Almost every summer there are reports about how important it is to get kids outside for a healthy life. http://www.bostonglobe.com/lifestyle/health-wellness/2014/07/06/doctors-ordering-kids-get-outside/fzY3ieaysvNCC9JI7TW9aP/story.html
Unstructured free play time is essential, but a summer walk can turn into an artful experience. We normally ZOOM through our daily life, but taking a little time to notice small details can enhance our awareness of the beauty around us. Have you ever noticed the pattern of cracks in the sidewalk make? Stripes in the road? Have you noticed how many different colors of green there are in the lawn? We often identify trees by their shape; how would you describe the shape of a weeping willow, a palm tree, an oak? What shapes do shadows on buildings make? Think of all the ways you can use your body to become these shapes.
Georgia O’Keeffe’s goal in her flower paintings was to make them so large that even busy New Yorkers would stop and look at them. That meant she really had to notice details like the shape of the petals. How many petals were there? Were there any contrasting colors? She had to notice all these things before she painted. Chances are your digital phone has a camera in it and that your child knows how to use it. Susan walked around the neighborhood and took close up photographs of flowers. Even the drops of water were visible in the photograph, and she had not noticed those when she was “just looking.”
Grandparents would love to receive the kind of thank-you card that Julie Blackwell makes. She takes close-up shots of flowers and other interesting things she finds on her walks and then turns them into note cards. The contrast of the strong vertical line of the railing and the horizontal lines of the steps really grab you. What shapes will you find that captivate you?
Look at trees from a new perspective. We usually see them straight on as we drive by. Think about looking from a bird’s eye or worm’s eye view. Georgia O’Keeffe painted The Lawrence Tree as if she were lying underneath a starry sky looking up at it. http://smarthistory.khanacademy.org/okeeffes-the-lawrence-tree.html Robert Berlind paints the crooks of trees and maybe only a few branches. http://robertberlind.net/recentwork.html His point of view is more like what a bird sitting on a branch would see.
Many adults have done bark and leaf rubbings or pressed flowers between waxed paper, but have your children? You can make cool bookmarks by putting pressed flowers or drawings between two sheets of laminating paper. Collect a few things from the yard and make a nature collage.
Take a collecting basket with you and toss in things like rocks, shells, or even simple sticks. (These were courtesy of an active squirrel that was fun to watch).
Jasper Johns explored ideas of mirroring in Corpse and Mirror, 1976 (Museum of Modern Art, New York) and the sticks seemed to be begging to be used in a similar way. A little thinking is involved here!(http://www.moma.org/collection/object.php?object_id=70717)
Pause on your nature walk and be super sensitive to your senses. For one minute focus on all the sounds you hear and then write them down. For another minute, become aware of texture, then colors, etc. You’ll be amazed at how powers of observation sharpen awhile you help to make sure that summer days don’t turn into a bored summer daze.
Mary and Susan
P.S. You might want to have your camera handy. Photos of what you see on your walk are a great reminder of the whole experience. Gather your photos in a journal to help your child remember and talk about what you have experienced.