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Autumn Canoe Camping in the Adirondacks

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My friend Ron and I had a great trip in early October to the St. Regis area of the Adirondacks. We hit the autumn colors at peak, portaged to hidden ponds, caught brook trout for dinner, had a crayfish boil, lounged in our hammocks and just enjoyed the incredible beauty and peacefulness the wilderness area offers.

 

It’s wonderful to return to an area you’ve been before but have a completely new experience based on hitting a few side ponds, staying at different campsites and going in the “off” season. We could have counted the people we saw and heard on one hand.  The video sums up the trip nicely and shows a mix of it all including some bushcrafty skills mixed with modern gear.

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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.

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 www.natureintoaction.com

Forest Skulls

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Walk the landscape long enough and your sure to come across some interesting findings. Chief among them are the white washed sun bleached skulls of animals.

While I try to leave some items behind for the next person or animal to discover I have over the years collected a few skulls to share with students, scouts and campers as part of a hands-on Wild About Wildlife program. Some have also been gifted and traded to me over the years including a cat, beaver and opossum skull. Some like the fox above were left behind by a trapper at the edge of a wildlife management area.

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 www.natureintoaction.com

Student Created Song Bird Ceramic Art

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I’m always looking at environmental education as action and not information so I like projects that are authentic, tangible and experiential. Of course, these projects also need to tie into the curriculum.

Project based learning helps students take ownership of their learning. In this case art is used to help connect the students with nature yet in a way that encourages interaction and learning. With the instruction of Ivan Bratko, students were asked to select local native bird species and create an anatomically correct model for display on a group art piece. They focused on zooming in on the details of the bird to make an accurate representation of physiological structure of the birds bodies.  In doing so, they recognized many unique adaptions of their chosen species. Bird feeders were setup near the classroom for living observation and field guides and birding resources were also made available for study.

At the completion of the project, students proudly celebrated the unveiling at the Essex County Environmental Center’s Earth Day Celebration with the congratulations of the Essex County Executive and certificates acknowledging their participation.

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 www.natureintoaction.com

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