)

Images on Stone


  • Experiment techniques used in the past by creators of rock art
  • Create images based on rock art references

Series of Steps

  • The teacher proposes that students create a work based on the codes of Indigenous ancestors.
  • The students browse the Images on Stone site in order to identify context elements to use as references for their creations:
    • On what occasions was rock art produced?
      • Spiritual ceremonies
      • Encounters (e.g., with the Europeans)
      • Observations of nature
    • What patterns inspire the students?
  • The teacher proposes the surface, materials and tools to be used:
    • Painting:
      • Cork, or thick, porous cardboard may replicate the surface of a rock to a certain extent.
      • Gouache may be used as pigment; but powder pigment would be ideal for students to mix themselves with a binding agent, in order to replicate more closely the process used by rock art creators.
      • Students choose their own tools to use depending on what they want to represent: tracing paper and stamping, stencil, paint brush (to replicate a feather or twig), or simply a finger.
    • Carving:
      • Rock like steatite (soapstone) or any other material adapted to the techniques used (abrasion, incision, pecking)
      • Tools: knife, tip or a harder and sharper piece of rock (students must be introduced to this technique beforehand)
  • Among the evaluation criteria, the teacher may include a measure of originality. However, it is strongly recommended that the students draw from traditional techniques and patterns at this stage.

Similar to other forms of art, rock art is an archaic form of expression that can be renewed across the ages. Would it be possible to create in the present context and environment like the First Peoples did long ago?

Step 3 – Integration – Two periods in class, then as individual work in class or outside (120 minutes)

Rock Art… Today!


  • Highlight the basics to remember from the activity:
    • Rock art is one of the oldest forms of deliberate visual communication to reach out to us.
    • Rock art features characteristic patterns created on media with specific means (tools and techniques).
  • Use the knowledge acquired to transpose the object under study to a different context and historical period.

Series of Steps

  • The teacher shows the student the art work of Norval Morriseau1featured in the Images on Stone exhibit.
    • Like many others, this Anishnaabe artist was inspired by the mythical world of his ancestors and traditional stories to create his works of art. He contributes to keeping this heritage alive.
  • Can the students name other forms of art that endure even today through the work of contemporary artists inspired by techniques and patterns from the past?
  • Personal production: The teacher invites the students to create a personal work of art that will transpose rock art patterns and techniques in today’s world:
    • On an urban surface
    • Using today’s tools
  • This activity involves the following:
    • The students choosing a surface that represents their territory: It may be an urban surface (brick, cut stone, asphalt, concrete) or a surface in the students’ own surroundings (field stone, piece of wood). The important aspect is for the surface selected to allow students to use its characteristics (slits, breaks, colours, reliefs) in their productions;
    • Taking a picture of this surface and printing it. Alternatively, where possible, the students may use the surface directly (for instance, a brick);
    • Using the characteristics of the surface and knowledge gained during the LES (patterns, tools, techniques, myth inspiration) to create a modern work of art.
      • What patterns would represent today’s urban myths?
      • What tools and techniques would be used today? (examples: chalk, gouache, aerosol)
  • Students must also write a short paragraph explaining their creative process and the connections that they make between rock art and their own production.
  • If desired, the teacher may lead a discussion on potential connections (and differences, for instance, regarding the intent underlying each creation), between rock art and today’s urban art, which is sometimes much like graffiti.
  1. For more information on this artist, and his life and work, please go to:

In conclusion

The Let’s Create on Stone learning and evaluation situation is a means to teach concepts of inspiration, imitation and tribute in art. The teacher should use the LES not only to introduce the knowledge that it addresses, but also to allow the students to become more familiar with the materialization of concepts in different contexts.

Messages on Stone

In your Ethics and Religious Culture class, explore the symbolic content and the values conveyed by rock art

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