Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Making Leaf Rubbings and Leaf Art

Leaf Rubbings
Although this project sounds easy, it can take kids a bit of practice to get clear details. Don’t give up after one or two attempts.

Go outside and collect some leaves. When possible, use leaves that have fallen on the ground. If that doesn’t give you a good variety, carefully pull leaves from trees and shrubs. Try to limit yourself to one leaf from a plant; remember, plants use their leaves to make their own food. Now, bring the leaves inside or work somewhere outdoors where your materials won’t blow around.

Set one leaf on a table, vein side (bumpy side) facing up; cover the leaf with a piece of paper. Hold the paper in place with one hand. Now, take a crayon and hold it sideways so you can rub the length of the crayon over the section of the paper covering the leaf. The crayon should reveal the shape and texture of the leaf on the paper.

If you can’t see the details of the leaf, press down harder with the crayon. If the outline and veins are doubled or fuzzy it probably means that you shifted the paper while rubbing the crayon over it. Sometimes it takes two, three, or even six tries to get a really nice looking leaf rubbing. The leaves shouldn’t get harmed by the process, so you can practice as much as you need.

What to Do with Leaf Rubbings
• Cut out the leaves and layer them into a collage. Use small pieces of double-sided foam tape behind a few of the leaves to add some depth to the collage.
• Cut out a leaf and write a poem on the back of the leaf. Punch a hole in the leaf and add a piece of string or yarn so the leaves can be hung.
• Mount the leaf rubbing on a piece of cardstock and cut out the shape. Glue a magnet on the back and attach to the refrigerator or another magnetic surface.
• Try doing a leaf rubbing on a colored piece of paper with a contrasting color crayon for variety.
• Cut out the leaves and layer them around the edges of an inexpensive picture frame.
• Create a matching game. Do two leaf rubbings of each shape leaf. Cut out the leaves and glue them onto two index cards. Try to make a set of at least twelve cards with six matches. Shuffle the cards and set them picture-side down on the table or floor. Players take turns flipping over two cards looking for a match. The player with the most matches wins that round.

Resist Paintings
Add another level of interest to texture rubbings by painting over the page.
Do crayon texture rubbings of leaves, bark, or manmade objects. Cover a lot of the paper with texture rubbings, but avoid having the different shapes overlap. It is okay if just a corner of a leaf is on the page. Now, go over the entire page with watercolor paints. You can use one color of paint or use several colors, painting splotches of color here and there. The wax crayon will resist the watercolor paint while the paint adheres to the paper. Paint over the entire piece of paper.

Another way of doing a resist painting is to draw a simple line picture with crayons (because the pencil marks could show through the crayon, you’ll have to draw with the crayons). Then paint over the entire picture with watercolors. To show off the resist, you will have to carry the paint over the lines. Otherwise, you’ll look like you are painting a coloring book page. Have fun with showing off the resist effect.

For a third option, draw with crayon a picture of your backyard or a place in nature that you love. Don’t color the sky, but you can add a few wispy clouds with white crayon. Paint over the entire scene with a mixture of blue, violet and black to make the scene a night scene.

Texture rubbings are a great way to reveal the details of leaves that you and your kids might not otherwise notice. This isn't just an autumn leaf project - you can do this during any season you can gather leaves.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Make Leaf Silhouette Artwork

Create a sort of reverse print by capturing the negative space, or the area around the leaf.

Even if you don’t live in area where you get to collect autumn-bright leaves, there are still plenty of art projects that feature leaves. Here’s one to get you started. You want to go out and gather leaves with a variety of shapes.

There are several ways to show off the silhouette, or outline, of a leaf. Set a leaf on a piece of paper and hold it in place with one hand. Then try one of these following techniques,

• Dip a paintbrush in watercolors, poster paints, or tempera paints. Starting on the leaf, paint over the edge of the leaf onto the paper, extending the brush strokes as far as desired.
• Dip a cut sponge in paint and dab the sponge along the outline of the leaf.
• Dip an old toothbrush in paint. Then run the handle of a paintbrush along the bristles of the toothbrush. The paint will spatter and fall around the outline of the brush. (You won’t hold the leaf in place with your hand for this variation.)
• Cover the leaf with a piece of cheesecloth or burlap that is larger than the leaf. With a sponge dipped in paint, dab the sponge over the fabric. Avoid using too much paint or rubbing the sponge over the fabric. With this technique, the textured pattern from the fabric will get added to the silhouette surrounding the leaf shape.
• Do several leaf silhouettes over a sheet of paper. Allow some of the paint surrounding the shapes to overlap, creating different colors.
• After the paint dries, go back and paint the white space with a brush in a complementary color.

After painting around the edge of the leaf, carefully remove the leaf. The shape of the leaf will be white, with paint surrounding where the leaf was held. Decorate around the silhouette as desired, including adding more silhouette images to the page.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Clean Quest - Get Rid of Litter

Part game, part good deed, this activity reminds children to think twice before tossing trash.

Materials: a pair of non-latex gloves and a trash bag for each participant, one pair of tongs or trash grippers, optional prizes

Do you and your children walk along a road or trail where people carelessly toss their trash? Does this diminish your experience of this location? Talk to your children about going to this location to pick up trash. Outfit each person with non-latex gloves and trash bags. The person to fill a bag with the most trash receives a small reward costing under a dollar (a tumbled gemstone, a small plastic animal, or a pencil).

Remind children to avoid picking up sharp objects or broken glass. You may want to have a pair of tongs to safely pick up these items. To keep energy levels high, set a time limit (if the kids want to keep going, that’s fine; however, if you end the activity while they are still enthusiastic then they will likelier be willing to do this again).

You may want to take a picture of everyone with their bags of trash and ask the site you helped clean to post the picture. Your actions may even remind people to not litter.

