Chameleon Paper Sculptures (3rd/4th/5th)

This is a lesson that I originally intended to do just with my 3rd graders... but instead decided to do with my 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders this week - and it has been incredibly successful at all levels!
I got the original idea for this project from a pin I saw on pinterest, but it looks like that blog post went back to an even earlier post from Artolazzi.
It appears this lesson has kinda transformed a little each time it's been done.. so here is my version! :)

To begin this project, I started off by talking to my students about tertiary (or intermediate) colors and how they are made (by mixing together a primary and secondary color that sit next to each other on the color wheel - ex. blue + violet = blue-violet). The way my classroom is set up, I have 6 different color tables grouped into 3 rows (so 2 color tables per row) which just so happen to be colors that sit next to each other on the color wheel (blue/violet row, green/yellow row, and orange/red row). Each row was given the two colors of the tables it holds of tempera paint which students then used to create a piece of painted paper (12"x18") which contained all three colors (the primary, secondary, and newly created tertiary color) - students were also invited to use the back of their paint brush to draw pattern/texture into their wet paint. Once they were done painting and their work was put up on the drying rack, I had my students meet me on the carpet to read the book "Chameleon's Colors" by Chisato Tashiro. --Yes I even did this with my 5th graders who think they are too cool for school - haha. This book was a great way to introduce the project's theme (although its a little intense - when the other animals chase the chameleon to the edge of a cliff where it essentially waits to be murdered (in more or less words) -> plot twist... it doesn't - WHEW!). Then I show my kids literally the coolest video I've ever seen in my life of a chameleon changing its colors by touching a variety of colored sunglasses.

After watching this video the kids are PUMPED.

When they come in the next day (day 2) I've already done some prep work to their painted paper for them - I've pressed their papers (to make them flat) and cut them down from a 12"x18" piece to one 9"x12" piece (for the body), and eight 3"x4.5" pieces (for the head, additional details, and a bunch of extra scraps). To create our chameleons I have my students follow my directions step-by-step to make sure we are all on the same page.
In order to better illustrate the steps, I created the following visuals to help explain:

On step #3 I explain it's kind of like they are folding a paper airplane.
On step #4 I tell the kids that when they fold those little extra triangular pieces down, it looks like a collared shirt (this helps some of them understand what it should look like).
**It is extremely important that you have the kids cut to the fold (I actually have them do a LITTLE past the fold) on step #5 or else the chameleon's body won't move/bend properly.
Body took one class (45 min) to build (most students did not attach legs this day).

The next day (day 3) we create the head:

 On step #3 it helps to tell students that the "x" fold will make their paper look like a kite (if they don't already tell you that first!).
One step #4 I tell them it's like we are cutting little legs for our paper. I take one "leg" (or triangle) in one hand and one in the other.. then tell them to "cross the legs" - this helps them overlap those pieces to create their form.
Time permitting: We attach the heads to the little extra folded tab we have left on the body with a piece of tape. **This part is tricky for the kids so be prepared to help if needed!

On day 4 I have the kids attach the head (if not done so already) and continue adding the additional details they are missing (like the legs, eyes, and tongue). Students who finish early are invited to use extra scrap paper from other tables to add pattern to their chameleon's body.


  1. My kids LOVED that video, they still ask to see it all the time! The heads came out great; and the albino one is especially cool.

  2. I have also seen these here and there and thought they would be neat to do--now I'm pinning your version with all those lovely diagrams (that must be the graphic designer in me getting excited for diagrams!). Thank you for taking the time to make this project clear for all--so glad your students enjoyed making them. Mrs. P @

  3. I will give these a try. Did the younger students find this to be a bit challenging or were they as successful as the 5th graders?

  4. These are so cool! My 4th and 5th graders will get a kick out of doing these, especially the boys. Thanks for the great visual directions :)


    Hip, Hop Hurray! Tales in an Artroom

  5. Looks like fun! I bet they can't wait to take them home!!

  6. This has been my all time favorite art project. I've done it with kinder to 3rd grade and have been begged by the older kids to do it with them, too. It's a huge hit andI have to do it every year. I got it from a different art sight, but your tutorial is wonderful!

  7. Great idea! Thanks for posting all the instructions so clearly. In case anyone else is using A4 paper, I found an A4 size body and 6 cm square head works well. Will be trying this with my class on Monday :)

  8. Thank you for the directions. I have done this lesson with 2nd grade in the past using construction paper, I am anxious to try your version with painted paper and a smaller size.

  9. Thank you for taking the time to put all the directions and photos up online!! I'm planning on doing this with some 4th graders:-) What paper would you suggest using?

    1. Your welcome! :)
      If you're doing painted paper I would use at least 70lb white drawing paper.
      If you're doing construction paper.. I personally use Pacon Sulphite Paper... but it doesn't really matter.