Bringing Nature into the Classroom

“But in the end, the best way to protect nature is to ensure that people experience it.” ~ Peter Wohllenben, The Secret Network of Nature


After two snow days and a late start Monday, we were thrilled to meet some of Rockland’s fifth graders!

Dear Families and Friends,

Although we live in one of the most naturally beautiful corners of the world, sometimes we don’t stop to notice what’s right in front of us. This morning Mrs. Grunewald’s kids in Rockland’s South School were intentional about connecting with nature.

First kids told us why they need to use their imaginations. They mentioned,“It gives you better creative ideas and helps you learn better!” “Your imagination keeps you up at night!” And “It’s a way to have fun.”

One of LEAPS’ treasures is a basket of tree bark, and our artists brought it in this morning to get kids minds in high gear.  Each child picked one piece out of the collection to examine.

We asked fifth graders to observe it, smell it, and feel it. We were amazed at what they noticed and how precisely they articulated the attributes of their bark chunk. Words they shared to describe their bark include smooth, thin and papery, rough, cracked, like a rock, like sandpaper, and pink!

That was just the beginning. To deepen their experience, we taught them to draw the specimen they’d chosen for its unique characteristics. In their journals they began the process. Starting at one point on the bark, kids followed along an edge with their eyes and their pencils.

“I never knew you could ‘eye’ it and draw it!” one girl commented at the end of our session.

Soon enough curves, indentures, and signs of texture appeared. Ultimately, through this experience, a personal work of art took form on the page. The quality of the fifth grade artwork was extraordinary.

When we gathered together at 11:15  students explained what they experienced while drawing bark, “I was surprised that you could make a really good drawing by just looking!”  “If you could think of something at the same time that it looked like  – like mine looked like a state, it was easier.”  “What helped me a lot is when I accidentally repeated a line I could just make another line from it.”  “It’s really hard to draw wood.”  “Mine was pretty difficult. I kept getting angry. But in the end I had a bunch of confidence in myself.”

Connecting with nature – even when we’re indoors, can make an impression. When we meet again at the end of the month fifth graders will take their observational drawings and incise elements from their bark images onto a piece of styrofoam for printing.

We look forward to the next phases of our project, which will focus on creating tree prints and getting to know a Maine bird. Stay tuned for our February 27 blog post.

Charmed by the children and impressed with their images,

Nancy Harris Frohlich, Susan Beebe, and Dee Peppe





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