On this page we will be using a simple rubric to assess the effectiveness of some of our learning activities.

Here is a copy of the rubric for your reference. We won't be assessing this material point by point, but rather using it as a guide to direct our thinking about these creative ways to get children absorbing some ecoliteracy....

Outdoor Art Activities

Natural Dyes

Try making some natural dyes using items from nature. Dyes can be made from berries, root vegetables, leaves and flowers, and more! Try collecting items from the world around you to create dyes, then use them to tie-dye a cotton bandana or use them to paint with. If you use dyes on fabric, you'll need to use a fixative to get the colours to stay if you choose to wash your creation. A great guide to colours you can get from nature can be found here:

This activity has a lot of potential for learning. With adult support and either a way to warm up some natural things on the stove, or even better, on a campfire, students between the ages of 7 and 11 would benefit greatly in this hands- on experiment.

Stuff they might learn or that might come up:
-People in "olden days" used everything around them to make colours
-These people probably made their own clothes - what did they make their clothes out of?
-Some dyes are appropriate for your skin (like "war paint") What cultures would have dyed their skin in olden days and what cultures dye their skin these days? If you've ever been to a muslim wedding.....wow! and of course we have tatooing which is very popular today ( not recommned to try by students!)
-What dye from plants or berries set naturally and what need a fixative

I like this activity for a lot of reasons. It has simple materials to gather - some white t shirts could be repurposed for this. It has a lot of potential to learn about local history, cultural practices, a little chemistry and performance could be integrated. The students could decorate themselves and their clothing and put on a play.

An art display could be mounted of the work the students put together, and the teacher could make sure someone is photographying or videoing any performances or works in progress. Students could take what they learn from this and go on the internet to find out a lot more about using dyes that are indigenous to their area, or around the world.

I definitely think this activity could leave students wanting to learn more - they may wish to plan another hike to gather more stuff to experiment with, and even go to a farmers market and experiment with local fruits and veg as well as wool from local sheep, etc.

The link is good, and this activity could be flushed out very nicely. I would give this idea a 3 out of 5

Citizen Science Activities

Another annual monitoring event is the Great Backyard Bird Count. “The Great Backyard Bird Count is an annual four-day event that engages bird watchers of all ages in counting birds to create a real-time snapshot of where the birds are across the continent”. http://www.birdsource.org/gbbc/

Whoever put this up didn't do us any favours by not directing us to their favourite part of the website. It's a huge amount of area to cover and the teacher generally wants to be able to grab a topic and run with it pretty quickly. Getting involved in a bird count, or turtle count or sand watch can be super exhilirating, because you can amalgamate your findings and compare to others around the world or in your own town...

I suggest students of this course find one citizen science project they like a lot and work it up into a little plan of some kind. that way it would be a great place to start for either a school teacher or an informal teacher such as a Brownie Guider or Environment Club leader.

Great idea, needs work - 2 out of 5

Making Musical Instruments - Tim McKillop
This lesson would begin with a study of local historical settlers. Students would be introduced to a number of instruments that were made in the local area. A few examples will be presented to allow the students to examine and play. Students would then be asked to guess the types of materials with which the instruments were made and where the material may have come from. This part of the lesson is important because it would help students focus on the connection between the local environment and the people who live there. The forest is not a stranger and we need it for our daily lives.

After the introduction we head right out into our natural world, beginning with some basic observations of our surroundings. Students may be guided in using each of the five senses to concentrate and set their minds to the things around them. After a couple of minutes students would be shown trees and shrubs that the local instruments came from. (If available a local musician would be invited to demonstrate the process of selecting the wood and creating the instrument.)

Before continuing on with the lesson, have the students share their thoughts and ideas to this point with the group.

Now we begin the process of creating our own instruments. For example; with younger children I would ask them to discuss what materials in our surroundings would be good to make noise inside a shaker type musical instrument. The students would gather these materials and place them inside a variety of containers depending on the size of their selected materials. They should be encouraged to experiment with sounds and combinations of materials to get the effect that they desire. Once they are complete they may be taken back to class with them. Depending on the age of the students involved the lesson can be adapted to include more complex instruments, such as, reed flutes.

When all of the students were happy with what they have created I would try to organize a small wood themed orchestra.

A useful link for making shakers can be found at:

Children have a natural affinity for nature. Lessons like this one can cover a wide range of subject matter in a very effective way as they are hands-on and highly engaging. The joy of creating something with their own hands from material they have collected themselves can be a transformative experience. These experiences will undoubtedly be shared with their friends and family. I remember a few years ago taking some grade 6s out to make Labrador Tea. For days after I received calls from parents reporting that they were amazed by what their children were doing, and were even making the tea for supper. Excellent stuff!

Tim did a nice job of walking us through how he would approach the introduction of naturally made instruments to different aged group children. There is tons of hands on learning here and this is something that could be worked on over a long period of time - a school term for instance - culminating in a concert at the end of the term, perhpas for parents. Much like the natural dyes and the clothing/products/face painting aquired from dyes, these instruments are like a window into an older, simpler time when people had more time and less "things" and therefore used their imaginations and the music within them to entertain themselves and others.

Great job and great activity - 4.5 out of 5