Art and Creativity

Art is important for children especially during their early development. Research shows that art activities develop brain capacity in early childhood; in other words, art is good brain food! Art engages children’s senses in open-ended play and develops cognitive, social-emotional and multi-sensory skills. As children progress into elementary school and beyond, art continues to provide opportunities for brain development, mastery, self esteem and creativity.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

What I Learned on My Summer Vacation

I just got back from a much needed summer vacation and was reminded that I need more NATURE in my life! Since I’ve attended numerous “Outdoor Classroom” workshops, and learned about the negative effects of “nature deficit” on today’s children, it was good to be reminded that I too find nature incredibly inspiring. On my vacation, I renewed my love affair with the sensory world of the forest. I fell in love with colored rocks, birch trees and waterfalls. It was all so simple, yet profoundly restorative.

As an educator, I was inspired by what I might bring back from my nature vacation to include in the classroom. There were so many things to choose from! Moreover, having this “take home task” on my mind helped me engage all the more in my natural surroundings.

Trees were just beginning to show off their Fall colors, and the white birch trees were especially lovely.

Imagine how excited I was to find this abandoned bird’s nest, all intact and perfectly formed! The woven strips of birch bark in the nest gave me an idea, and I picked up fallen strips of bark to take home and use as collage.

When I got home I tore strips of white bark and used Tacky Glue to mount it onto wooden picture frames, adding colored rocks as accents. How fun! I was amazed to find that birch bark tears along a seam just like fabric does, so you don’t need scissors to cut it. Such are the discoveries that excite me, and I bet you as well.

We also visited several lakes and found an abundance of beautiful colored rocks around the larger lakes.

Many local artisans made creative use of these naturally colored rocks that were a signature of the local geology. Here’s a large rock and driftwood mirror that I couldn’t resist purchasing. I hoped it would remind me to make nature a regular part of my life once I returned home to the city.

Later, I tried duplicating this idea of rocks as collage material on top of wooden picture frames. The rocks I brought were a little too large so I used them as accents and made a mental note to check out the Home Depot garden department for smaller pebbles. Or better yet, find a local hike where I could collect smaller rocks on my own home turf.

I was eager to make “Leaf Glitter” for a second collage project and had collected just a few Sugar Maple Leaves with tinges of red and yellow. Once they had dried, I made Leaf Glitter by simply crunching up the dried leaves, which were then glued onto the picture frame. When I do this in a classroom, I’ll ask children to sort the dried leaves by colors first, then crunch them into separate bowls so they’ll have yellow, red, brown and orange Leaf Glitter to work with.

Together these two experiments in nature collage make a nice pair, don’t you think? I realized I could extend the activity by first “staining” the wooden base frames with wet tea bags or another natural colorant before gluing items on top.

How fortunate I feel to have been able to replenish myself before the beginning of a busy school year. I hope you were also able to restore yourself, and will continue to do so on your weekend time. It’s so important.

Maybe we will run into each other at an Education Conference soon or at NAEYC where I’m presenting “Art as a Language with Children.” Please attend if you can! Most importantly, I want to thank you for reading my Blog and being a part of the Art and Creativity community. I hope you have a wonderful new school year full of passion and promise. To life!

Materials Used Here:
Colorations® Tacky Glue, set of 12 - (TCGJAR)

Colorations® Wooden Stand Up Frames - (WDFRM)

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At 6:41 AM, Anonymous Allison McCumber said...

Summer is a great time to rediscover and reconnect with nature. The serenity and beauty of the natural environment is an effective therapy to calm and lift a person's spirits. By the way, I think your Leaf Glitter is brilliant and innovative. Using raw materials from the natural environment is a good way to teach kids the value of protecting the environment.

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