Making Nature Bark Journals

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Using Nick Neddo’s new book “The Organic Artist” I was able to craft a few journals from bark.

Below are pictures of harvesting the bark by cutting and slowly loosening it off the trunk of the tree. I won’t give a tutorial on the binding as I just learned the skill from his book. You could always tie a simple binding but the book explains how to bind in a way that allows the pages to spread open with artistry and finesse.  I recommend purchasing a copy of Nick’s book as it has lots of great nature art skills and simple and clear tutorials.


Making Charcoal Art Pencils on the Campfire & Drawing the Sky Tree

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Winter Nature Campers collected sticks within the forest to turn into charcoal pencils.  We added them to an empty container that once held Pepperidge Farm Pirouette Chocolate Hazelnut Rolled Wafers but you could use any empty cookie tin type container.  Be sure to poke a hole in the container for smoke to escape or the lid will pop-off when roasting. Fill the container with the sticks and place on the fire to cook. The sticks char without completely combusting due to the lack of oxygen and make an excellent artists charcoal.  Take the tin off the fire after it has been smoking for some time and let the container cool completely before removing the lid or the sticks could ignite into flames.   Campers had great fun exploring the textures of the charcoal and making their own free choice art. They observed that the sticks with bark removed made more consistent lines and held their shape better than those with bark still on them as the bark crumbled rather quickly when pressed on paper. Also, campers observed that the charcoal smeared easily when rubbed with a finger.

As an extension campers could use realism and create a winter tree like shown in the story “The Sky Tree, Seeing Science Through Art” by Thomas Locker.   They could listen to Vivaldi’s Four Seasons for inspiration and focus.

Autumn Lantern Craft

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Families were invited to walk in search of autumn leaves before creating lanterns using glue and balloons.  As they crafted, the story of the Lantern Price was shared. The story that I shared was found at the Sparkle Stories Blog and was written in honor of St. Martin in the spirit of service. In the theme of the story, next time I run the program I’ll ask participants to bring a can of food for donation to those less fortunate.

To make the lantern, tissue paper is applied to a balloon with a brush and watery glue. Small pieces prevent too many wrinkles.  The balloon should not be filled to maximum or it will pop. Heavier duty balloons are recommended to avoid popping. Once a few layers of tissue paper are applied the leaves can be added and then covered with a single layer of tissue paper to seal them onto the balloon. It may take a few days to dry before the balloon can be popped. After punching holes in the side I was able to tie strings to the balloon and hang it from a stick. Battery tea lights help safely light the lantern for a night walk.

Crafting Plaster Pond Pals

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Using field guides, tinfoil and plaster wrap we constructed pond creatures as part of a one-day Frog Pond Science Camp with students in 1st – 3rd grades. We discussed the diversity of creatures that make up the frog pond ecosystem and after reviewing field guides and resource materials campers planned and began work on their own creature. Among their choices were a turtle, snake, salamander, siren, alligator and water boatman.

David Alexander is author of the Buzz Into Action & Hop Into Action Science Curricula.  He specializes in making nature accessible to people and wildlife.  You can follow him at

Bird Lane Interpretive Trail

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Birding can be incredibly exciting…when you actually see birds.

Taking large groups of students out on the trail in the middle of the day when the birds are least active and the students are most active is not a recipe for success. To help introduce and give students a taste of birding we created a bird lane trail with the help of a volunteer artist.

Bird Lake Trail Sign

Local bird species were painted on marine grade plywood and coated for protection and placed out on the trails at numbered posts. Now students can practice the use of binoculars, a science tool for elementary age students and find birds before they fly away. Along with the interpretive trail there is a field guide that provides additional information on each bird species. Now if only we could get them to sing.

You do not need to paint birds to make a trail around your schoolyard. You can use pictures. Try out the Birding Beat Lesson from Flying Wild.


David Alexander is author of the Buzz Into Action & Hop Into Action Science Curricula.  He enjoys making nature more accessible to people and wildlife.  You can follow him at

Ten Wild Nature Art Crafts

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Wild Art has become one of the most popular sessions in my Nature Explorers Summer Camp.  Below are examples of some of the inside and outside nature art crafts we enjoy.  If you try any or have your own favorites please comment below. 

Nature Mosaic Sun Catcher – Take a nature walk to collect bits and pieces of color in your local habitat. Bring them inside to create your own sun catcher using the outside of a paper plate and contact paper. Although it is not necessary, if you have the time you may wish to press the collected pieces to flatten and dry them so they hold their form and color.

Mud Faces – Find a muddy ditch, the side of a stream or river or make your own mud. Take a blob of mud and smack it onto a tree. Next add sticks and stones and other items found in nature to create your own creative mud face.

Colors of our Earth Nature Necklace – Using the inside of the paper plate that was cut from the sun-catcher craft you can color with nature.  Children will love experimenting with different plants to uncover the colors they create.

Colors of Nature Earth Necklace, Nature Into Action

Nature Mosaics & Chipmunk Palaces – Create with the materials available a la Andy Goldsworthy. Focus on the process and allow for the project to stay and decay where it was created. Use colorful autumn leaves or balance sticks and stones to create your own masterpiece.

Seasonal Nature Ornament – Collect materials found in nature and press them into a piece of clay to create a seasonal nature ornament. Add a string and hang it where you like or leave it as is for a decorative piece of art.

Seasonal Nature Ornament, Nature Into Action

Pressed Flower Bookmark – Gather plant material or other natural items like a found feather and press them in a large book so they may be flattened and used within a contact paper bookmark. Use a funky scissor to add character to the the edges and add some nice ribbon or string to complete.

Pressed Flower Bookmarks

Nature Explorers Duck Tape Bracelet – Place a ring of duck tape around your wrist inside out so the sticky side is facing out.  Find small pieces of nature to collect and add to make a pretty craft that highlights the beauty of your adventure.  As always be careful to harvest appropriate plants as to not negatively impact the habitat you are exploring.

Y Branch & Group Forest Loom – Find a branch with a Y in it and tie string across so that other found items can be held within the gaps of string. This works well as an individual project or as a large classroom/group project. As always be careful to be respectful and careful when collecting so you only harvest abundant plants.


Cardboard Animal Nature Masks: Cut up cardboard boxes into the shapes of animal faces. Go out on a search for natural materials that can be used to decorate the mask. Big leaves make great ears, grass for whiskers, soil shades for camouflage and much more.

Cardboard Animal Masks with Natural Elements (4)


Garden Stepping Stone: Empty your cement mix into a mold.  Jiggle the cement to fit the mold and smooth the surface. Decorate your stone by embedding objects in the mix, adding a hand print or lettering before it dries solid.

David Alexander is author of the Buzz Into Action & Hop Into Action Science Curricula.  He specializes in making nature accessible to people and wildlife.  You can follow him at

Zoomy Discovery Station

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Using a Learning Resources Zoomy Handheld Digital Microscope Camera my students and I have been capturing microscopic photographs of things found in nature for scientific investigations. We started by looking at butterfly wings and found the intricate patterns of scales to resemble shingles on a roof.

The Zoomy lends itself well to investigations and inquiry and operates with ease-even for a young child.  The students next thought to look at a piece of snake skin we had on a touch table and compared its resemblance to packaging bubbles and plastic wrap. We continued to find other things to examine including a monarch egg, caterpillar and 17 year cicada wing.

I look forward to continued use of the zoomy and want to see what other images the students can capture using the technology on their own.

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