Last week I ran a 2 day workshop down in Vancouver. The school I was visiting is located in a highly urbanized neighborhood, the opportunity for children to interact with nature are very few in day to day lives.
Bringing nature into the classroom provides opportunities for the students to explore, discover and learn about the natural world. During our first day workshop, 75 kindergarten students learned about local trees through playful nature art – creating their very own stick person.
In advance, each student had been asked to search for fallen “Y” branches and bring them into the classroom. The fallen branch was once part of the living tree – a story in itself. Now we are giving new life to the fallen branch with the help of a child’s imagination.
A tree represents the shared roots and branches of every culture and faith
Our Relationships Matter
Part of my work is to help students and educators form a loving and respectful relationship with the natural world. (We Protect What We Love). One way to help form these sacred relationships is through Nature Art.
The Joy of Learning – forming a deeper relationship with trees and each other
We were fortunate to have a row of pine and cedar trees just outside the school grounds where we were able to observe, touch, smell and practice a few tree yoga poses before heading in to make our stick people.
Children learn best when they undertake imaginative play and curious exploration.
Storytelling with Nature: Stick People
Sometimes tight schedules demand so much of our time we miss out on the real joy of learning, exploring with our imaginations and the sharing of our stories.
This activity is all about playing with the natural materials, exploring with our imaginations. I provided lot’s of different materials such as pine cones, pine needles, dried orange peel, seeds, leaves, cedar, yarn, stones, and shells (beads were also added in class).
The students had the freedom to express their uniqueness through creative nature play. When we are creating, we are sharing something of ourselves. Each stick person, beautiful and unique as the individual that created it.
The greatest joy of art is self-expression
Storytelling with our new stick friends
The students were excited to make up stories orally and share with their classmates.
Each student was invited to illustrate their story in a little storybook and those who could write could add words if they so wished.
“Creativity is now as important in education as literacy, and we should treat it with the same status.” – Sir Ken Robinson
One teachers reflection on the workshop: “I made the little name cards for the stick people as they all seem to have their own ‘personalities’.
The students created their own story about the stick people and drew illustrations. A few students could write but at this time of year we are ‘swirly writing ‘.
The next day we had a sharing circle with a group of students sitting in a circle and another group sitting in a circle facing a partner. Basically an inner and an outer circle. They took a turn to tell their story, showing the pictures to their partner. Then the outer circle moved one person over and had a new partner with whom to share their story.
The outcomes of this activity were communication and the sharing of ideas and stories with a partner. My students have increased their appreciation for nature , their ability to create with their sticks, add details and share new ideas with a partner. “ – Devon Codesmith, Kindergarten teacher
If students don’t get opportunities to experience the natural world and express themselves creativiely, to help form meaningful, soulful relationships, they miss out on what it means to be human.
With more than half of the world’s population now living in urban areas our school children have less access to wild places, to woodlands and forests. If we cannot get the students to the forest then we must bring the forest to the classroom.
You can purchase our Storytelling with Nature: Stick People Booklet here: STORYTELLING WITH NATURE