Party Lines

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party line 9Have you ever noticed a flock of birds sitting on a telephone wire and wondered what their conversation was about? I imagine from that height they get a pretty good view of what’s going on in the neighborhood.
I realize that not many of you will recall the time when, if you had a phone, you were on a party line. This means that maybe 6 or more households shared the phone line. And if anyone was talking on the phone, any of the other folks who shared the line could listen or “rubber” in.
Actually, when I saw a picture on Pinterest of birds sitting on a line, the first thing I thought was that it would be a good lesson on perspective. Then when I was thinking about what to call the art project, the name, “Party Line,” came to mind.   This project was inspired by a painting by Patty Baker, called  “Birds on Wires.”


  • 12″ x 18″ White construction paper
  • Black construction paper 9″ x 12″
  • Oil Pastels or Colored Chalk
  • Kleenex (if using colored chalk)
  • Hair Spray (if using colored chalk)
  • Black Sharpie, fine point
  • Optional:  Birds (Pattern)
  • Scissors
  • Glue stick


party line 1party line 2 party line 3

  1. On the 12″x18″ white construction paper and starting on the 9″ side, color with blue oil pastel down about one third of the paper.  Add a small amount of black oil pastel to the very top portion of the blue, and color with white pastel, starting in the blue area and continuing a couple of inches below the blue.  With your finger, (the finger works best because it warms the oil pastel and makes it blend better), blend the black into the blue oil pastel.  Wipe your fingers well, or wash them before continuing.  Then blend the blue pastel and continue into the white area.
  2. Add yellow, pink, red and orange oil pastels into the next third  of the paper, making sun reflecting clouds. Make sure your fingers are clean, then blend the white into the yellow, pink, red and orange area.
  3. On the bottom third of the paper, use green oil pastel.  I didn’t color all the way to the bottom, but then had to add some after tearing my black ground strip.   Use your finger to blend.
  4. party line 6  party line 7  party line 9
  5. Tear a two to three in strip of black construction paper along the 12″ side.  Make it look like rolling hills.
  6. With the black Sharpie, draw slightly curving lines at about 3 1/2″, 7″,  and 10″ from the top of the picture.  Lay the black rolling hills onto the picture, matching the bottom and sides.  With the black Sharpie, draw telephone poles, starting with the biggest on the right side of the paper and making the poles smaller and closer together as they march to the left side.  Notice that the bottoms of the poles all end about the same distance from the bottom of the page.  Then draw a bridge rail, starting at the right edge and getting narrower as it goes to the left.  The rail spindles are wider at the right and get closer together and narrower as they march to the left.
  7. Draw birds on the lines, or copy the pattern on white paper and color in with a black marker, or copy the birds onto black paper (be sure to trace over the outline of the birds with green marker first, if printing on black.)  Carefully cut out the birds.
  8. Glue the rolling hills to the bottom and the birds onto the lines.

If you choose to use colored chalk, the colors are just a bit more subdued, but it isn’t quite as messy.

party line in chalk 1  party line in chalk 2  party line in chalk 3

6th Grade Projects Gallery


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