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Art teachers were STEAM-ing before STEAM was cool!

Friday, October 24, 2014

Leaf Man Nature Collages

The beautiful fall colors are fading away up here in New Hampshire (since we've had days of rain and wind), but I wanted to share one of my favorite art projects to do with kids of all ages: "Leaf People (or Leaf Critters)" made with elements from a nature walk and inspired by Lois Ehlert's book, "Leaf Man."


My teacher followers might say, "YAWN. Seen it before." And you are right, but kiddos from Pre-K to 4th like doing this project and every time they do it, their pieces get more and more sophisticated. Also, their observations of the natural elements develop the older they get. What a great link to literature and science!

Here's the "Leaf Man"Book.
Another book by Ehlert that is also perfect
for this time of year is "Red Leaf, Yellow Leaf" as well...

My after-school kiddos were stuck inside due to rain, so I was responsible for gathering materials for this project. Ideally, I like to take students outside to gather/discuss leaves and seeds. Either way, it pays to have some teacher-supplied elements so that everyone isn't using the same shape leaf in their pieces. I collected about 15 different types of leaves, some twigs, acorns, and maple tree "helicopter" seeds, but I bet you could find even more than that given a little time. Collect the leaves right before you plan to use them since you want them to be pliable and not crispy.

Here's the abbreviated timeline for the project:

  1. Read the book "Leaf Man." How did the Illustrator, Ms. Ehlert, use natural materials such as leaves to make animals, insects, and people?
  2. Talk about background. Notice the backgrounds in the book--how are they made? Are they all the same?
  3. Show the students how to tear a piece of scrapbook paper in half in an interesting way. Now we have two pieces of paper. They can be layered this way (demonstrate) to create different types of backgrounds: a lake with mountains in the back, etc. Trade one of your pieces with someone in the classroom and practice making different backgrounds until you get one that you like.
  4. Glue down the background pieces onto a third piece of scrapbook paper using a glue stick.
  5. Create a leaf person, a leaf critter or both on your background. Don't glue the nature pieces down right away--try out different leaves and seeds. When you are happy, then glue it down using goopy glue (Elmer's glue). I had eyeball stickers on hand for them to add as well--the kids like that! But you could use googly eyes, draw the eyes using a Sharpie, or only use natural elements like Ehlert does.
  6. Let dry and enjoy!!
Here are some examples from class:








Did you know: The leaves used on the illustrations of "Leaf Man" were collected all over the U.S. by Ehlert and friends and color photocopied to retain their beautiful colors until she could create the illustrations for the book. What a great way to preserve the leaves--I wouldn't have thought of that!

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