As spring approaches, students like to go outside and get moving. The warm air gently taunts students about the upcoming summer break. However, there are still a few months of school to go, and students need a break from the stress of standardized tests and encroaching end-of-course exams. Pull nature into every part of your lessons to keep your students engaged and enjoying art class! Try some of the ideas below to incorporate nature and celebrate spring as you end the year strong.
Here are seven art ideas to celebrate nature and spring!
Many schools do not offer shop classes, so including a simple woodworking project teaches students basic skills, like how to use a hammer and nails. While birdhouses may seem juvenile, even older students enjoy the process. Take them outside to ensure the noise doesn’t disturb other classes and to keep the sawdust out of your room. Don’t let the price of wood deter you from woodworking. Many local woodworkers, woodworking clubs, or hardware stores are glad to offer scrap wood for your students! Display the birdhouses in the school garden or community park.
Note: Be sure to follow best practices regarding safety, such as eye protection and tool maintenance. Adhere to your district and school’s policies if involving your students in this project.
Follow these steps to make a simple birdhouse:
- Find two pairs of square or rectangular pieces of wood to use as the walls of the birdhouse. The pairs need to be of equal sizes.
- Use a hole saw drill attachment to cut a hole in the front wall of the birdhouse.
- Attach the walls of the birdhouse using wood glue, a hammer, and nails.
- Glue and nail a piece of wood to the bottom of the walls to act as the floor of the birdhouse.
- Glue and nail a piece of wood to the top of the birdhouse to act as the roof.
- Paint the outside of the birdhouse with a nature theme.
2. Tree Branch Weavings
You’ve likely taught younger students basic weaving practices using a traditional or cardboard loom. If your older students are already familiar with weaving, teach them alternative weaving techniques. Swap your cardboard looms for tree branches. It teaches students to adapt to available materials and use eco-friendly options. For a step-by-step lesson plan, download “Tree Branch Weavings” in FLEX Curriculum.
3. Memory Leaves
Have students create art using leaves as a canvas. Introduce artists like Walter Mason, who cuts shapes out of leaves, or Andy Goldsworthy, who uses leaves to create sculptures. Collaborate as a class to decide how to display the leaves. Follow the “Memory Leaves” lesson in FLEX Curriculum for resources and photo examples.
4. Nature Within Nature
Another unique way to use nature as a medium is to use it to create texture. Create a ceramic animal and press natural items into the clay to add texture. Highlight the texture with oil pastels or India ink. This is an effective way to combine nature as a subject matter with nature as a medium! Download the “Nature Within Nature” lesson from FLEX Curriculum for more information.
5. Underground Plant Prints
With spring comes different varieties of fresh fruits, veggies, and new plant growth. Focus on this aspect of springtime with a printmaking project. Teach students to carve pictures of plants, fruits, or vegetables as they appear both above and below the surface of the earth. It’s an opportunity to touch on positive and negative space as well as social-emotional learning. Ask students to expand by visualizing what they show others versus what they feel is under their surface or what they hide from others.
6. Floral Batik
Incorporate batik with floral elements to teach students about dyes and resists. Traditional batik uses hot wax, but you can have your students use gel glue as an alternative.
Follow these steps to create gel glue batiks:
- Wash the fabric.
- Draw a design on the fabric with washable gel glue. Make sure the glue lines are solid and thick.
- Let the glue dry.
- Dye the fabric according to the package instructions.
- Rinse the fabric in water to loosen the glue. Use the edge of a spoon to scrape the glue off the fabric.
- Let the fabric dry and iron it if necessary.
- Use the batiked fabric as the base for a fiber project or a mixed-media piece.
For a full rundown of batik methods from beginner to advanced, check out the Exploring Batik at Every Level Pack from PRO Learning. For more advanced students, add an extra layer and teach them how to embroider on top of the batiked fabric.
7. Needle Felting and Stop Motion
Spring brings an abundance of cute baby animals. Teach your students how to create these small animals with needle-felted wool roving. Remember, always emphasize safety rules and procedures when allowing students to use needles! Students work in groups to make stop-motion videos. Students can use the fuzzy creatures made by their group members or swap their stuffies with other groups to get a wider range of characters.
Springtime can make your students antsy and eager to get out of school. There are ways to channel the abundant nature of the season to engage your students. Introduce woodworking with birdhouses or use tree branches as unique looms. Alternatively, use nature as a canvas with memory leaves or use it to create impressions in clay. Incorporate fibers by trying out floral batik or needle felting. Try out underground plant prints to bring the season’s growth into the classroom. Embrace spring and the creative possibilities it brings with the ideas above!
What are your favorite springtime lessons?
How do you pull nature into your lessons to engage your students?
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.