Nurturing Nature in the Classroom

Guest Post by Rebecca Bielawski, for Kellee of Unleashing Readers

Childrens book Bees Like FlowersIf you are having trouble getting your class out and into nature, there are a hundred ways you can get nature into your class. If you want your kids to run wild with nature-based crafts and projects, but your imagination feels as dried up as an autumn leaf, don’t despair – On the wonderful world wide web you can discover all the inspiration you need. I especially recommend Pinterest boards and Google+ communities to look for specific ideas suited to your group’s age and other circumstances.

Here are a few tips for adapting nature projects and nature crafts that you might find, to your own classroom or home school environment.

Adapt ideas to your local area e.g., seeds to germinate that are readily and cheaply available, plants that are easy to sprout and suited to the climate and of course child friendly. Your local garden centre can help out. Local plant species will always be more relevant to the kids. (Planting sunflowers was my favourite as a kid.)

Adapt ideas to your available resources Most projects will not represent an elevated cost. Here you can use recycled materials such as plastic bottles and yoghurt pots, eg. hand trowels can be made from plastic milk or juice bottles with handles. You can also reinforce the Reuse, Reduce Recycle mantra. If you have more of a budget you could, for example, buy plants for the classroom that represent your nature goals.

The Creative Process - A Look at How My Books are Conceived and Created


sketches for monkey stuffThe first idea that leads to a finished book could be anything-- a character, a rough sketch, a rhyme or even a painting style, and can come from anywhere-- a memory from childhood, something someone says, things I see at the supermarket, in nature and especially things that kids do and say.  Kids are nutty, I am privileged to have the opportunity to listen and learn from them (and steal their ideas!). I don't always start with the story, sometimes an illustration comes first.  Generally, I start out with a style of illustration in mind but invariably, the book goes in another direction and I have to adapt to accommodate it.  My planning sketches are loose at best and the process reminds me more of sculpting than illustrating.  Never in order, I chip away at each page. I usually start with the page for which I have the strongest idea or the clearest concept and every consequent page has to try and maintain some kind of continuity of style.  This means that I always end up going back to the earlier pages to adjust elements correct and perfect.  This is the process I call "infinite tweaking" because when I think I'm finished illustrating, there is usually another month before I'm really finished.  This was exhausting in the beginning, but now I accept it as part of the process.

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