Camp Creek Blog

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Most of our nature journaling will be done en plein air. But don’t overlook your local nature center. You can get up close and personal with birds, reptiles, and animals that you will be lucky to see from a distance when you’re drawing and painting outdoors.

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See also: the complete list of nature journal activities (as it grows!)

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Nature journals: Drawing outdoors

Published by Lori Pickert on April 20, 2008 at 02:18 AM

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park bench, by Jack, age 8

 

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Nice things to have when you draw outdoors:

• A big binder clip to keep your sketchbook pages from flapping in the breeze.

• A hand lens for looking at flowers, insects, and textures up close.

• Hat with a brim to keep the sun out of your eyes and off your neck.

• There is so much to look at, sometimes it’s hard to choose what to draw. A small frame or viewfinder can help a child focus on a smaller area that is easier to draw.*

• Take a photograph of what you were drawing.

Alice's field bag and pencil case

Published by Lori Pickert on April 19, 2008 at 09:23 PM

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Check out Alice’s wonderful field bag and pencil case! More pictures on flickr!

And in case you missed it, the original project:

Make a field bag from recycled clothing

Art lesson: Watercolor techniques

Published by Lori Pickert on April 16, 2008 at 07:30 PM

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We’ll be taking watercolors with us to the woods and the prairie and the garden this summer with our nature journals, so we can give our drawings a wash of color.

Since it’s still quite cold and blustery in our corner of the world, we did a little drawing outside for Friday’s art class, then we headed inside to review some watercolor techniques.

I’ve already shared that I think the best way to introduce any child to a medium is with plenty of free exploration. Time — time to play and explore and experiment! Children need time to master materials before they can work purposefully.

This is a pretty common material, though — most of my students have already used watercolors. And my time with them is limited to an hour and a half a week. So I thought I’d lead them through some simple guided experiments to become familiar with (or become reacquainted with) what watercolors can do and how they behave.

This “lesson” isn’t about making art — we’re just going to learn and/or practice a few skills so we’re ready to make art next time!

Everyone started out with their watercolor paints, a nice heavy sheet of watercolor paper, a paintbrush, and some clean water.

First, we talked about how to get the paint wet to get it started. We loaded up our brush with a lot of color. Then we painted one big stripe across the top of our paper.

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Then we dipped our brush back into the water and without getting more paint, we painted a second stripe across the bottom of the first stripe. The paint ran together, but the bottom stripe was lighter. Then we did it again and got an even lighter stripe. Now we had a graded wash.

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Cool!

Next, we cleaned out brushes thoroughly (by swishing our water violently) and then painted a wet square of plain water on our paper.

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Then we loaded up our brush with color again and painted on the wet paper.

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Then we painted another line beside it on the dry paper and talked about the differences.

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(The kids loved this whole exercise — part art, part science experiment, lots of excited exclamations: “Look at mine!” “Cool!”)

Now we painted another big block of a light color.

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We cleaned our brush and loaded it up with a darker color and then put some splotches into the light color to see what would happen.

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We talked about what happens when the colors mix together.

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Then we chose a different color and painted another big area next to this one, allowing them to touch.

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What happened? The colors blend together. When might we want this to happen? If we don't want the colors to mix, what should we do? (Wait for the first color to dry!)

Next we painted another big blue square.

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More science! This time we're going to practice taking paint up from the paper.

We rinse our brush well and then use our fingertips to squeeze the water from the bristles.

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Now use your dry brush to suck up some paint from your blue square. You've made a white spot! Magic!

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You can also use this technique to fix mixtakes — well, a little mistake anyway!

Then we used a crumpled piece of paper towel to take up more paint, and stamp a pattern as well!

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If you have time (and materials), you can experiment with using a small piece of sponge, crumpled tissue paper, leaves from the garden, and anything else you can think of to stamp in your watercolors.

Next, we used a white crayon to draw on the paper to make a resist.

Anything waxy will create a place the watercolor paint won’t stick — crayon, oil pastel, even a candle! (I know it’s a little late, but those plain wax crayons that come with Easter egg-decorating kits are perfect for this.)

Draw a little something on your paper and then paint over it.

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We talked a bit about when you might want to use your white crayon — if there is something white in your picture that you want to stay white, for example.

Of course, you can use any color of crayon to make a resist painting! For our nature journal kit, though, we'll make sure to carry a white crayon.

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Finally, we finished by using everything we just learned to paint whatever we wanted!

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See also:

Nature journals

Free exploration/working purposefully

Project-based learning: A teacher’s perspective

Published by Lori Pickert on April 16, 2008 at 05:43 PM

My good friend Emily, who used to teach K-3rd at my tiny private school, left a great comment on my post Observational drawing: Where do we go from here?. It was so great, I’m going to reproduce it here in its entirety so more people can see it.

