Grades 3–5

Workshop Overview

Students discover the similarities and differences between dragons found in East Asian and Western European galleries. In the classroom, students explore clay techniques and design their own dragon’s form, textures and details. All supplies will be provided


  • Define a dragon as an imaginary creature in Eastern and Western cultures that is composed of various animal features. 
  • Compare and contrast two works of art from the tour. 
  • Demonstrate 3-dimensional construction techniques as they apply to clay. 
  • Create a 3-dimensional clay dragon that demonstrates the use of actual texture and utilizes paper and wire embellishments.


  • Elaborate on an imaginative idea. 
  • Create artwork using a variety of processes and materials. 
  • Discuss how people from different places have made art for a variety of reasons. 


  • Dragon – A mythical creature 
    • Eastern Dragon A good-natured, wise, benevolent creature who lived in all forms of nature and was deeply respected in Eastern culture. 
    • Western Dragon – A threatening creature that appears in legends where good conquers evil. 
  • CultureValues, beliefs, practices that a group of people share 
  • Imaginary/RealExisting in the human mind/Existing in the physical world 
  • Sculpture A work of art that is 3dimensional 
  • 3-dimensional Having height, width and depth 
  • Form A shape that is 3-dimensional 
  • Texture An element of art that refers to how something feels on the surface (rough, hairy, scaly, smooth, etc.)
  • Score and Slip technique Technique used to attach clay to clay by scratching into and applying water to the clay pieces   
  • Combination Creature A imaginary being that has the features of 2 or more animals. 

Pre-Workshop Activities

  • Discuss the differences between real and imaginary animals.  
  • Read the story of “Saint George and the Dragon” or “East Dragon, West Dragon” by Robyn Eversole and Scott Campbell. 
  • Review the 9 parts of the Eastern Dragon (head of a camel, eyes of a rabbit, ears of a cow, horns of a deer, neck and body of a snake, belly of a frog, scales of a carp, claws of a hawk, and palm of a tiger).  
  • Brainstorm animals that may have specific meaning to the students. Ask the question, “what part of an animal could be included in your own dragon?”  

Post-Workshop Activities

  • Ask students about the dragons they saw during their tour at the museum, which they liked best and why. Find many more dragons on the museum’s website https://art.nelson-atkins.org/collections. Discuss the culture, time period, purpose, and stories associated with the dragons they identified. 
  • Ask students to create a name for the dragon they made. They could also write and illustrate a short story about where the dragon lives, what it eats, who its friends and enemies are, and what kind of adventures it has seen 
  • Brainstorm natural phenomena that an imaginary creature such as a dragon might cause or be a cure for. For example: rainbows might come from cracked open dragon eggs or dragon tears could clean contaminated water. 
  • Ask students to identify which characteristics of their dragons are like Eastern or Western dragons and give them an opportunity to explain their choices.