As an Atelier based in a Forest School nursery, we aim to create an environment where children can use nature and natural objects as provocation for exploration and learning. To do this we bring the outside in by providing our children with sticks, stones, pine cones and shells, as well as raw materials such as soil, sand and clay.
FINDING INSPIRATION IN NATURE
We begin our Atelier sessions by taking a walk around the yard, before heading inside to get creative. Spending time in the fresh air not only helps the children to use up any extra energy, but also provides them with inspiration as they look around at the wide range of colours and shapes that the outside world has to offer. We stop to closely inspect the flowers and insects along the way and encourage the children to talk about the things that they see. When our free rangers find natural and interesting objects on these walks, they take them back to the Atelier to use in their own creative ways – literally bringing the outside in.
WHAT CAN WE LEARN FROM PAINTING STICKS AND STONES
Sticks and stones have been collected and brought back to be painted. It’s quite tricky to paint a large stick with many small branches, as this requires a steady hand and good hand eye co-ordination, as many of our children have demonstrated. Painting on 3D surfaces, such as the large stones, also requires a different technique and often a different angle or grip upon the paintbrushes. As well as paint, some children have spread glue over their found natural objects, which when dry has been found to create a new shiny surface.
When out on our walk, some children were drawn to the bright yellow heads of the dandelions growing within the grassy areas. After picking a few, (obviously leaving lots for the bees and other insects!), we brought them back and used them to paint with – a brilliant natural paintbrush! One of our older children showed huge focus and concentration as she glued dandelions in a row across a piece of paper. She then painted a scene around her dandelions. When speaking to her about her painting she said,
“I’m making my garden”
This is a lovely example of how children use nature as a starting point (provocation) and then use their own imaginations to create something beautiful.
I’m looking forward to planning more creative activities outside to see what our children’s imaginations will do with the natural things that they see and find.
In the Den