The cute animals are made from floral foam --the stuff florists stick in the bottom of arrangements to make the flower stems stay in place. Its a great material for students to practice the art of carving with a very soft material. I have to warn you though, this is not an easy project and there have been a few tears shed over lost legs and ears etc...so be prepared! Before I start this project, I let my students know the drawback to this material is how much the very fine dust sticks to your hands and if you touch your face with your hands after you've started carving, it can be really painful to get in the eyes, so make sure students wash their hands thoroughly before they scratch an itch! I also like to prep students for this project by showing them a lot of Michelangelo's carvings and we talk about the process of carving (taking away vs adding on).
I find that I have the best results on this project when I do it with my students; step by step. Everyone should start with one block of floral foam that is about 4" x 4" x 2", yours maybe larger or smaller depending on the brand you buy. And a few clay tools are helpful, a knife, pointy tool and a few sizes of carving tools. (Make sure you wash your tools before using them in clay again!) These drawings may help students visualize what parts they need to remove in each step. Step one removes the foam to create the basic head and body shape, rounding out the back end and removing under the neck and front of the legs. Step two removes the foam so that you have front and back legs, students will also need to carve between each pair of legs to create 4 individual legs. HINT: Remind students that its better to carve away a little bit at a time, rather than one big chunk because you can easily break off a leg unintentionally here. Step three removes the back of the back legs to shape a tail and it also shapes the snout, head, ears and neck. This is a generic shape that may need to change depending on what animal you are making. I find that once my students get to this point, they feel comfortable with adding in the details like noses, eyes, toes etc on their own carving intuition. I have my students paint them with acrylic paints and these are glued onto driftwood bases. You could also add wire to create hair and longer tails, like we did here to create some lion manes. HINT: If you do break a part off while carving, have the students keep their parts and just glue them on later with a strong craft glue. Dick Blick Art Supplies has a great similar lesson plan to create Inuit Bears if you're looking to tie this project in with your curriculum.