I’ll be honest.  I like birds, but I prefer animals with fur.  And I had very little respect for how amazing birds are until I tried to build this nest.  

Just this one aspect about birds, their ability to build a nest that must withstand rain in a tree that blows in the wind, is fascinating.  I had to use glue, I have thumbs, and it still seemed like I was balancing pick up sticks.  (Look it up if you are under 40.)  God is so creative in his design of these industrious creatures.

Not only does this project show value and depth in the way the grass is painted, it is a sculpture that focuses on composition. Made mostly out of recycled materials, this project can be paired with science and the study of birds.  For, elementary aged students, I would recommend the book A Nest Full of Eggs, by Priscilla Belz Jenkins.


  • 1 inside panel of a pizza box (or other 12 inch x 12 inch cardboard)
  • Green acrylic paint (I used 2: Anita’s Christmas Green and Shamrock)
  • White acrylic paint
  • Round paint brush (number 10-12)
  • Plate or lid to mix paint
  • Small package of white Model Magic
  • Clear tacky glue
  • A forked branch about 9-12 inches long
  • A bunch of twigs
  • Some leaves or small strips of brown paper
  • Small bit of dryer lint

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Lesson Plan

Step 1:  Cut out a 12 inch by 12 inch square from a pizza box.

Any 12 inch by 12 inch cardboard will do as long as it is clean and doesn’t have any markings.  Leave some of it brown as if the ground is showing through the grass a little.

Step 2:  Start painting with short strokes for grass.

Start with one of the greens, paint in random directions, and vary the length from about a ½ inch to 2 inches.  Let it dry for a few seconds, then mix green with white and paint more random strokes of grass.  After it dries for a few seconds, start painting grass with the other green.  Add white to the green and after it dries, paint more grass.  You can go back with any of the greens, dark, medium, or light and fill in until only a small amount of brown is visible.  I didn’t even wash my brush until I was completely done.  

All of the different values will give the grass a 3 dimensional look with highlights and shadows.

Step 3:  Glue the forked branch in one corner.

Once all the paint is dry, make sure the branch is situated so that you can make a nest in the center of the square.  I had to break off the end of my stick because it was hanging over the edge.  Use the tacky glue to glue the branch where it touches the cardboard.  Let it dry.

Angling the branch will make a more pleasing composition.

Step 4:  Start to make the base of the nest.

I used 3 of the sticks and created a triangle. Afterwards, I laid a couple more branches over the center.  (See the detail.)  Use tiny dots of glue where the sticks meet.

Step 5:  Start to add the sticks for the nest.

I started over lapping the sticks in a pentagon shape (5 sides), expanding slightly with each level.  Glue where the twigs cross each other.  Allow the glue to dry.

Lay the sticks in this pattern.

Step 6:  Add bits of brown paper or leaves.

Bits of paper bags can be used, torn, and twisted to fill in the gaps in the nest.  Add a dot of glue to each piece.

Step 7:  Add dryer lint.

If the nest still seems a little loose or you want it to feel more cozy, add a little dryer lint with glue. Stretched cotton balls or yarn will work too. Allow the glue to dry.

NOTE:  If this is going to be hung on a wall, test it by gently starting to raise it up to see if any branches need to be glued more securely.

Step 8:  Add an odd number of eggs. (1, 3, 5)

Odd numbers also usually make a more interesting composition.  Take tiny pieces of white Model Magic and roll them around in your palms until they are smooth and oval.  Leave the eggs to dry.  They can be painted a light brown, blue, speckled, or just left white.  Add them to the nest with a dot of glue when they are dry.

Now there is a sculpture with an interesting composition that can be used to study birds!

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Posted by:Karen Riley

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