Leader of the School


Build classroom community. Promote teamwork. Encourage leadership skills with Swimmy’s exciting story and lush ocean art.


1. Read Swimmy by Leo Lionni. Imagine the beautiful colors and creatures of the ocean. What made Swimmy the leader of his school? How could you be more like Swimmy? Here’s a project that’s fun to do with your friends! You could even do a class mural using art techniques similar to those that Lionni used to illustrate his book.

2. Sponge paint the ocean. Cover your art area with newspaper. Using a Crayola® Paint Brush, wet heavy paper with water.

3. Place a few drops of water into each Crayola Washable Watercolor pan. Dip a sponge into a color and sponge it across the paper. Use your imagination to choose more ocean colors to add to the scene. Air-dry the background.

4. Design the fish. In the ocean, sketch a large fish with Crayola Erasable Colored Pencils.

5. Draw a small fish on a sponge. Ask an adult to cut out the fish with Crayola Scissors.

6. Place red (or any color) Crayola Washable Paint in a recycled produce tray. Dip the sponge fish into the paint. Fill the large fish outline with many sponged red fish. Leave a space where the eye would be for Swimmy. Print him with black paint. Air-dry your painting.

7. Erase any extra colored pencil marks. Retell Swimmy’s story to younger children.

Safety Guidelines

Adult supervision is required for any arts & crafts project. Observe children closely and intervene as necessary to prevent potential safety problems and ensure appropriate use of arts and crafts materials. Some craft items, particularly beads and buttons, are potential choking hazards for young children. Avoid use of such small parts with children younger than 3 years. Craft items such as scissors, push pins and chenille sticks may have sharp points or edges. Avoid use of materials with sharp points by children younger than 4 years. Read all manufacturers' safety warnings before using arts and craft supplies.

Crayola Washable Paints—Not for use as body/face paint.

Scissors—ATTENTION: The cutting edges of scissors are sharp and care should be taken whenever cutting or handling. Blunt-tip scissors should be used only by children 4 years and older. Pointed-tip scissors should be used only by children 6 years and older.

Sponges and Foam—Sponges, foam, and other expandable materials should not be used with children 3 years old and younger.


  • With younger children and those who have special needs, visit an aquarium so they can see fish first-hand. Encourage children to work in pairs on various projects. Point out the benefits of teamwork.
  • Try different art materials and techniques to illustrate other scenes in a style similar to Lionni’s work.
  • Children find out about the parts of fish and how they breathe. Create a large drawing detailing and labeling the sections of the fish.
  • Find and read other Leo Lionni books. Create a bulletin board about his writing and art.
  • Discover other animals and insects that use camouflage for protection. Draw pictures of them in different environments showing how they differ in color with seasonal changes.
  • Promote the development of children’s social skills. Work in teams. Nurture friendships. Establish a sense of community within the classroom and school.
  • Encourage children’s leadership skills. Read and discuss other stories about real and imaginary leaders.

Related Lesson Plans

Lesson Plans

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crayola supplies
  • Paint Brushes
  • Erasable Colored Pencils
  • Washable Watercolors
  • Washable Kid's Paint
  • Pointed Tip Scissors
  • Giant Marker and Watercolor Pad
household supplies
  • recycled newspaper
  • sponges
  • paper towels
  • container(s) of water



  • Pre-K and Kindergarten
  • Grades 1 to 3
  • Grades 4 to 6
  • Special Needs


  • Language Arts
  • Science
  • Social Studies
  • Visual Arts


  • 30 to 60 minutes
  • Multiple Sessions


  • Students read and examine the book Swimmy by Leo Lionni to find out how hard work, clever thinking, and teamwork can solve many problems.

  • Students begin to understand the enormous and colorful variety of ocean life and how animals camouflage themselves for protection.

  • Students experiment with watercolor paints to create an underwater environment for Swimmy and his friends similar to the illustration style in Lionni’s book.


Research Canada Standards
Research UK Standards
Research U.S. Standards