I like to start the year with at least a few projects that don't have a whole lot of guidelines. For second grade, I have begun with an expanded images project I found a while back. Essentially, each student finds a unique, funny, or interesting picture in a magazine. That picture is cut out around the image with no background showing. The challenge for the students is to come up with a background. I like to make it really fun by suggesting absolutely crazy things that could be going on. The kids get a really big kick out of it. It is finished with watercolors so it allows me to review painting procedures with my second graders. Look for the example where fruits and veggies are fighting over junk food!
The lesson plan is from Blick and can be found here!