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Children making a difference.

Every spring the elementary grades at North Lakeland Elementary School take part in a program known as Outdoor Education. It is a two-day event that is held outside, with courses that are not stressed in school. Plant growth, compass skills, biology and art are several of the subjects offered.

Wendy Feiereisen was chosen to teach the art session for spring of 1991. Wendy is a professional watercolor and mixed-media fine artist. She decided on a project that would fit the theme of outdoor education and the issue of being kind to the earth. "With all the global concern nowadays, I wanted to blend art and nature together for enjoyment, education and environmental art. I was paging through Art in America (April 1987] and came across an article "Walking Into Art" about the work of Richard Long who designed sculptures in nature. I immediately thought this idea could be adapted for the outdoor education program, so I began to play around with an instruction sheet."

The Project

Each student went on a walk to gather objects found in nature, such as rocks, driftwood, imprints in sand, etc. Students were instructed to pay special attention and gather objects with interesting texture and shapes, light vs. dark, large vs. small, etc. As they collected objects, students recorded any ideas that came to mind about the way the objects might be assembled or which objects go nicely together. Each student wrote down a brief expression of his or her feeling at the time the object was found. For example: Does something about the object make you feel lonely? Does it remind you of a time you were happy? Perhaps it reminds you of a calm lake or some other interesting image. Students should also notice the temperature: Does the item make you feel warm, sunny, cold, etc.

Building a Sculpture

As a group, students selected a location to build the sculpture. When assembling, students kept in mind that there are many ways to build. They can make a statement with their object, stress design or color--the possibilities are limitless! The students discussed how to build the sculpture as a group. Wendy was available to help if the students needed it.

Next, the students collaborated on a poem describing the sculpture. They used some of the brief writings gathered from collecting the objects and combined them with the feelings of the group. The poem was arranged on a piece of paper in the same shape as the sculpture.

Wendy took the photographs of each group's sculpture. Each of the poems were typed and framed with the photograph. The pieces were ready to be displayed in the school hall for everyone to enjoy and remember. The original sculptures were allowed to dissolve and fade back into nature.

Wendy's main goal was to develop youth's awareness of texture, color, form and shape -- elements that are around them always, although often unnoticed. "At first I worried that in a material world they might not like the project because they would have nothing to take home. But they loved it and I enjoyed watching their right brains work together."

Here are some of the comments written by the children:

"I like the sculpture because it makes you use your imagination and some of the things are real interesting such as the pinecone roses. It's nice to know that together nature and man can make such a beautiful thing."

"I feel happy when I see it because I know it is for the earth to enjoy."

"I think this is a great project for teachers to bring to their classes. It's economic and it takes us back to nature. It is also adaptable -- if you're located in a city, go to the park or to a beach to construct your sculpture."

When the project was completed, the group stood around their sculpture admiring the creation. One child looked up and said "Mrs. Feiereisen... what do we do with it now?" "We let nature enjoy it," she answered. Satisfied, the children left for their next session, occasionally glancing back at nature.

Brook Feierseisen is a freelance writer from Manitowish Waters, Wisconsin.
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Title Annotation:ecology art class
Author:Feiereisen, Brook
Publication:School Arts
Date:Feb 1, 1992
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