In this lesson, students use a combination of found and created materials to recreate an environment in nature. Children begin by watching the video excerpt Art Adventure | PINKALICIOUS & PETERRIFIC™. They talk about what happens in the video and discuss the ways in which Pinkalicious, Peter, and their parents help to make the living room into an “outside” environment. Students brainstorm different outside environments they might want to replicate. After choosing one, they plan what arts and crafts supplies they will need, as well as the methods they will use, such as drawing, painting, collages, and “sculptures” out of clay, paper, or wood. Working in teams and using collaborative conversations and sketches, students create a new environment. Afterwards, they can give tours of their space to family members and school personnel.
See Get Smart with the Arts! for more information about how the arts can enhance children’s cognitive, physical, social, emotional, and academic skills.
Two or more class periods
- Students will use their imagination and creativity to produce art that represents the natural world.
- Students will experiment with creating, using a variety of tools and materials.
- Students will work collaboratively to create art.
Prep for Teachers
This lesson combines both visual arts skills and imaginary play. It also helps children increase their environmental awareness and vocabulary by talking about and naming the elements of a natural setting, such as a forest, beach, city park, or desert. As students plan their new space together, they gain experience in listening to others and working collaboratively. Using various arts and crafts materials, they make items to create a new setting, in two-dimensional and three-dimensional art forms. Once the setting has been established, students can then pretend play activities that they might do in that setting.
You may want to extend this lesson throughout the week. You may also want to give them time to develop stories or characters that align with their new environment.
The number and variety of arts and crafts supplies will depend on which setting children choose. In order to have the right materials on hand, you will want to either direct children’s choices to one or two settings or schedule enough time between the discussion and the creation of the space so you can gather the materials. If you don’t have easy access to materials, use what’s available and improvise!
- Find books and pictures about nature and natural environments, as well as books that show artists’ renderings of the outdoors, including paintings, drawings, or collages (See Picture Book Biographies of Visual Artists.) You may also want to ask your school or public librarian to recommend books on landscapes, animals, and so on.
- Gather a variety of arts and crafts supplies, such as the following:
- Paints (acrylic, if possible)
- Brushes of different sizes
- Paint palettes (such as white paper plates)
- Small cups for water
- Paper (construction, colored, butcher, patterned, etc.)
- Markers, crayons, pencils, pens
- Items from nature, as needed (e.g., leaves, branches, plants)
- Materials for collages or sculptures (e.g., wood pieces, glue, feathers, buttons, cotton balls, wooden craft sticks, fabric scraps, cardboard, boxes)
- Glue sticks, liquid glue, hot glue gun (optional, for teachers only)
- String, ribbons, tape, and other items for hanging decorations
- Student scissors, edging scissors (optional), paper punchers (optional)
- Lead a general discussion about nature and natural settings. Ask students to share with the class the experiences they have had in the natural world outside. Ask a range of questions, adapting them as needed for your area:
- Have you ever played in a park? What did it look like? What colors did you see around you?
- Have you been to the beach or a lake? What was the weather? What did you do there?
- Have you ever hiked through a forest or along a stream? What did you notice around you?
- Have you ever been camping or slept outside? What did you like about the experience?
- Guide children further with questions such as:
- What did you discover on the ground? In the air?
- Were there any animals there? What were they?
- Can you imagine being there at night?
- Jot children’s ideas down on the board. You’ll return to the list later.
1. Before watching the video excerpt
- Tell children that they are going to watch a video from a PINKALICIOUS & PETERRIFIC™ episode called Indoor Camp-In.
- Explain that Pinkalicious is a girl who loves to use her imagination to do all kinds of art activities. Her brother, Peter, often adds his own ideas and joins in the fun. In this excerpt, Pinkalicious and Peter have been planning a campout overnight in their backyard. They especially want to watch the stars overhead, hear night sounds (crickets chirping, wind rustling), and so on. When a rainstorm interrupts their campout, they decide to make a “camp-in” by recreating the outside in their living room.
