Teaching Ideas

Early Learning

For Ages 3-5

Art Discussion

  • Imagine we can walk around in this painting. What do you hear, smell, feel?

  • What do you notice about the ice?

  • Talk about how the ice is more colors than just white. What other colors do you see?

  • Look for places where the ice looks sharp and places where it looks more smooth.

  • What would you do here?

  • Act out looking for animals—what animals might we see?

  • Think about how the artist created this scene. Do you think he saw the real thing and painted it or imagined the iceberg?

  • In 1859, Frederic Edwin Church chartered a sixty-five ton schooner and traveled around St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador to make sketches and gather information about the Arctic. By April 1861, Church finished this painting, first entitled, The North and exhibited it in New York City and Boston to enthusiastic crowds who paid twenty-five cents per person to see his vision of this distant world. Church tried to sell this painting in New York, but because the United States was involved in the Civil War, buyers were hard to find. Then, Church took it to London, England, in 1863 where it was retitled The Icebergs. Before arriving, he painted the broken ship’s mast as a reminder of an English explorer, Sir John Franklin, who went down with his ships while traveling in the dangerous northern seas in search of the Northwest Passage.

Encouraging Dialogue

For Students K-12

  • Make a list of all of the colors that you see throughout this painting. Which areas of color are most striking to you?

  • What adjectives would you use to describe nature as it appears in the painting?

  • Imagine yourself standing inside the world of this painting. What might you see, hear, smell, or taste in this place?

  • What animals might you encounter if you were in this place?

  • Traveling to Newfoundland was a big adventure for Frederic Edwin Church. Why do you think the artist was interested in icebergs? He spent several weeks studying the arctic environment in order to create this painting. How are artists and scientists alike? Why would an artist want to explore another place, whether on land or water?

  • Find the broken mast of a ship. What do you think might have happened to cause it to be there?

  • How would you feel if you were standing on the ice, surrounded by the different ice formations, the sea, and the broken mast? Explain your answer.

  • What time of day do you think is described in The Icebergs? Give evidence to support your answer.

  • Church may have added the mast to help viewers understand the enormous size of the icebergs. How tall do you think the icebergs are?

  • Imagine that this painting was used to illustrate a newspaper article. What do you think the headline was? What specific elements connect this work of art to the article?

Making Connections

For Students K-12

  • As a group, brainstorm events and people in history associated with exploration or discovery. After the brainstorm, discuss some of these events/people and talk about why they are important to us today.

  • Compare Frederic Edwin Church's The Icebergs _with Maurice de Vlaminck's _Bougival (1985.R.82). Consider the artist's use of color in their landscape paintings. How does each pull the viewer into the scene?

  • Imagine The Icebergs as a scene in a movie. What kind of soundtrack should accompany this movie? Gather a group of musical works, such as songs, marches, or orchestra pieces.

  • Follow a creative process similar to Frederic Church's process when he created The Icebergs. Choose a subject in nature that is interesting to you. Spend some time everyday for a few days sketching this subject. Sketch at different times of day, from different viewpoints, and using a variety of materials including pastels, colored pencils, and ink. After several weeks, gather and review your sketches. Finally, plan and create a final artwork that reflects your chosen subject and your experiences studying that subject over time.

  • People living in the 19th century were very interested in reading about exotic and remote places and liked to read not only scientific writings but also fictional accounts of daring adventures. Imagine that you are in the world of The Icebergs. Create a short story about your adventure, using the following phrase as the beginning: "As our ship sailed between the huge mountains of ice..." Challenge yourself to be as descriptive as possible and create a story that emphasizes sensory experiences—sight, smell, touch, and taste.