Taking Notice of Art in Nature
I've received several comments about art being added to STEM, to make it STEAM. I appreciate art, and feel that principles of science and art overlap. Therefore, when I was approached by a former biology student of mine, about writing lessons that explicitly address art and science simultaneously, I knew we had to do it! Kory Carter, is an art education major, and so I had her write a lesson for early childhood from the perspective of an art teacher. Once she passed it off to me, I tweaked it and added the science teachers' touch. I hope you'll agree that its a nice blend of the two.
· Leaves or plants freshly picked
· Paper (copy paper and/or construction)
· hard drawing surface
· clipboard to hold the paper in place (or adhere paper using masking/painter’s tape to hard surface)
Teacher background: Before photography, when botanists (or a scientist who studied plants) came across new specimens, he drew what he saw. It was crucial to have accurate drawings. This was also true for animals as well. John James Audubon was famous for his paintings of birds. You see, he was an ornithologist (scientist who studies birds).
Discussion Questions: Here are some discussion questions to introduce the lab to your students: Pick questions depending on the age/ability of your student(s):
1. What does it mean to observe something? (Look at it…but also smell it, hear it, & touch it)
2. If you wanted to remember how something looked, but you didn’t have a camera, what could you do to remember what you saw? (Draw a picture.)
3. How could you be sure to have an accurate record of what you observed? (Use the right colors, draw it the right size, and write down words to help you remember what it smelled and felt like.)
Obtain Specimens: Go outside and "discover" plants from around the house, park, etc. A brown paper bag is best for keeping the specimens fresh. Allow students to pick a variety of shapes, sizes, textures, and some leaves that are old/crunchy as well as new green leaves.
While you are outside collecting nature specimens for your art project here are some discussion questions you can be asking:
1. What patterns do you notice in nature? Patterns of shapes? Patterns of color?
2. Before you remove leaves from a branch; Were are the leaf stems connected to the branch compared to other leaves? Use words such as, opposite or alternating. (In the photo above the leaf stems are opposite.)
3. Look at leaf sizes; are leaves smaller or larger near the bottom of the tree? (Should be larger near the bottom so they have more surface area to receive light.)
Bring back your specimens to the lab for further analysis.
1. Put a leaf (or several leaves) down on a hard drawing surface and then carefully place the paper on top. Adhere the paper down either with a clipboard or with tape.
2. Rub crayon over the surface of the paper on top of the leaf, being careful not to let the leaf shift.
3. Consider moving the leaf around the page to create a composition, adding different shaped leaves and vary the colors of crayons used.
4. Other ways to make the art interesting is to overlap leaves using different colors, but ultimately, it's the artist's decision on what he/she prefers.
Discussion Questions to ask during the creation of the art:
1. Are some leaves easier to rub than others? Why might that be? (Too thick of a leaf makes rubbing it difficult.)
2. When working with leaves, is there a side of the leaf that shows more texture when you rub the crayon on it? Why might that be? (Veins/bumps are located on the underside of the leaves.)
3. What sort of patterns can you make with a single leaf? (Consider colors or how you place them…circle, square, big/small/big/small.)
4. What do you notice about the veins (bumps on the back of leaves) and the shapes they make? Do you have any idea how those veins/bumps help the plant? (Deliver water and nutrients from the soil to the tips of the leaves.)
Discussion to have with students after the piece is finished:
1. What makes the art pieces different from one another? What makes them the same?
2. What colors and/or color combinations do you like? Why?
3. Describe any patterns you see. Do you think patterns make art more interesting? Why or Why not?
4. Describe other ideas for using crayons to record things you see in nature.
1. What do you think makes your art interesting to look at?
2. Is your piece “art” even though it's not a bird by Audubon? Why or why not?
3. What makes something art? Explain.
A special thanks to Kory for the idea of this lab/craft. Best of luck to her as she finishes her preservice teacher training!