This is our log book of concrete arts-based
environmental education practices.
For information, inspiration and reflection.
We invite you to send us descriptions
of the exercises or tasks that you
want to share.
DISAPPEARING BEES PROJECT
Colony Creation Art Project
Log entry by Judith Robertson
16 April, 2011, British Columbia, Canada
In the last 4 years there has been tremendous decline in bee
populations. With this as motivation, Judith Robertson, a local art
therapist, educator, and biologist, had 400 kids in the Nelson area to
contribute to an art project about disappearing bees.
With a Columbia Basin Environmental Education Network grant, children,
Kindergarten to Grades 6, were introduced to the critical role that
bees play in an ecosystem, and the environmental issue at hand.
Raising awareness, and as a response to what scientists are calling
“Colony Collapse Disorder”, students then each shared what they will
do to help save the bees, one person, or one “cell” at a time, to form
the “honeycomb” or “colony”.
This colony is now on display at the Kootenay Co-op, an organic food
store in Nelson. Like the hard working honeybees, creating this
project has been a wonderful community effort, thanks to all who bee-
lieve in small acts making a difference!
P.O. Box 1749
Leadville Colorado, 80461
IN THE RIVER STREAM
Log entry by Jan
26 September 2010, Totnes, United Kingdom
activity was done at Schumacher College, in the United Kingdom, as
part of the course Native Wisdom in March 2007. I took the
participants to the age-old bridge across the river Dart, close to the
College. All were asked to put a big piece of paper (50x70 cm) on a
hardboard surface, and to take along a pencil and a big marker.
participants were suggested to gather in groups of two or three in the
protrusive spaces along the top of the bridge. I asked them to have
the pencil in the hand that they ordinarily would not use for writing
or drawing, and have the big marker in their other hand. Then they
were asked to face the river that was streaming below them, and to
watch the movements of the currents and whirlpools.
They were invited to use their pencil to relate on their paper to this
delicate circular movement. From time to time, however, a car would
pass behind their backs, crossing the river. Whenever this happened, I
asked them to include the sensation of the intruding roaring car in
their drawing as well, using the marker with their ther hand.
The idea with this exercise was to allow for and include the sensory experience
of the "artificial" engine sounds, while at the same time being in a state of mindful
receptivity and attentiveness to the river's subtle movements taking
The impact is on various levels: one tunes in to the water spirals
while simultaneously - in the back of the mind - being also in anticipation of the possibility of a car coming by
at any moment. When the car passes, how does that new "stimulus" change the
other sensation? Is it an intrusion? When reflecting back on the
experience, did we hear the sound of the car louder or in a different
way? And once the car had passed, how difficult was it to re-enter in
the mindful engaging with the natural movement of the river? How do
the auditory and the visual sensory experiences and the objects of our
focus relate to each other and impact one another?
Finally, the question came up, that often in a process of making art
in a natural environment, we erase or shift away from "artificial,"
"unnatural" elements, like electricity poles, or condense trails of
airplanes. What happens if we take those elements mindfully in, while
being attentive to natural processes, rather than ignoring or
11. TOUCH OF
Log entry by Jan
3 April 2010, Warshaw, Poland
The following text comes from the transnational project
Animus, which was promoted by the Institute of Polish Culture
in Warshaw. Animus is an International Network for Training in Culture
Animation. The general goal of the project is to establish
sustainable and spreading network of training institutions in culture
"Surrounded by nature, we have all more than once reflected on that
old tree which holds memories of so many things, or on the meadow
flower, wilting before our very eyes. Vanishing and everlasting – two
important descriptive categories, but also the source of artistic
inspiration. The young people were to find material and venues for two
symmetric forms. One was to hold back time, to put up resistance to
change. The second, the ‘sister work’, would allow us to observe those
selfsame changes - those changes taking place between the birth of
form in the few days spent in Ristiina and the subsequent
disappearance or dispersal of that same form."
