Lauret Savoy
Department of Geography and Geology
Mount Holyoke College
South Hadley, MA 01075

Level: Upper elementary


Anticipated Learning Outcomes


Art is a fun way to encourage children to see the world around them and increase their visual awareness. Natural objects like shells, rocks, minerals, and plants have subtle and striking detail, regularity of pattern, texture, and shape. By exploring natural design, students will be encouraged to observe the natural world more closely.



  1. Pair children or allow them to select partners.
  2. One student chooses a natural object and describes its features, without naming it, to the other student who is facing the other way and cannot see the object.
  3. The one who is describing the object must examine it closely (with and without a magnifying glass) and note the intricate detail of shape, texture, and color.
  4. The other student must listen to this information and draw the object being described.
  5. When finished, students compare the drawing with the object.
  6. Students switch places and select another subject.


Once the students have examined a range of subjects, begin discussing some of the controls on form. For example, shell growth can be considered to be controlled by both inherited and environmental factors. The growth and shape of crystals are determined by their internal chemical composition and molecular structure. In addition, the processes of weathering and erosion break down and wear away rocks and landscapes, and often produce beautiful patterns.


Criswell, Susie Gwen, 1986, Nature with Art: Classroom and Outdoor Art Activities with Natural History: New York, Prentice Hall Press, 146 p. [Criswell's book describes a number of art activities that can be adapted for earth science classes.]

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