Today, I wanted to share with you some of my favorite nature art projects from my recent art camp, so that you can try them with your students too! These educational art projects will help students use art as a lens for learning about nature and science – all while trying new art mediums and creating beautiful masterpieces! I hope these nature art projects for kids bring joy to your classroom!
1. Nature’s color wheel
For this activity, students create their own color wheels – with a twist. Instead of drawing blotches of each color, have students draw things from nature that are each color of the rainbow. Start with a short brainstorming session as a class. Then, students draw their own color wheels with one thing from nature for each color.
This activity is also great for introducing the concept of biodiversity. The reason we have so many different colors of animals, plants, and flowers in nature is because we have many unique species! Teach students more about biodiversity and colors in nature with my Colors in Nature Activity Pack.
2. Trees with 1-point perspective
Ask students to sit in a circle around the base of a tall tree. Observe how the trunk appears narrower higher up. Then, show students how to use 1-point perspective to create the image of a tall tree or trees viewed from below.
As a bonus, teach your students about forest ecology and the symbiotic relationships of trees when you introduce this art project! It will add a another layer of depth to this project and you might even learn something new too! Find my lesson plans for forests and trees below:
3. Animals masks
Why mess with a classic? Students can draw and cut out masks of their favorite animals.
Start by drawing a line down the middle of the paper and discussing symmetry. Next, have students line up the center of the paper with their nose and mark where their eyes should go, with the help of a classmate or teacher. Then, students can draw the animal’s face around the eyes and color it in with their art supplies of choice.
If you prefer printable mask templates, check out the osprey and owl masks in my Birds of Prey Unit!
4. Phenology wheels
Phenology wheels help us observe and connect with nature throughout each month of the year. Use a printed phenology wheel template for students or use a compass/string and a ruler to draw a circle and divide it into 12 sections – one for each month. You can also use a light wash of watercolor to create stunning gradient backgrounds for your phenology wheels.
Ask students to think of things they’ve seen in nature during the current month. Consider plants, seasonal changes, types of animals, animal behaviors, weather, and more. Fill out the current month, then send students home with the phenology wheel so they can keep adding to it during the rest of the year!
5. Textures in nature
Practice drawing different textures using things from nature. Print out close-up images of bark, fur, scales, insect wings, shells, etc… or better yet, head out into nature and examine natural things up close (with the exception of wildlife, of course!).
Have students draw 4-6 different observed textures. Ask them to consider how their shading, linework, pressure, and color choices help to create the appearance of different textures.
6. Watercolors for open-minded creativity
This activity is a great way to practice letting go of rigid expectations for our art. This can be especially beneficial for anyone who tends to become frustrated when their drawings don’t turn out the way they intended.
First, have students use bright colors to create abstract watercolor blotches on a piece of paper. Once the paint dries, use black pen to turn the blotches into wildflowers, plants, or other images. This is a similar idea to cloud watching and finding images in the clouds. Encourage students to “find” images in the abstract blotches rather than trying to force the blotches to become a desired form. Students will use the pen to accentuate images found within the abstract painting.
Encourage students to apply this technique in their artwork in general – especially when working with mediums where we cannot easily erase or undo, such as carving, color pencil, and watercolors. Think about ways we can turn “mistakes” into part of the drawing, rather than starting over or giving up.
7. Resistance watercolors & mountain landscapes
It has been said that mountains are like the water towers of the world – they collect huge amounts of snow through the winter then fill our streams and rivers with snowmelt in the spring.
Reflect on mountains’ important role in the water cycle while painting mountains with watercolors – but with a twist! Use crayons first to make a part of the drawing – e.g., snowcapped peaks, the sun over the mountains, a river flowing down from the mountains, etc… Then, paint over the crayon with watercolor. The wax from the crayons repels the watercolors – creating a cool, mixed-media effect!
If you want to go the extra mile and learn all about the water cycle while completing this craft, try out my Water Cycle Unit:
8. Drawing spheres to make planets, moons, and suns
Space provided the building blocks for planet earth. Similarly, 3D shapes provide the building blocks for much more complex images in art! Learning to draw and shade simple 3D shapes can help us become better artists.
Teach students how to shade a circle to make it look like a 3D sphere. Then, use oil pastels to draw planets, moons, suns, or other space-objects on black paper!
9. Scratch art for nocturnal critters and nighttime
Teach students about nocturnal animals. Then draw your favorite nocturnal animals on scratch art boards. Owls, bats, raccoons, and moths are all great options.
Scratch art is the perfect medium for drawing nighttime scenes because you start with a dark canvas then scratch the black coating off with a stylus to reveal a lighter color beneath. Scratch art is also a great medium for underwater scenes, outer space, and geometric pattern work.
10. Picture charades
Picture charades is always hilarious, fast-paced fun. To set up, pick a theme then write words or common phrases related to that theme on little pieces of paper to put in a hat. For example, if the theme is “wildlife”, you could write down frog, butterfly, deer, snake, eagle, etc…
Then, divide the class into two groups. Each group sends one “illustrator” to the front of the room. The illustrators take one piece of paper from the hat and look at it together. When you say “go”, the two illustrators draw on the whiteboard while their teams guess. The illustrators should be silent and should not write any letters or words. The first team to correctly guess the word/phrase wins the round. Then, each team sends up a new illustrator. Repeat until everyone has taken a turn drawing, or for as long as desired.
Picture charades is a wonderful activity for taking a break in between more structured art projects. It provides a silly way to make art while moving around and having a laugh.
Picture Charade Ideas
Wildlife: frog, butterfly, deer, snake, eagle, robin, worm, rabbit, wolf, fish, bee, and skunk.
Forest: pine tree, pinecone, leaf, root, berries, vine, owl, fox, squirrel, bush, branch, and acorn.
Ocean: shell, seagull, wave, jellyfish, starfish, shark, seaweed, bubbles, beach, sand, dolphin, and sea turtle.
Pond: lily pad, algae, cattail, frog, tadpole, fish, dragonfly, duck, goose, water strider, turtle, and heron.
Explore curriculum from Wild Earth Lab:
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