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Lesson Plans

Re: A&E.O: Teaching about the environment through art

[ Thread ][ Subject ][ Author ][ Date ]
Tue, 21 Oct 1997 15:25:23 -0700 (PDT)

I'm an art student at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. I have worked with a K-12 school teacher, Amy Zaruba, from my home town of Waterloo. The school children collaborated on an art project with me. Through it we drew attention to a wetland that will be mitigated (the upper 8 inches of soil and its contents transplanted-no trees will be transplanted). This wetland will have two overpasses built through it and the highways that surround it will be widened in the year 2001 or there abouts.
The project began with me showing slides of this wetland. It consists of many wildflowers and plants, some of which are rare. (It is used by the university as a classroom for the study of Flora and Fauna.) I also included a slide of what to look out for--poison ivy! And told the students "three leaves let it be!" I talked about the benefits of
wetlands, and gave a brief history of the area. I then
showed them a proposal drawing on how
we could create a project together. The idea was based on Christo's running fence, in California, only on a much
smaller scale. In this case, Protective Cattail Fence, ran for 130 feet rather than 24 and a 1/2 miles, and was only 4 feet high. Our small fence consisted of cattails, that had been mowed off, hung upside down from jute twine, that was
tied to stakes at certain intervals. This represented the
eco-system that was out of balance. The children helped to
tie bundles of cattails together that I had brought to the
school because of the site's situation in between highways.
The students after viewing the slides drew or painted pictures of their concept of nature and the wetlands. The fence was put up with the help of Amy Zaruba, my sculpture instructor, David Helm and a fellow classmate, Kerryshane Clark and my husband, Bill. The students art then was hung from the twine and cattails. And like one of Christo's projects in Colorado, the wind became a problem for the drawings on paper and we documented the project with photography, and took the children's drawings down, so that they could be used in an art exhibit at the school. Mrs. Zaruba and I had been in a Women's Issues in art class at the University in which we were taught bookmaking. We took what we learned and worked with the students to make small books. I brought some natural materials from the wetlands, which were incorporated into the books. Amy provided magazines for collages, some books were painted, some had poems written by the students, and others contained poetry selections found by the students. Mrs. Zaruba, knew which groups of children, would be best suited to work on each project. She worked with other teachers to make this an interdisciplinary project. I will let her tell fill in the gaps later, if people are interested in this project. This project was one of my independent study classes in sculpture, which is required for my bachelor of Fine Art degree. Amy later had me come back and show the children pictures in an album of the project, and also slides of the work as this environmental art work has returned to the earth. Amy had me give a slide show on environmental artists. As a non-traditional student at the university, this project has been a great learning experince for me. I wrote a proposal and received my first grant for this project. I have learned about working with children in a classroom from observing Amy. I have had the joy of working with the students and their teacher. I think we have a community of environmentally aware students learning through art. One little girl who wen
t walking in the wetland, with her parents, learned what "three leaves let it be" meant, she didn't seem to mind the case of poison ivy, she liked the wetlands!
Hope this will help you or others out. I know Amy plans on contributing to this discussion. I'd like to hear what others have been doing! Sincerely, Sharon