This teaches children about stewardship, caring for the environment. It is also a reminder that sometimes an individual must act instead of waiting for others to meet a task.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Outdoor Autumn Games for Parents and Kids

Acorn Toss

This is a bit like Bocce with acorns. Of course, if you can’t find acorns, you can use small pebbles. This is a game of control; not wild tossing movements.

Materials: Acorns, pinecones, sticks, marking pens

You can play this game between you and one child; two children can play opposite one another. If you have a group of kids with you, then divide players into pairs or two teams with two players each. As you are walking you can collect game markers. For fairness, opposing teams should use similar game pieces (acorns or pebbles) and color a dot on their team’s pieces with a marker.

You will need to find a playing area that is clear of shrubs, trees, and small plants for a distance at least as long as three times the tallest child’s height. Use sticks to mark a starting point, where players will stand. One player (or the adult) tosses a pinecone or another object onto the ground. The other players then try to toss their marker as close to that pinecone as they can. Each team gets four tries with four acorns. The player or team that gets closest wins.

Target Practice

Help kids develop hand-eye coordination while focusing their urge to randomly pick up and toss small objects.

Materials: Acorns, pebbles, pine cones, and sticks gathered on the walk.

Some kids just want to pick up and throw things. Sometimes they don’t grasp the implications of their actions and it can become tiresome to continuously say, “Sticks and rocks stay on the ground,” (because you’re opening yourself to all those acorn and pinecone loopholes).

Like Acorn Toss, this game directs kids’ energy. Make it clear, “If I don’t have to tell anyone to keep the things on the ground on the ground, then for 90 seconds you can play a game that involves tossing acorns.” I’ve found this technique works with kids I’ve just met on a field trip and they will monitor one another so to reach the promised activity near the end of the walk.

Look for a clear area where kids can throw things without endangering things or other people. Gather some acorns and pinecones in a large pile so players don’t go wandering around during the activity or feel frustrated that they are losing out on game time by collecting game pieces.

For one game, place a stick to indicate where kids should stand. Then kids take turns trying to toss their acorn further than other players. Another option is to try to land their acorn as close as possible to another player’s game piece.

For another version, construct different sized and shaped boxes with the sticks and set them at different distances from the starting point. Toss the acorns in these targets

Monday, October 10, 2011

Feelings & Nature - Connecting to Emotions through Poetry

In this quiet activity, children connect to their feelings by assigning human emotions to the different things they see around them. Children learn to describe emotions in this brief, poetic exercise.

Preparation: You will need a stack of 3” x 5” index cards. On the cards, draw simple faces exhibiting different emotions. Go online and look for emoticons if you want some ideas. Draw the face and write the emotion underneath. You’ll want to start with a deck of at least twenty emotion cards. If you are doing this activity with a large group, plan on at least two cards for each child. During the play of the game, different children can use the same card.

Hand each child one of the cards. If the child can’t read the word, ask them what emotion they think the face is showing. Explain that their goal is to look around and find something that represents the emotion on their card. If children are confused, ask them to imagine life as a rock. Would the rock feel happy, sad, or bored?

If you have a group, you can warm up to this activity by asking them to imagine if different objects had emotions what feelings they would have? In poetry, the pathetic fallacy is the practice of attaching human emotions to nature, animals, and inanimate objects. You may decide to give this brief literary lesson to preteens or teens. With younger children, this activity can lead to a discussion of how things that aren’t alive don’t have feelings.

With a small group, when a child finds an object that represents the emotion on his card, the child can call the group to stop, point out the object and then allow the others 10-to-20 seconds to guess the emotion.

Option: With a large group, you could create a list poem, in which children connect the emotion to an object they saw on the walk. This poem also uses similes, or comparisons.

For example,
As stubborn as a rock
As bored as a fence
As flexible as a twig
As calm as a leaf

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Play Animal Detectives

Even if you don’t see animals on your walk, kids can look for clues to show them what critters have been on the path before you got there.

If you are walking in nature, it can be frustrating and disappointing for children (and adults) to not see any animals roaming about the woods. Of course, I should clarify that statement by saying that we might not notice animals as opposed to saying that we might not see animals on our walk.

One, many people don’t count birds and insects as animals. They move too fast, they don’t travel in straight lines, and oftentimes we hear them but we don’t get a good look at them. Two, many animals are active between dusk and dawn when the lighting allows for them to be seen. Noon is when the day is brightest and hottest. However, you can still look for signs of the animals that have recently moved through the area you are walking at the moment.

Although we call them ‘signs’ they are anything but as obvious as the signs that people make. Animal signs can include holes in the ground and in trees, droppings, tracks, nests, chewed twigs, bent twigs, and scratched up areas of ground or leaves. You don’t need to identify the sources of these signs of animal activity but it can be fun to guess. Avoid spending a lot of time analyzing the source of each sign, as children will tire of the activity. For older children who desire some competition, award one point to the first person to notice each sign.

If children really want to learn what animals are moving around in nature, look for a tracking field guide that shows more than footprint patterns.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Autumn Leaf Hunt

If you are in an area with fall color, this scavenger hunt works with kids’ inclination to gather as many autumn leaves as they can. This activity focuses their hunting and gathering.

While walking, encourage children to gather one leaf from as many different types of trees as they can. It isn’t necessary to identify the species of tree, unless you’d like to do this. Persuade the kids to notice the basic shape of each leaf as opposed to the color or size. This limitation means that every so often the kids have to compare the leaves they’ve collected and decide which oak or ash leaf they are most attracted to.

If you are in a forested area or a place with a variety of leaves, you can give kids a time limit, say sixty seconds, and push them to collect as many leaves as they can. Then allow the kids to sort the leaves by type. Did any child collect a leaf unlike anyone else’s leaves?