Today we had the pleasure of sharing our home and yard with 5 families – not bad for the first class of the schoolyear! We started each class inside (tough to do on this beautiful sunny afternoon) with an introduction to drawing.
There are so many ways to learn and practice drawing but we primarily focused on two: timed blind contour (with variations) and energy drawing. I like to throw in the element of time when teaching nature drawing. If you’re drawing a landscape or flower then you often have a long amount of time in which to capture the essence of the image, its defining characteristics and beauty. At other times, a mystery bird may suddenly swoop down in front of you and alight on a branch for a few moments before taking flight again. You only have a minimal amount of time to memorize its shape, feather patterns, colors and posture and then you must translate those things into a sketch that represents what you’ve just seen. Not an easy task under the best of circumstances.
So we ran the kids through several timed drawings. The first, and my favorite, begins with having each person look at the person across the table from them. They are then given 30 seconds to draw the other’s face without looking down at their paper and ideally without lifting their pencil. I think this is everyone’s favorite because the drawings are so funny! Then they get to do it again (while able to look down) for 60 seconds. Then, depending on the class we draw a variety of objects (some that they see for a few seconds then have to draw from memory and others that remain in front of them while they draw). Today our objects consisted of each other, a bird, a bumblebee, feathers, some trees and even a Frost survival knife. We talked about key characteristics to notice when trying to identify a bird such as eye stripes and wing bars and the identifying characteristics of some of the species in the pine order such as the sharp needles of spruces and the pointy red buds of Douglas fir trees.
Then we headed outside to teach some awareness skills. The kids were introduced to the fox walk, owl eyes and deer ears and we all practiced doing them around the yard. We saw many birds flying around in the bushes near the house and even heard several of them singing in the trees. We tried to hear as much as possible in a single direction by cupping our ears and listening one way then turning the opposite way to compare and contrast. We handed out compasses and taught the groups how to find north (magnetic and true) and how to orient based on that information. Then everyone heading out on a navigation challenge to recover the rest of Skye’s missing toys!
Chris set up an observational challenge in the front yard. Several of Skye’s squeeky toys were hidden and the challenge was to see how many items we could find in the yard that weren’t supposed to be there naturally. All of this was done while fox walking and using our owl eyes. We found a stuffed carrot, frog, beaver, wolf, skunk, dinosaur, kitty, and more. Skye cheated by pulling out the penguin to play with before we got to it!
We took the group out to see our study sites and I got to show off the “hornet willow” and ant/aphid farm along with several other trees and plants (including rose hips that we’ll be harvesting after the first frost). We also talked a little bit about the edible and medicinal uses of some of the plants in the yard. And we checked out the sand we placed on a few game trails to see if we could find some animal tracks.
All in all it was a great day to learn and grow together. Hope to see everyone again next month!