I know this comment is after-the-fact for this conversation, but I am a "late reader" and so I'm only seeing this for the first time.

As soon as I read your post, Lori, I knew I *had* to write a comment because I still think about all the wonderful things that happened during our instrument project. Learning the instrument families --- no! Becoming *experts* on instrument families, learning how sounds travels, making the ears, the "Keyboard Controversy," all of it was amazing. It's all become a magical memory for me. One that keeps me motivated to keep trying projects in a public school setting even if it is hard and sometimes frustrating. One that reminds me all that children are capable of --- so much more than I sometimes give them credit for. One that encourages me to challenge kids. One that makes me mourn the loss of that class, and the simple fact that my own son will not ever get to experience that moment with those circumstances. (Although I hope to recreate it for him at home.)

Thank you for giving me another moment to relive that year!

I also wanted to share another story related to the "keyboard controversy." As estea pointed out, the piano is a string instrument, and, of course, we knew that as well, but the PROCESS they took to learn that fact was much more worthwhile for them since they had to discover it on their own. They learned so much more than how to classify a piano. They learned that everything written in books isn't necessarily true, as you mentioned. They learned how to debate. They learned how to make hypotheses and conclusions. (In the end, they decided that a piano was, indeed, a string instrument, BUT an electronic keyboard was a percussion instrument since it doesn't have strings.)

The story I was thinking of happened about that same time. A child in the class became very interested in the Loch Ness Monster. He asked me if it was real, and, of course, I answered, "I don't know. Why don't you try to find out?" So, he did! He checked out books on the subject, interviewed his classmates to see what they thought, and we probably looked online for information too. And then all of sudden, one day, his interest was gone. *Poof!* No more discussions, no questions, nothing. When I asked him about it, he replied, "Oh, I asked my dad what he thought, and he said it wasn't real. So now I know." And just like that, he lost so many valuable learning opportunities.

And now I've rambled for long enough. Thank you again, Lori, for writing about this!

Emily, thank you so much for taking the time to share this.

My interview at The Artful Parent

Published by Lori Pickert on April 15, 2008 at 01:43 PM

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Jean at The Artful Parent was kind enough to interview me about Reggio-inspired learning and how we incorporate art with projects. Thanks, Jean!

Make a field bag from recycled clothing

Published by Lori Pickert on April 12, 2008 at 07:33 PM

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It's nice to have a small field bag for nature walks — to hold your art supplies and also to bring home any treasures you might find.

An old pair of pants can yield 2, 3, or even half a dozen bags depending on the size. We've made many a field bag from an old pair of jeans. Jack and I made this bag out of an old pair of khaki camo pants he had outgrown.

(Denim and khaki are great materials for a field bag because they are tough, durable, and hold their shape without a lining.)

First, find an old pair of pants. Any size will do!

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We thought that knee pocket would make a great detail on the front of Jack's bag.

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These back pockets would also make a great bag front. If you are using jeans, you can use the front pocket as the front of your bag and the back pocket for the back!

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Mark where you want to cut your fabric, and make sure your sketchbook will fit inside your finished bag!

Right away you'll notice one great thing about making a field bag out of your old clothes — you won't have to sew very much, because you can take advantage of the seams that are already there. We cut this bag out of the middle of one leg, so we sewed the bottom and around the top. If you used the bottom of the leg, and the bottom hem of the leg became the top of your bag, you would only have to sew one seam!

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Cut along the marks you made. Since we cut out of the middle of the leg, we now have a tube of fabric.

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Turn your material inside-out and sew the bottom seam. We triple-sewed ours for extra strength.

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Fold over the top and sew around, making the top seam. You can pin it in a couple of places if you are worried about it moving around on you, but uneven seams give extra character.

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Jack really wanted a matching strap, but you could also make the strap out of any old ribbon or woven tape you have in your stash.

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We cut a strip of fabric about 2 1/4 inches wide and then used that strap to cut out another.

Since there is no pattern for this project, you don't need to worry about how wide your strap ends up being — there is no right or wrong!

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Sew the two long sides of your strap — but not the ends! Because next you need to turn it inside out.

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Sew the strap onto the bag! We went back and forth a few times for extra strength. We are expecting this bag to get some heavy outdoor use.

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All done! Wasn't that easy? While we were at it, we made another one:

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You can decorate your finished bag by sewing on patches, sticking on your favorite pins, embroidering them, or anything else you can think of.

Then fill them up and take a hike!

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See also:

Nature journaling: supplies

Nature journaling: supplies

Published by Lori Pickert on April 10, 2008 at 07:25 PM

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The best part of any new project is gathering the supplies, right?

