Friday, 22 January 2016

Nature's Canvas

Inspired to Create
Part Three

Children when given the opportunity to express their creative ideas will inspire you with the depth of their understanding of the world around them. I am excited to share with you the creative explorations of our students as they inquired about leaves and trees. The children's interest in nature began in the Autumn with acorns then grew into a fascination with leaves. As their learning journey continued it sprouted into an interest in trees and how they grew. As we supported their ideas and initial theories about leaves and trees we also gave the children several creative invitations at which they could express their ideas and thinking.  

The children were presented with this invitation to draw using the Sharpie paint pens on pressed Autumn leaves. We used the line cubes from the writing centre to inspire the children to create a variety of lines. The children could roll the cube and then create one of the lines on their leaf. 

Several of the children used the lines on their leaf for inspiration. They traced the veins and then added their own designs to the leaf canvas. The children also shared their observations about the shapes of the various leaves. They began to compare the leaves discussing how many points each leaf had. When the children were finished we collected their leaves to include with our documentation of this interest.

Documenting Observations of Leaves

The children also recorded their observations of leaves in their thinking journals. Each child's interpretation of their leaf was unique and made visible to us their interest and understanding of the leaves. 

We used the text above by Ken Robbins to support the children through several stages of this inquiry. It was placed at the loose parts table with the laminated leaves for exploration. Eventually it found its way to the writing centre where several children used it in trying to identify many of the leaves they collected. Lastly we shared it with the children during our inquiry work when we gathered as a group to read it. 

We shared the book, "Picture a Tree" by Barbara Reid with the children. I adore this book and it's beautiful plasticine illustrations depicting trees in all their glory. After reading the book we watched the following YouTube video of Barbara Reid. It was fascinating to see the process of her art. 

The children were then invited to create their own plasticine trees for a classroom display. We opened the inside cover of Barbara Reid's book for inspiration. The children worked on foam core cut into various sizes and could choose between working on black or white as a background. 

The children enthusiastically participated in this art exploration. Their ability to manipulate the plasticine to represent their ideas was extraordinary. We were so impressed with their creativity. However, we could not find brown plasticine at the store. This allowed us the opportunity to work some colour mixing into our invitation. The children mixed the three primary colours: red, yellow and blue. This created brown and the children were amazed. 

We placed all their beautiful plasticine art next to the science exploration area in our classroom. The children created a title for their installation and we added the documentation pages of this lovely art experience. 

Illuminated Leaves

Presenting the leaves to the children in a variety of contexts allowed for new and various opportunities for exploration. The children's work with the leaves on the light panel lead to some discussion about measurement. Several of the children placed small jewels around the perimeter of the leaves while other children covered the surface of the leaves with jewels. These experiences allowed us to discuss and compare the number of jewels used in each type of measurement.

This child is exploring how many jewels cover the leaf and lines of symmetry by placing pink on one half of the leaf and green on the other.

Placing and Counting Jewels

Presenting Leaves

This group of children came in from recess and asked if they could present their nature items. They had collected most of these items from the playground. Jacob showed his leaf to the children. He shared, "I found my leaf on the ground." Keira spoke next. She said, "There is a stem on the leaf so it can hang on the tree." Mason presented his leaf. He said, "I got it from my front yard. I wanted to show the kids in the class." Next to share was Sienna. She explained that her leaf was an oak leaf. We continued to listen as the children shared their leaves and responded to the other children's questions. Eden and Ryder concluded the presentation with their nature finds. Eden presented her leaves and a walnut. She shared, "This is my walnut I found on the ground. It was in my driveway." Ryder held a maple key in his hand. He told the children what he knew about his nature find. Ryder said, "This is my maple key. I showed this key because I wanted to present it really badly. There is just something funny about it. There is something on the key that is really hard." Celina replied, "It's a seed." Having the children share and present their thinking and ideas never ceases to amaze me. We can clearly see their understanding of leaves, seeds and trees within these experiences. 

Creating a Tree

During the course of the children's investigations they continued to fill the sensory bin with Autumn leaves. Their focus also turned to collecting sticks that had fallen from our oak and maple trees in the playground. They added the sticks to the sensory bin as well. To develop their ideas we presented to the children an activity in which they could rebuild the tree using their nature collection as loose parts pieces. We placed on the floor a large white sheet. Then we allowed the children to show us what the trees in the school yard looked like using the loose parts. 

Creating Transient Tree Art

Ethan is adding the roots to the tree.

The children placed maple keys and acorns on the end of the sticks coming out of the trunk. They shared their knowledge and understanding of the parts of a tree with these visual representations.

Our Autumn Tree - Collected - Gathered - Recreated

We concluded our work with the children's interest into leaves and trees with a collaborative art piece. It began with some fine motor work and wrapping their collected sticks with yarn. Each child chose a stick and we tied the yarn onto the end. Then they wrapped the yarn around the stick. The yarn was secured with a small piece of coloured wire. The children could also add beads to their yarn if they wanted as they wrapped it around the stick. This work lasted several days and many of the children created several yarn sticks. 

In my last blog post I shared with you the children's painted leaves. The leaves were so beautiful and treasured by the children that I knew we had to do something special to preserve them. We wanted to celebrate all of the wonderful learning that had taken place during this interest. While I was out shopping I spotted a piece of birch branch for sale and suddenly I knew just what to do with their yarn sticks and leaves. I always wanted to create a chandelier art piece with the children and this was the perfect opportunity. We carefully wrapped a length of wire on both ends of the yarn sticks. Then I carefully wrapped the stem of each painted leaf with one of these wires attaching it to the stick. Then I set them aside. To hang the branch I first fastened an eye hook into each end before I added the yarn wrapped sticks. Then I used jute roping to hang the birch branch from two hooks in our classroom. Next I added the yarn wrapped sticks with leaves by wrapping the end wire around the birch branch. Then end result was a lovely art piece celebrating the children's artistic capabilities. 

"Creative people are 
curious, flexible,
and independent with a
tremendous spirit
of adventure and 
a love of play."

- Henri Matisse - 

Wishing you all many creative explorations!