Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Nurturing Acorns: Environmental Art

What a fun session of Nurturing Acorns at Woodlawn Nature Center that we had recently. We started out with a little letter and shape work, matching letters on rocks to an alphabet chart and drawing with sidewalk chalk letters, shapes, lines, etc. Since we have 2 year old to 5 year olds, we like to give options for various abilities. We flip flopped how we normally do things, spending more time outside as the downpour was coming.

Then we made large circles and mostly made "nature" faces, using the circle as our base and filling in with wood chips, sticks, dandelions, etc. for facial features, hair, and more. The guy on the left is quite the realist, though. He was making an insect with three body parts--head, thorax, and abdomen, which ended up being a lady bug that he colored red. While hesitant at first, once he got going he was on a roll! 

The children naturally gravitated toward the messy materials area as we had buckets and shovels out. There was building, sculpting, shaking, digging, rolling, and more! They were exploring the space, creating, experimenting, and using their imaginations. 

There were many mushrooms to explore. A popular activity was turning over all of the logs to find worms, roll pollies, etc. 

On the Nature Art table, we had books about environmental artists, frames, and paint chips. Check out this find from my co-volunteer, Beth. She found these paint chips with natural elements at Wal-mart. Cool! I'm in love with these!

It's toad mating season and toads were all over the place. Toad catching was a favorite activity, needless to say! We talked about washing our hands and risk that might be involved, as well as making sure to leave the toad where we found it after we observed it more. Just as interesting were the rolly pollies. Kids were showing me their "treasures" left and right. 

For our nature hike, we "framed" nature. I've been picking up inexpensive frames at garage sales and taking out the glass and backing. We also had ones we made out of foam sheets. 

The frames really helped us slow down and pay attention to what we found as we walked. We revisited our plant friends, like Wild Ginger, Jack-in-the-pulpit, and met Virginia Creeper. I just realized this is a good plant to introduce for our Minecraft Mania night! 

We found worms, tracks, and more!

I loved how some of the girls brightened up the area by tying scarves and picture frames up. Wild geraniums are also up. Love to see the changing forest. I also saw poison ivy all along the trail, so we will need to be a little more careful as we move forward into summer.  

The trillium are fading to pink. One girl said she likes them better this way--it means they'll be dying back and losing their flowers soon. The little pond is a great place to explore as well. The kids kept returning to check out the fish and toads.

For snack, we made pretzel frames and had various "loose parts"to create our own masterpieces, looking at artwork by Andy Goldsworthy and Bev Doolittle while we were eating. What great inspiration! 

We also went outside and painted on our clear outdoor easel. Many were mixing colors and trying various paintbrushes, like a dandelion or a mushroom! 

By then it started raining and most didn't have rain gear. We explored the nature center and had more free exploration time, using the loose parts, dinosaur digging cave, and such. Looking back, we had many more plans and it didn't "seem" like we did lots and had other plans for more (tree faces, natural weaving, etc.); however, we followed the children in many activities and they were SO engaged the whole time. It makes it fun for us too! 

I loved that my youngest wanted to take me for a walk after we cleaned up and packed up. He led me around the building, showing me all the things he wanted to along the way, including the pond he kept going back to even after all his friends were gone. :-) Love that he was the one leading me in nature! Taking time to follow the lead of a child is precious. It was still raining at this point. He showed me all the circles on the top of the water and the bubbles that were popping. 


He also showed me the mushrooms that were growing everywhere. 

Interested in environmental art? Here are some other options we've done that might give a little inspiration! 
Loose parts are a great way to build and create--very open ended! 
Visiting our local art museum to find nature in art. 
Natural play areas often have nature art options. 
Playing with leaves!
Painting with worms and mud.
I LOVE this twig sculpture at Fernwood!
30 Days of Nature Art
Natural Weaving
And lots, lots more! How do you get your art on in nature?