Touch of Memories project publication can be
Log entry by Eva Bakkeslett
18 September 2009, Engeløya, Norway
I sometimes do a
walk with my students in the woods, bare-feet. It really helps them to
reconnect and sense the landscape as they walk, silently, being aware
and mindful of the landscape and the million inhabitants below and
A friend of mine does "reconnection walks" with adults. At a certain
point on her walk she gets them digging a whole a foot deep where they
bury their feet and stand for a while - like a tree. Another
thing my students of all ages enjoy is to find a special place in the
woods that they connect with and explore it with different senses.
Sniff the ground, lie down and look up, listen and jot down the
different sounds like music and I give them a portable 10x
magnifier-loupe so they can explore the micro-worlds emerging in their
younger kids I would also get them to create a small "dwelling"
inspired by animal architecture. Local materials, consideration for
positioning with wind, shelter and view in mind. I have not tried this
with older students but think it would work, get them to rediscover
the joy of playing and got the potential of total absorption. I have a
few great books on animal architecture to get them going and we also
discover nests and dwellings as we walk. It becomes a practical
mediative exercise that also engages them physically. If you have big
autumn leafs you could ask them to pick one up and use it as a map -
leaf-navigation - a game I invented whilst walking in the woods one
autumn with my then 9 year old daughter. It is great since you don't
know where you'll end up. At the end of the map you pick another leaf
and carry on walking. It gets you off the paths and connects patterns.
Then you'll get them looking at Google Earth to see the aerial
patterns of your particular area.
See more photos
Link to Eva's
ADJUSTED TO NATURE
Log entry by Jan-Erik
2009, Grimstad, Norway
The Christian Intercultural Association (in Norwegian: KIA) is an
organization that works for multi-cultural fellowship and for
equality, mutual caring and friendship irrespective of language,
cultural or religious boundaries. Seventeen participants mainly from
African countries joined the land art course, called KIA-land art at
Dømmesmoen in Grimstad. The course lasted for three days in August
2009, and started with the viewing of the film "The Painted People in
Ethiopia," about the body art of the Omo people.
the film on YouTube
The participants were supposed to use a simple craft tradition from
cultural background with Norwegian materials - on their own, or on
their group members' bodies. Then they situated themselves in a
Norwegian natural site.
The result was photographed for an exhibition.
In this way the participant transformed elements from his or her own culture into
Norwegian nature. Conversely, the participants could affect Norwegian ways of thinking
about art and cultures.
The participants adjusted themselves visually to an apple tree, an
willow, an elm, or rowanberry tree. It could also be a flower meadow, to the earth and
soil of Dømmesmoen site, or to the 'rolling stones' at a forest moraine
site. It was also possible for them to choose a site and materials
themselves, after they had presented their idea to
their art professor.
Human bodies, a natural site, flowers, berries, fruits, branches,
sticks, willow, reed, seaweed, ferns, clay (for body painting), sand,
stones, wire, thread, or whatever one chose.
Garden scissors, needles, hands or whatever one needed.
On the day when the aesthetic part of the course wasd performed, it was raining
heavily. That is why most of this kind of work was made as indoor
activities. When the groups had finished transforming their
participants, they went out to be photographed in their chosen
If it was the pictures from the Omo people, or the knowledge that they
were working at a university site that made some of them skeptical and
even frightened in the beginning, is difficult to say. But when I
emphasized their own cultural memories and the playfulness in the
didactic way of working, they really started to cooperate and develop
ideas. And for some hours the workshop was a boiling pot of laughter,
creativity and aesthetics.
On the following evening we made aesthetic documentation with
paper-prints of photos from the land art exercise, glued to cartoons,
like posters, and mounted on the walls in the church basement.
The participants were told that the pictures might be used in various
presentations of body-land art, without using the names or origins of
8. ART-BASED ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATION IN
Log entry by Sarah
Alden, Wai-Yi Lai
2009, Helsinki, Finland
In July 2009, Sarah Alden (Canada) and Wai-Yi Lai (Hong Kong), both
Master students in Environmental Art at the University of Art and
Design Helsinki, plan to do an art education project in Hong Kong. The
project is aimed to contribute to the field of Arts-Based
Environmental Education through producing a document outlining the
actual event and process. The outcomes, translated from English into
Finnish and Chinese, will be made available online.
