Sunday, April 6, 2014

Arts and Crafts with Nature

The weather is getting warmer and being outside when the sun is shining is a great time to take a stroll with the kids to explore and have fun with nature.

A few years ago, I decided to do just this when Sarah and her classmates were encouraged to volunteer and develop a poster or diorama around one or more books as part of a reading series with the Barbara Bush Reading Foundation. There was a contest for a chance to win some amazing and celebrated books and CDs on tape, for finalists from each school and then the final winner.

In thinking about some of her favorite books, Sarah decided she wanted to focus specifically on The Three Billy Goats Gruff. 

First, we sat down and discussed what she wanted the poster to look like.  Sarah did a diorama the year prior for another activity and decided to try the poster approach this time around.  We pulled out a yellow lined legal pad of paper with pencils and started to draw as we discussed and planned ahead.

As we were talking about items she wanted to use and include, I encouraged her to consider some things in nature that could help with telling this story visually.

She loved the idea and grabbed a bag and her coat, and out we went. 

We strolled outside and down the block and Sarah started to quickly pick up branches, which would later become the planks of the bridge that goats would try to get across.  We then came across some pebbles and rocks that were not part of any one's landscaping and Sarah selected the ones she liked most and placed them into the bag. These stones would help to show what the land looked like, dull and sad, before the goats would seek out greener pastures for food.  We also stumbled across some odd mossy looking things that fell from the tree above and gathered those curious to know what we could do with them, and to see if they would last and not dry out. Fortunately, they lasted and would become part of the new, lush surroundings that the goats fed on.

Once we were home and at the table, Sarah emptied her bag to study her findings. At the age of four she didn't have the thought process to see how they would all play out together, but with the blueprint we created, I could guide her while she placed everything on the poster.

Knowing that this project was happening and Sarah was still thinking her ideas through on what to do, I decided to take some pictures of goats during a visit we took to a local farm where a number of goats lived. Knowing that there were three goats in the story, I made sure to capture images of three goats of different shapes, sizes and colors to represent each in the book.

With the photos printed out and the nature elements we found together, it was time to put the project together.

Since Sarah was still learning how to write, I wrote out the title in block letters at the top and she  colored them in however she wanted to.  Then, we went to our blueprint and drew out a mountain.  On the left side would be the dry lands with no food available for the goats.  On the right side would be the plush greens they would travel too.  In the middle of the poster was the bridge that was armed by a mean troll.

Sarah and I had so much fun working on this project together and building in elements from nature.  It was important to me that Sarah have a heavy hand in the creation of this so she learned that her voice and participation are incredibly important, and that this is part of her learning. 

Thanks to nature not only did Sarah create a really fun project that she played a big part in, it helped her to appreciate what nature has to offer and help her to express her ideas. The great news is that Sarah's project was chosen as a finalist for her school and she went on to win five new books for her home library.

All in all, this was a joyous experience and one I encourage parents to experience with their children.  You will be amazed at what you can find in nature that can provide inspiration, motivation and excitement. 

How has nature inspired you to create? 

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