Sawing, drilling wholes, collecting, threading, being creative, sharing resources and above all working together to create these wonderful woodland characters.
Fairly large pieces of clay for each child (needs to be fairly easy to knead and mould – play dough or bread dough might be easier for younger children). Bag for each child to collect natural materials. Hand washing facilities!
1 hour (depending on length of walk) including gathering materials, making model and looking at the finished creatures. Extension activities like Story telling could make this longer.
Introduce the activity by talking about and searching for the variety of minibeasts found in the woods. It could be linked to teaching about habitats.
Explain that they are going to make models of giant minbeasts. They can choose to make minibeasts like those they have just found – or perhaps to imagining an extinct giant minibeast that might have lived in the woods along time ago. Imagine a minibeast Jurassic Park!
If the children are familiar with their site let them explore it, and gather natural materials that could be used with the clay to make their creature. Give them some examples of the sort of materials that could be useful such as nuts for eyes, moss for hair and encourage them to dig in the leaf litter to find suitable materials.
Encourage them to find a suitable location where they can settle their model as it is made – on a tree branch, in a hollow, on a stone so that the others can find them. Each child can make their own model or they may prefer to work in small groups. They could make different stages in the life cycle of one creature or a whole family of them.
Then walk through the woods together spotting all the strange creatures. Are they camouflaged? Encourage each child to tell something of their creature’s story – its name, where it comes from etc.
They may enjoy making ‘mini-shelters’ for their minibeasts using natural materials found close by. Discuss what minibeasts might need to survive in the woodland, by day and night.
An alternative to making the giant minibeasts is to make goblins using a stick for the body and making the head from clay or dough which is then decorated with natural materials to make features, hair etc. They look very effective hung in the trees.
Simple but striking ‘Tree spirits’ can be made from clay. Mould the clay into a flat face shape in the palm of the hand and gouge out the features with twigs or fingers to make simple faces that can be stuck onto the trees.
Natural materials don’t inhibit those children who would otherwise protest ‘but I can’t draw!’
- Gather the group together. Discuss what portraits are, and then say that they are going to make self portraits – but the only problem is – you have forgotten pens, paper and paintbrushes. What can you do? The children will probably leap to suggest they can use the natural materials around them!
- Let the children decide if they want to design individually or in twos or small groups. This will vary with age and confidence.
- Talk about the features of a face they may need to include – ears, eyes, nose, hair etc and encourage or suggest some useful materials like fluffy seeds for eyebrows for example.
- Set some environmentally aware ground rules in terms of parts of plants to collect/ leave alone. Otherwise agree only to collect plentiful loose materials such as fallen leaves/grasses.
- Talk about framing their portraits – what could they use? Sticks or twigs for example, of equal lengths.
- Discuss contrasting backgrounds – so the image is clear rather than blending in with the background – and how they may chose the backdrop to display the image.
- Let them spend time gathering materials and making self portraits. Are the faces happy or sad?
- Alternatively, they could design portraits of other beings – monsters/ wood spirits – let them decide the theme.
Take your class or a small group on a walk in the playground or in a nature area. Ask them to feel and touch things around them.
How many textures can you touch?
- Soggy decomposing leaves
- Lacy skeleton leaves
- Silky flower petals
- Tickly lichen
- Flexible grasses
- Rough tree roots
- Furry moss
- Rigid bark
- Brittle twigs
- Prickly pine needles
- Smooth flower buds
- Crumbly rotten wood
- Waxy evergreen leaves
- Gritty soil from a mole hill
- Sticky horse chestnut buds