In the spring, the ground below our feet undergoes remarkable changes. Some days we look down and see puddles caused by April showers, other days we slog through mud, and on sunny days we can shuffle our feet on dry soil. While many see soil as just plain “dirt”, it is important to remember that soil is one of our most valuable resources. Soil colors our world. Travel to different parts of the country and you’ll be astounded by the different soil colors you can see in the landscapes around you. And soil supports the growth of the living things that are bursting into bloom all around us at this time of year.
Students at all levels engage in the study of some soil-related study in science (plants, natural resources, pollution, geology, etc.). Linking art activities to classroom studies can help students learn through a variety of modalities and can promote interest in further learning. Inviting students to look at the colors of soil can help them refine their observation skills. Creating art from actual mud puddles is not only fun, it also offers a whole new mode of self-expression. And using art to share information about what lives in the soil and the effects of soil pollution may be a better fit than written or oral reports for many students. You can help your students take an artful look at soil with the soil-focused art lessons below:
Soil and Art Lesson Plans:
Students in third through twelfth grades gain a deeper appreciation of soil as they investigate the color and texture of one of our most important natural resources. This lesson includes diagrams to illustrate several steps in the procedure for creating this type of artwork. To get an even wider range of soil colors, ask parents to call on friends and relatives in different parts of the country to send soil samples several weeks ahead of time.
You can connect classroom studies of soil and plants with this messy, but fun, set of lessons for all elementary grades. I recently did several of these creative soil activities with the kindergarten classes at my school. The one that resulted in the most stunning artwork was drawing pictures with glue and then sprinkling soil over glue lines. We created this artwork on scrap mat board donated by a local framing shop. Children were encouraged to create plants to fit the odd sizes of the mat board – some were very long and narrow, others square. One class also added dried split peas to their artwork. (We needed to be green on St. Patrick’s Day!)
Students become advocates of soil health while using their creativity. This lesson for grades kindergarten through twelfth would work best following an investigation of pesticides and pollutants so children have this background knowledge. Work with the classroom teacher to invite a professional gardener or other soil testing agency to visit your school to share information about local soil health. Provide books, magazine articles, and direction to age-appropriate websites for children to research this topic on their own prior to this art activity.
This lesson for kindergarten through sixth grades invites students to take their imaginations underground. The most valuable part of this lesson is the discussion prompt to get kids’ thinking started. I’d also demonstrate (particularly for younger artists) how to divide the painting surface into areas: underground, sky, and the space between -- where we live and play, where things grow, etc . . . Older students might even be introduced to blocking-in, loosely painting areas of color above and below ground, then adding more details to refine shapes and adjust tones.
Just the name of this lesson alone screams “Spring Fun!” What I like about this lesson for the primary art classroom is its emphasis on process not product. This lesson also provides a tip for hardening play dough without cracks