Rock Art Lesson Plan for Elementary School

Instructor: Christopher Muscato

Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.

With this lesson plan, your students will be introduced to rock art and will think critically about how and why it is created, before creating and decorating their own miniature caves.

Learning Objectives

Upon completion of this lesson, students will be able to:

  • identify and describe various kinds of rock art
  • appreciate the motivations and processes relating to rock art
  • critically think about their own lives and those of ancient artists


60 minutes

Curriculum Standards


Review the key ideas expressed and explain their own ideas and understanding in light of the discussion.


Write informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly.


  • Large sheets of sturdy brown paper
  • Tape
  • Slideshow of rock art
  • Chalk or other art materials


  • pictograph
  • petroglyph


  • Tell students that people of the past made art, just like people do today.
  • Ask students to imagine prehistoric artists.
    • What do you think they used for a canvas?
    • What do you think they used for paints?
    • What sort of things do you think ancient artists depicted? Why?
  • Write the terms 'pictograph' and 'petroglyph' on the board. Explain to students that a pictograph is an image painted onto a rock, while a petroglyph is carved into a rock.
  • Show students a brief slideshow of rock art from around the world. Good examples of images could include the Lascaux caves in France, Altamira caves in Spain, Chaco Canyon in New Mexico, Kakadu National Park in Australia, Cumberland Plateau in Tennessee, Kejimkujik National Park in Canada, and the Game Pass Center of South Africa.
  • As you go through these images, discuss them with the students.
    • What images do you see in here?
    • Why might ancient people have chosen to create these images? (Make sure to highlight how rock paintings were part of ceremonies.)
    • What might the non-literal or symbolic images in the rock art mean?
  • Answer any questions before moving on to the activity.

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