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, which direction would the wind be 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 and or crayons.
- Dye Projects: Dyes of any type lend themselves to outdoor use. Consider the Jacquard Indigo Dye Kit, which includes a science correlation as the dye when mixed 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 but 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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For Nadine, art education has been her life’s work, including an Ohio teaching license, 5 years teaching elementary art, and 19 years in higher education (teacher prep). She has served Sax for 25 years as a Category Account Manager, Art Consultant, and Subject Matter Expert. In the latter capacity, Nadine has presented at various national, state, and local conferences.
After 24 years as a college admissions director, Mary crossed over to provide the materials for art education as a member of Sax, first as manager of Inside Sales, then as National Sales Manager. Mary has overseen a team of 15 art consultants. In 2000 Mary and her team created Sax Lesson Plan Book partnerships with prominent art supplies vendors. Meanwhile, she has refined her own artful style of presentation at various national, state and local conferences.