Many of your students may have seen gourds at "work": as autumn porch and table decorations, as bath sponges, or as birdhouses. But are they aware that people have used gourds for millennia, and for lots of different purposes? Explore history, social studies, botany, and art in the school garden with these versatile vines. But be careful -- growing and crafting with gourds can be habit-forming!
I approached the principal of Sprague Elementary School (K-2) in Lincolnshire, IL with an idea for growing gourds with the students and using them to create Native American rattles. The second grade classrooms at Sprague participate in an extensive Native American Study Unit and I felt that gourd rattles were an effective hands-on way to teach students about the beliefs and culture of Native Americans. After receiving approval I began a two-year artist-in-residence program.
Students will: - Study the characteristics of a plant to come up with ideas about how it was used historically or is now used. - Discover that plants play an important role in history. - Learn about less obvious but important contributions plants make to their lives.
- Plants are a part of our daily lives. - Plants provide important economic products other than food and landscaping.
Appreciating and Taking Inspiration from Nature's Beauty
Creating Butterlies in the GardenIt's natural for a youth garden to be the muse, art supply storehouse, gallery, and studio for students -- after all, natural products were the very first art media humans ever used! And the first inspiration, as well.
Once your students have practiced the basics of turning trash into artistic treasures, have them share questions they have about the process and ideas they'd like to test out. To prompt their thinking, throw out question stems such as: What if . . .? or How can we. . .? Next, have them discuss or write down how they could test their questions. If the ideas are feasible, let the inquiries begin.
A few petals, seeds or leaves can make homemade paper look like a work of art.Paper is easy to take for granted. After all, our lives are permeated by a plethora of paper. But imagine the challenges early humans faced when they wanted to communicate in writing beyond the cave walls. The heavy clay tablets the Sumerians scratched their thoughts on 6,000 years ago, were, no doubt, cumbersome! Over the centuries, people tried all kinds of portable writing surfaces ranging from wood to cloth.
Field guides are publications designed to help people identify living things outdoors. Plant field guides are typically arranged according to physical characteristics, such as flower type, size, and color; leaf arrangement; and plant height. (The nature and arrangement of flower parts are key factors in determining plant families.)
When European explorers struck out in the 16th century to discover parts unknown, they often returned with samples of plants they'd met along the way. As this collection of treasures soon exploded, botanic gardens were hard pressed to keep living samples of the whole lot. So botanists devised a solution: create a collection of pressed plants.