Let’s take a walk outside and fill up our senses with a whole new space of learning. Let in the light, breathe the air, and energize our brains. There’s nothing like the outdoors to get all of our senses working, thinking, and creating. Think about how natural light, native materials, air, and wind can play a role in the art we create. You may be familiar with plein air painting, one of the most popular forms of creating art outdoors, but here are some other ideas for projects that you can take to the outdoors to get students thinking and working outside of the classroom walls.
- Craft Kits: Kits that are designed to be used or displayed outside can also be created outdoors. The Japanese Carp Wind Sock kit contains diffusion paper carp bodies, and you supply the string and materials to decorate the carp. While your students are creating, talk with them about the history and use of windsocks. Ask students to sense how soft or strongly their windsock would be blowing today, and which direction the wind is coming from. Speaking of wind, consider creating bird kites with the Roylco Bird Kite Kit, which contains all the base materials needed. Both projects can be enhanced with paint, markers, or crayons.
- Dye Projects: Dyes of any type lend themselves to outdoor use. Consider the Jacquard Indigo Dye Kit to include a science correlation. When mixed, the dye is green, but when the fabric used is exposed to oxygen, it becomes a rich deep blue-indigo color. And don’t forget classic tie dye kits, great for a school spirit project, or marbling kits, which are perfect for bookmaking and collage.
- Printmaking: Walk outside with stackable sorting trays and collect leaves and various grass specimens from nature and then bring out the Akua Pin Press to do some printmaking right on the spot! You can use natural materials for sun printing as well as using paper and fabric with cyanotype kits. While students are searching for and collecting materials, make them aware of the natural habitats around them and encourage outdoor exploration.
- Slime: What better place to combine a little art, science, and slime than the outdoors! From glitter slime to glow-in-the-dark slime, students will have an opportunity to get creative with this popular gooey activity.
- Sidewalk Chalk: Another great art material to be used outdoors is sidewalk chalk. It lends itself to all types of art and sometimes does not get the recognition it deserves. Have your students create a playground full of mandalas. Invite others to explore these art and math creations. Team up with the science teacher and create a life-size whale on the playground. You would be amazed at the reaction to this giant creation.
- Mural Painting: Mural painting doesn’t always need to be on a blank wall. Mural canvas is a great option, and it comes in black and white and pre-grommeted for ease of use. There are many different paint options available in liquid, spray, and markers, as well as UV varnish to seal and protect your murals. Consider a spirit project on school property or in your community.
Along with the ideas mentioned above, there are numerous other items that can help bring art to an outdoor learning environment. Think portability and ease of use when selecting products for outside. Plastic boxes, pouches, and tubs/totes make it easy to transport items to your outdoor classroom, and carts and wagons are great for large loads. Portable easels, fence easels, and rolls of canvas and paper make painting outside a breeze. There are no limits to art when enjoying an outdoor learning environment.
More Outdoor Learning Art Lesson Plans & Ideas
Want to try something else? Be sure to check out these other art lesson plans and view our Art Lesson Plan collection for even more.
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Nadine Dresbach received her Masters and Undergraduate Degrees in Art Education from Kent State University. She began her teaching career at Canton City Schools and Kent State University in Ohio. In 1995 she was hired by Sax Arts and Crafts as an Art Consultant and Category Sales Manager representing School Specialty at conferences and professional development sessions. Nadine also creates artwork and lesson plans for the company. Her other teaching experiences include instruction and Internship Supervisor for Winthrop University in Rock Hill South Carolina as well as work for the Rock Hill and Union County School Districts and St. Anne Catholic School.
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Mary Reilly received her BA with an emphasis in textile design from Mount Mary University in Wisconsin. She studied at the Wetterhoff Institute of Craft and Design in Hämeenlinna, Finland, as well as took numerous post-graduate courses in fine arts. Mary has over 15 years of experience with Sax Arts & Crafts, developing and shaping a national team of Art Consultants who have conducted art education and professional development workshops to elementary, middle, and high school art educators across the United States and Canada.
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