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Let’s Go Exploring!

For Grades K–12

Table of Contents

Featured Work
Activity 1: Into Imagination
Activity 2: Your Place and Mine
Additional Suggestions for Grades 6–12
Additional Suggestions for Grades K–1
Additional Suggested Activities
New York State Learning Standards and Core Curriculum

Featured Work

Gustave Courbet
(French, 1819–1877)
La Source de la Loue (The Source of the Loue), ca. 1864
Oil on canvas
42 1/4 x 54 1/8 inches (107.3 x 137.5 cm)
Collection Albright-Knox Art Gallery
George B. and Jenny R. Mathews Fund, 1959
Background Information for Educators


  • Students will imagine how their other senses (smell, touch, hearing) would react by imagining entering of a work of art about a natural wonder
  • Students will use their sense of touch to explore an environment
  • Older students will create an environment that can be explored only through the sense of touch
  • Students will analyze their sensory experiences to create works of art and write from different narrative points of view
  • Students will learn about the ecology and geology of caves or other habitats (see Additional Suggested Activities #1, #2, and #4)


  • Four medium-sized boxes with holes in the lids big enough for a hand to fit through
  • Objects that provide examples of a variety of textures, for example:
    • Cold things such as metal items
    • Warm objects such as fabric, cotton, and wood
    • Squishy things like Gummi Bears, erasers, cooked spaghetti, and grapes
    • Damp pieces of sponge or paper towel
    • Other items—be creative!
  • Glue and/or tape


Before Beginning

For younger students, assemble the boxes with the supplies listed above in advance. Place various combinations of objects in each box. We suggest attaching some objects to the sides as well as placing them on the bottom—the students will need to be able to feel each item individually. Test the boxes out on family members or on colleagues in the faculty lounge—the objects shouldn’t be too recognizable when touched! You could cut them into pieces to prevent identification!

Let older students work in groups to assemble their own boxes, with objects they find on their own.

Part I: Let’s Look

Ask the class to look at Courbet’s painting very carefully and describe what they see. Once all observations have been made, ask them to put themselves into the painting.

  • If they were standing in the rapids, what would they hear? See? Smell?
  • What would they feel? Is the water warm or cold?
  • Then ask them to pretend to walk up to the rocks and plants — if they touched them, how would they feel?

Part II: Let’s Get Ready

Pretend that your class is going to explore Courbet’s cave.

Make a list of all the things you will need and why they are necessary.

Part III: Let’s Go Inside!

  • Divide your class into four or five groups.
  • Give each group a box, and tell them to imagine that it is a cave. For older students, give each group another group’s box.
  • Ask them to touch all the items inside and make notes about how they feel.
  • Each group will then write a story about a trip into the cave, based on the items in the box and their list of things they need from Part II.
  • Ask each student to draw something that his or her group saw or found in the cave.
  • As a group, take the drawings and turn them into a group artwork.


Most people have a special place where they like to be. Courbet’s was the landscape around his home town of Ornans, which included the source of the Loue River.

  • Ask your students to think about places where they like to go. It could be somewhere outdoors, somewhere in their home, somewhere in school, or another indoor location. It could also be an imaginary place. Don’t tell anyone what the place is.
  • Ask the students to draw their place, and write a paragraph about how they feel when they are there.
  • When they have finished, ask them to exchange drawings with a classmate.
  • Students can then write a descriptive paragraph about the drawing they have in front of them.
  • Have the students read the descriptive paragraph aloud while displaying their partner’s drawing. Talk about the descriptive paragraphs as a class, exploring whether the students who did the drawings think their partners’ descriptions are accurate.
  • Display the two paragraphs and the drawing together.


  1. Ask students to write an essay using their place (or another student’s place) as a setting.
  2. Divide the students into groups. Ask them to choose one student’s place and write a play with that place as a setting or a character.
  3. Ask students to write a story using Courbet’s cave as a character. They will need to imagine an event that might take place within the cave, and then have the cave be the narrator, describing the event and how the cave might have felt about it.


  1. Create a special space right in the classroom – it could even be cave-like. One by one throughout the day, have students sit in the space for a few minutes, thinking about how they feel in it. (Soothing music could even be played quietly in the space; you could use potpourri or something else to provide pleasant smells.)
  2. Students can share how they felt in the space through discussion.

Additional SuggestED Activities

  1. Study plants and animals that live in caves. Many of them adapt to the darkness in unusual ways.
  2. Study the geological aspects of cave formation. For example, how would a river like the Loue originate underground? How are stalactites and stalagmites formed?
  3. Imagine an expedition into the cave. How would you prepare in terms of clothing and supplies? What would you discover? Write a story about your imaginary experiences!
  4. Choose an environment (such as a cave, a rain forest, a desert, a swamp, etc.). Discuss how colors might evoke feelings or sensations about certain environments. Choose four colors to express your chosen environment. Possible media: crayons, markers, paint, colored paper and collage, etc.
  5. Select a small, simple object (i.e. pencil, shoe, cup, book, etc.) and draw it from memory. Get the object, set it in front of you, examine it carefully, and draw it again. Compare the two drawings.



  • Audio for Younger Students

  • Audio for High School Students

  • Audio Description