2. While watching the video excerpt
- Ask students to pay particular attention to what materials Pinkalicious, Peter, and their parents use to make the indoors feel like the outdoors, such as a green blanket for grass, a pail for a pond, star shapes with glow-in-the-dark paint, and a paper tree with leaves.
3. After watching the video excerpt
- Talk about the video excerpt. Check for understanding by asking students to describe what happened. Correct any misunderstandings.
- Talk about what children noticed in the excerpt. What do they recall about the materials that the Pinkerton family used to recreate the outdoors? You may want to play the video again, pausing to point out the different items they included and the way they made them with art supplies.
- If you want, sing a rousing round of “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” as a song Pinkalicious and Peter might have sung while they gazed at the stars above—real or homemade.
4. Activity: Art Adventure
- Gather the class together to review the ideas they had earlier about natural, outdoor spaces. Which one would they like to create in their classroom? To encourage new ideas, you might need to rule out the one used in the video. (However, if the class is really enthusiastic about it, you can decide to replicate the one in the video.) You may want to take a class vote or a poll to pick a favorite or you may need to direct children’s choices due to the art supplies that are available.
- Once the choice has been made, ask students to close their eyes and imagine the environment they will create. Lead the visualization by asking them to think about what the landscape looks like:
- What’s on the ground—rocks, sand, grass, water, dirt?
- Are there flowers, trees, or bushes? What kind are they?
- Are there bugs, birds, or other animals? What sound do they make, if any?
- What season is it?
- What colors can they see? Is the water blue or green? Is the sand tan, white, or pink? Are the trees green or multicolored?
- After students have contributed their ideas, talk about the different ways to make things that will represent nature. You may want to show pictures of paintings, drawings, and other visual media in which artists have represented the natural world.
- Together, make a plan to create the space. You can use a large piece of paper or whiteboard to sketch out or list what will in it and how it will look.
- If applicable, take the class on a nature walk to gather materials such as pine cones, leaves, shells, rocks and pebbles, branches, and so on. If going outside isn’t feasible, create a list of items the team can create.
- Arrange the class into small groups to make different aspects of the space. Set up stations for each group to work on their part of the new space. For instance, one group can use butcher paper to paint a background of the Sun and sky, the trees in a forest, or cacti in the desert. Another group can use clay to make insects; assemble birds out of paper, tape, cardboard, and paint; or draw pictures of creatures with crayons on paper. A group might be able to “build” a tree made of paper or of real leaves and branches pasted on paper. One group can build a small bird’s nest out of items such as twigs, feathers, cotton balls, paper strips, and string.
- Once children have finished their creations, work together to put the items in place. Then give students time to play! They can pretend to jump in the waves at the beach, have a picnic in the park, imitate the sounds of the birds and insects around them, and so on.
Invite the school principal and/or families for a tour of the new environment. Ask children to explain how they came up with their ideas and then how each group contributed their part in the process. Congratulate students on their artistic talents!
- Using the Internet on a class computer or your smartphone, find an app or site that plays nature sounds. Add them to the scene.
- Take photographs of children playing in the space and post them on the class bulletin board or door. Caption them with children’s comments about the space.
- Using 5 x7 cards, paste photographs of the space on one side, and have children write or dictate a postcard to send home. Ask them to describe the space or what they do in it.
- Take a field trip to a local art museum and look at paintings of outdoor spaces. Ask a museum guide or docent to tell you more about the paintings or the artist.
- Get outside! If possible, spend some time in a natural setting that is similar to the one that children created. Note any additions or improvements that the class can make to their space when they return to the classroom.
- Send home the essay Get Smart with the Arts! and the booklist Picture Book Biographies of Visual Artists so that families can support what children are learning. If you have a class website or newsletter, you may want to share with families what you’ve been doing and talking about in class. Encourage them to continue the conversation at home.
- You may want to send home information about local art, craft, or nature museums. If possible, provide the location, website, and hours. Many art institutions have free admission at special times and events for families.