Media & Techniques

Break Free From Traditional Nature-Inspired Lessons

This time of year it’s easy to be inspired by nature. Here in the Midwest, the leaves are changing and the colorful sunsets do not disappoint. It’s a great time to take your students into the elements to work en plein air or to bring natural elements into your art room. But, as much as I love collaborating with Mother Nature, I have seen (and admittedly made) enough leaf bowls to last a lifetime.

Because of this, I am inspired to share the work of David Hamill. Hamill, a High School Art Teacher from northeastern Pennsylvania, recently took AOE’s Studio: Ceramics class. In this course, he developed a body of work inspired by the calming properties of nature. His work is beautifully simple, yet stimulating. I found myself dreaming up countless lesson ideas as I reviewed his work, and I think you will, too. Here are two of his stellar ideas.

1. Bark-Texture Roller


Texture and ceramics go hand-in-hand, so it is only natural that one of the assignments in the class revolves around textures. David used bark to create a texture roller tool. Then, he used this textured roller to create a log-inspired candle holder. If you are interested in David’s process, you can download his entire Process Board here.

This idea is both inexpensive and limitless. Not every budget can support store bought texture mats and rollers. Why not let students create their own? Bisque-fired rollers can be used over and over again and they are fun to create. David’s bark roller was very successful, and it got me thinking, what about shells, rocks, acorns, seeds, flowers, pine needles… There are limitless possibilities!

2. Steampunk Seed Pod


The genius behind this lesson is the combination of nature and another element. In this case, nature and a machine. It’s interesting and unusual and I couldn’t help but wonder, what else could students combine with nature? And how far would they take such a wonderfully open-ended lesson? Be sure to download David’s Steampunk Seed Pod Process Board and lesson plan here.

Download The Process Board Now!

I want to thank David for allowing us to share his work outside AOE’s Studio: Ceramics course. I know he inspired his fellow classmates, but sometimes an idea needs to be shared on a larger stage.

If you are looking for an opportunity to create a body of work, develop lessons and samples for your art room, and interact with art educators from across the globe, I hope you will consider the many courses AOE has to offer. You deserve professional development designed for art teachers by art teachers to push you beyond traditional lesson ideas and inspire you to continue inspiring students!

What are your best nature-inspired lessons?

How often do you take your students outdoors?


Magazine articles and podcasts are opinions of professional education contributors and do not necessarily represent the position of the Art of Education University (AOEU) or its academic offerings. Contributors use terms in the way they are most often talked about in the scope of their educational experiences.


Heather Crockett

Heather Crockett is AOEU’s Chief Academic Officer and a former AOEU Writer and art educator. She is an expert in differentiation, curriculum development, and assessment.

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