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  1. Sketchbook. This is a great one. It has heavy paper so you can watercolor in it and the pages won't fall apart. But any sketchbook will do — you can even make your own.

    I like a journal about 5 x 7", because you only need a small bag to carry it and your supplies, but the page is big enough to draw a whole scene as well as details.

    Pay attention to how the journal is bound — spiral obviously allows you to work flat. If the binding is sewn it may also lay flat — you don't want a journal with a spine that won't open all the way and allow you to use the whole page.

  2. Pencils + self-enclosed pencil sharpener + white eraser. Ideally you will have a few pencils of different hardness. These are sold grouped together inexpensively at the art supply store. But again, ordinary pencils are fine, too.
  3. Pencil case — hard or soft, as long as it protects everything in your bag from being covered with pencil marks and your pencil leads from breaking.
  4. Watercolors + brush. Any old watercolor set will do! They usually come with a brush. I personally like Prang because they are very good quality, last a long time, and the colors are bright and clear. You can buy Prang watercolors at any department store; you don't need to go to the art supply store.

    You can get a little fancier by buying a few extra watercolor brushes of different sizes. It's nice to have at least one extra brush in case you lose yours. Again, you can buy a few brushes bundled together at the art supply store for a few dollars. (You can always find a more expensive version of every art supply, but don't worry about that for this project!) You can also investigate water brushes; they are wonderful for painting on the go: like this or like this. Check your local art or hobby store to see what they have. These unscrew and you fill them with water, then you simply squeeze them to clean the brush. (Bring a piece of old t-shirt or similar to dab against — you can wash and reuse these.)

  5. Water bottle. Again, any old empty water bottle or soda bottle will do. Fill it up about three-fourths of the way. Fancy: I like these water-bottle clips that fit over the neck of the bottle and allow you to clip them to your bag or belt loop. But you can also carry it inside your field bag.
  6. Ziploc bag or small plastic case for holding treasures. Pinecones, leaves, and seed pods will take a beating if they're just thrown loose in your bag or stuffed in your pocket. Keep one ziploc bag (freezer type is best — they are heavy duty) and reuse for each trip.
  7. Field bag to carry your supplies. If you want to do some extended walking or exploring before you draw and paint, it's nice to have your hands free. We'll be sharing our instructions for making easy field bags out of recycled clothing!

Extras: A folded paper towel (for drying your brush or taking up paint), a white crayon (for resist work), a black or other color crayon (for rubbings; a soft pencil also works), and that's about it! Camping cups — the ones that telescope or lie flat — are nice for pouring water into (as bottles are generally tippy). I have a little canvas bucket that I use.

For grown-ups:

  1. Your own kit (everything on the previous list). If you are working with a large group, it doesn't hurt to bring an extra of everything.

    You can carry an extra small bottle of water for the kid who inevitably dumps theirs, but don't be tempted into carrying more water! It's heavy and it will make you cranky and weigh you down.

  2. Sunscreen, bug spray, wipes, bandaids, ziploc bag. (Wipes are great for the unexpected bird bomb or "ugh, what did I sit in?!" One ziploc bag can hold all your garbage. Reuse it if you love the Earth.)
  3. Field guides for looking up interesting finds on the spot.
  4. A roll of masking tape for when kids want to tape something in their journal.
  5. A field bag or backpack to carry your supplies and keep your hands free.

With this kit, you'll be all set.

Art lesson: Nature journal

Published by Lori Pickert on March 29, 2008 at 02:33 PM

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Nature Journal Posts

Nature journaling: supplies

Make a field bag from recycled clothing

Watercolor techniques

Drawing outdoors

Get closer to wildlife at the nature center

Watercolor prints

• • • • •

Spring has arrived and our homeschool art class is moving outdoors.

We'll be working on a long warm-months natural journaling project.

If you're following along at home, you will need a sketchbook, pencil, colored pencils, watercolors (I like Prang), and an old water bottle.

First step will be to make a field bag to carry our supplies!

While you're going through the winter clothes and deciding what to discard or donate, keep an eye out for an old pair of jeans or khakis — they make awesome bags. Check in next week for instructions!

• • • • •

If you send me a link, I will make a blogroll of people who are in our virtual class. And don't forget to join the Camp Creek Art Flickr group! All you need to participate in Flickr is a Yahoo e-mail. Any questions? E-mail me!

Sharing our work

Published by Lori Pickert on March 27, 2008 at 08:46 PM

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The marvelous Estea of Robot•Jumping•Rope shared these observational drawings her children did with the Camp Creek Art Lessons Flickr group. Fantastic!

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