Things to Make & Do


Published by Lori Pickert on January 27, 2011 at 04:32 PM

From Core77: “ Makedo [is] a system of connectors that lets the child join a variety of material together, paper cups, cardboard, empty boxes, and whatever else you've got laying around. A series of simple (and safely blunted) tools enable the child to perform primitive construction operations and modify materials to accept the connectors, truly reinforcing the notion that you can shape the world around you with a little imagination and elbow grease.”


Wreck this journal

Published by Lori Pickert on April 22, 2009 at 08:15 PM

Keri Smith’s Wreck This Journal is full of prompts to help perfectionists and nervous nellies get over the fear of making a mistake and ruining a blank journal or sketchbook.

You could also just write a whole lot of journal prompts on little slips of paper and put them in a jar. Pull one out each day or just when you can’t think of anything to do or draw. We used to do this at school; in fact, I think I have a big jar of prompts somewhere around here.

Sketchbooks/journals are valuable tools for project learning — it’s good to build your skills by exploring everything you can do with them! The more comfortable you get with facing that blank page and filling it up, the better.


Sketchbooks in schools

Published by Lori Pickert on April 21, 2009 at 05:31 PM

Sketchbooks/journals are a big part of project work — it’s important to keep your ideas, thoughts, plans, and questions together (you and your child!) and keep track of your ideas and all the iterations of your representations from the initial idea of a sketch to the list of materials you need to pasting in photographs, items torn out of magazines and newspapers, etc. etc. etc.

Sketchbooks are a fantatsic learning tool!

Check out Sketchbooks in Schools — lots of great stuff!

Hat tip: Thriving Too.

Sketching together

Published by Lori Pickert on April 8, 2009 at 03:40 PM

We’ve been going out twice a week to sketch together, driving the winding country roads till we see something we want to draw. I like the idea that when we’re done, it will be a book filled with things we see all the time, places we identify with home.

Art lesson: Handcarved stamp

Published by Lori Pickert on January 27, 2009 at 02:16 PM

Our telescope — what he drew.

The weather this Christmas prevented us from getting together with our family until almost a month later, so I had to hold back and not show you some of the great presents the boys made.

My 12-year-old son gave everyone moleskine cahier notebooks handstamped with a stamp he carved himself. Check it out!

First do your drawing, then outline it very heavily with soft pencil.

Lay your drawing on your carving block and press down hard to transfer the pencil marks.

Any words or letters in your drawing will reverse automatically for carving and look correct when you stamp them — if you draw directly on a stamp block, you need to reverse your own writing!

Use the pencil to fill in any spots that didn’t transfer well.

Be careful to carve away from your drawing — and your fingers!

We carved down about three layers to get a nicely raised image.

Ink it up with your stamp pad and test it on scrap paper — you can then carve away any problem spots.

finished notebook!

We loved this project! We were inspired by journals we saw on Etsy and Geninne’s wonderful rubber stamp carving tutorial here. We will definitely be carving more stamps!

Nature journals: Observational painting

Published by Lori Pickert on April 20, 2008 at 08:49 PM


Along the same lines as observational drawing, we will concentrate on looking closely, noticing details, and doing our best to paint what we see.

We will try to paint the colors exactly as we see them.


First we do an observational pencil sketch. (If you want to try ink, make sure it is waterproof.)


Then we add details in color using the watercolor techniques we have practiced.


Because we're working in our sketchbooks and the pages are not as heavy as watercolor paper, we’re careful about using too much water — and we use an extra piece of paper under the page we are painting on to absorb any wetness that soaks through.


Things to do while making observational drawings and paintings in nature:

4.08-j-waterc-woods2.jpg • Talk about what we see.

• Ask questions about what we see — and remember them, so we can look up the answers later.

• Talk about what has changed since we were here last.

• Write descriptive words in our journals.

• Pay attention to everything around us — not just what we can see, but also what we can hear, what we can feel.

• Make sure we take everything with us when we leave.


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

You may also be interested in the complete list of art activities.


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.








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


Nature journals: Drawing outdoors

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


park bench, by Jack, age 8



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.