Monday, 27 February 2017

Leaves and Land Art

Artistic Leaves

Inspired by Andy Goldsworthy

This is the third blog post which focuses on our leaf inquiry with more inspiring posts to come so I hope you continue to follow our learning journey and explore Autumn's leaves with us. The children had been collecting leaves and sharing them with us. I added my Andy Goldsworthy book, "A Collaboration With Nature" to the classroom environment. As well the children had been watching some of the Andy Goldsworthy videos from Youtube. Therefore we felt it was important to discuss with the children their ideas about the leaves they treasured. During one of our gathering times I asked the children, "Why are leaves so interesting?" I wanted to get a better sense of where their interest was stemming from so I could further extend their ideas. Here is a record of our conversation: 
Kate began and shared, "Falling off the trees." Then Jenna said, "They are changing colour." Sophia spoke next she said, "When they change colours it means Fall because they don't get much sun." Then I asked, "What's happening to the sun in the Autumn?" Alexander said, "It's because the clouds are blocking the sun." Cassidy answered him and she shared, "Because the weather is changing cause it's Fall." These were the children's initial ideas and observations as we entered into the season of Autumn. 

Cassidy then asked if she could present her leaf that she brought in from home. This was the first of many presentations by the children that focused on the leaves they had been collecting. Our large sensory bin had a growing collection of beautiful Autumn leaves.    Cassidy described her leaf to the children. She said,"There are two colour's on it white and green." Emma asked, "Why is it not all green?" Sophia replied, "Maybe it's still growing some green. Maybe when it's white more green is coming on top of the white." Next to share their thinking was Alexander. He said, "Maybe the kind of plant makes the outside white and inside green." This discussion made the children's thinking visible to us as educators and we would now extend their ideas by creating new opportunities to learn for them. 

A Leafy Rock

An invitation to explore how the land artist Andy Goldsworthy creates with leaves and rocks was created and set out for the children. We watched a video on the artist from Youtube and the children were very curious about how the leaves would stick to the rocks. Although our rock was smaller than the large boulders that Andy Goldsworthy uses the children enjoyed this experience. As well, it brought some good problem solving and sharing of ideas and strategies as it was not easy to form the leaves over the rock. The children used the leaves that they had been bringing in from home to decorate the rock which was such a wonderful way to connect their learning with their home experiences. 

The children began by dipping the leaves into the bowl of water before placing them on the stone.

Cassidy's leaf was the first leaf that the children placed on the stone. They used their wet hands to smooth the leaf over the surface of the stone. 

As they began to create with the leaves they came across some challenges with keeping the leaves stuck to the rock. Their solution was to add more water and with some perseverance the leaves were placed beautifully on the rock. I would definitely try this outside with a larger rock. Perhaps in the spring with flower petals!

Here is their collaborative artistic efforts. They titled their piece, "The Beautiful Rock." It was very beautiful indeed. 

Land Art Explored
Creating in the Sand 

The other area of the classroom that lent itself nicely to our Andy Goldsworthy explorations was the sand bin. I offered a variety of natural loose parts and the bins proximity to the nature shelf was instrumental in the children's creations and land art investigations. This opportunity to create land art also brought about some beautiful storytelling. As the children created I recorded the story that accompanied each piece.

Sophia began by putting the shells on top of the sand. She said, "We wanted to make decorations on top of the sand. We put rocks and shells and pine cones and feathers on the mountain."

Cassidy shared, "You were interested in leaves because they were swirled. I gave it to Emma she put the shell in." 

 I asked the children why they chose to include the flashlights in their land art design. I was curious as to their thinking about light as an artistic medium. Sophia answered, "So we can see what it looks like when the light are on." I found this to be such an interesting part of their creative efforts. I wondered if they were inspired from the Andy Goldsworthy video which speaks about the importance of sunlight and it's interactions with his leaf canvases. 

The following series of photos is another land art design from the children's artistic efforts in the sand bin. Alexander described the children's ideas. He said, "We put the flashlights in the sand. We standed them up and put the shells on top. When we shine it on one it gets bright. We put Ryder's thing on top cause we were investigating." 

 The children spent quite some time investigating how the flashlights changed the appearance of the sea shells. How beautiful they looked illuminated from underneath.

When we analyze the children's artistic design using the natural loose parts. We see a focus on using a symmetrical design element. They children lead the viewers eye from the three flashlights buried in the sand up towards the large stone. The large stone is given importance by the two flashlights standing guard on each side illuminating their light upwards through the sea shells as the children had just discovered. Finally the eye focuses on the large spherical nature find placed royally on top of the stone. Such importance was given to Ryder's discovery from Forest Friday's as it was so prominently featured and highlighted by the children. Wow! How beautifully they made their thinking known.

It was so interesting to see how the light interacted with the natural materials in both these artistic investigations. The children were exploring the properties of these natural materials and discovering the relationship between their interactions. It was cause and effect and art all in relationship with each other. 

"Big Rock"

Jace created land art in the sand bin using the natural loose parts. He explained his art and told me the following story:

"I made it in the sand bin. This is the castle." Jace pointed to the big rock. Then he shared, "The other castle is here." Jace pointed to the little rock. Jace continued with his story. He shared, "The flashlights are canons. The bad guys are trying to get the pieces of God." Jace points to the shells. Then he continues, "These sticks if they fall down that means there's a big poof." I asked Jace a few questions after he finished speaking. I asked, "I wonder if you can share with me what makes this art?" Jace replied, "I made it." Then I asked, "Why are the shells from God?" Jace answered, "Cause God made them. God makes nature right?" He continued to share his ideas, "The pine cones are the trees. The best part is there's a thunderstorm and it's a sandstorm. Mrs. V they are going to blow the canon." Jace concluded his story by pointing to the feather and telling me, "This is the flag." 

Three wonderful explorations 
into the world of land art!

How would you incorporate land art into your early years program or even at home with your child?

"We often forget that We are nature.
Nature is not something separate from us.
So when we say that we have lost our 
connection to nature,
we've lost our connection to ourselves."

Andy Goldsworthy