Here follow some
examples of the planned activities with the participants:
Action 1: Who can draw? Not only human hands can draw, so can the natural force – let wind be
the paint; twigs be the brush.
Action 2: Hidden colours. Paint with the natural paint. Leaves might not be green, rocks are no
longer grey. Open your senses for the wildest colours.
alertness and the senses to nature
- Concentrate on the natural surroundings with a calm mind
Action 1: Sound of silence. Listen to a tree's whisper
of our own deep experience
Shall we talk?
Action 1: I’m a tree. Everyone has seen a tree before, but hasn’t tried to BE a tree yet
Action 2: Who's talking. When we are silent, THEY start to talk.
Action 3: Let's join them. Music from our body
Action 4: Let's join them. Developing songs out of natural materials.
Action 5: The Big Band. Experimental natural concert
- Make a symbolic contract with all participants
- Detachment from the modern / electronic world and entrance into the
- Use movement and sound to connect with surroundings
- Share discoveries with each other
Sarah Alden with
soundscape of bird sounds in early spring.
to blog of Wai-Yi Lai
7. ART IN
Log entry by Jan
8 March 2009,
Between February and
May 2009 a course is running at the University of Art and Design in
Helsinki, with the title "Art in Environmental Education." At one of
the recent sessions, the participants went out in the snow-covered vegetable
gardens near the university, to look for signs of spring coming and to
express this in an artwork. This took some effort of perception and
imagination as the spring still seems to hide herself well.
The water drips in the guise of spring
getting away from solitude of the darkness,
and imprisonment of the unforgiving cold
It is finally spring,
so the birds can sing songs of praise,
only interrupted by the lumberjack,
and a silhouette of mechanical sounds
fill the air, and
They all rejoice,
SPRING IS HERE AT LAST
Kabiito Richard (Uganda):
"Light refracts from the ice on the ground and into the blossoming water
drops. I got attracted by the zeal and courage of the drops, which stood
up to the might of imposing temperature and took nature's course - the
After listening to the sounds of the birds that have already arrived, Sarah Alden (Canada) made this ice sculpture.
Kabiito Richard with
drawing and poem (see left) of the melting water that is pressed out of
the tree (click to enlarge).
6. GENIUS LOCI
- CLEARINGS IN THE FOREST
Log entry by Jan
In November 2006
Meeting Place Hällefors in Sweden conducted a three day workshop
involving a film maker, a professional story teller and a visual art
teacher. The theme was "Gläntor",
or the "clearings in the forest". The film maker enabled participants to
make a small film on their "clearings" experience, the story teller
facilitated a session creating stories and performing storytelling on
the subject of the open spots and the "spirits of the place" (genius
loci) in the forest, and me, the visual artist, did a workshop on
approaching the light from the dark. The participants worked on black
paper and first "masked out" the trees by putting masking tape on the
paper. Then slowly rays of light were allowed to enter the art
work. At last the masking tape was pulled away, in a inversion process
of light paper becoming the sillouettes of dark trees.
and see more
5. FELTING ON SUOMENLINNA
Log entry by Mari
As part of the
international IP course on environmental art at the University of Art
and Design in Helsinki (March 2006), at which art
education students and teachers took part of the Netherlands, Austria,
Norway, Denmark and Finland, Mari Järvinen organized a felting workshop
on the island of Suomenlinna, just outside of the capital Helsinki. The
participants first made a long silent walk together - forming one line
behind each other - through the snow, letting the
special environment of the island in wintertime set an impression on
them. After that everybody went individually his or her way to look for
special, typical motives in the environment on the island, which they
could use as inspiration for making a felting art work subsequently
inside the art studio. The results were 'exhibited' outside in the snow.
LIVING AND DYING
Log entry by Jan van
Boeckel, based on personal communication with Meri-Helga
Artistic methods can
also help teachers to address issues of value and lifestyle raised by
the ecological crisis. Such issues, says Mantere, can be approached by
artistic methods, "reaching otherwise unattainable areas of
experiences". Arts-based environmental education aims at an "openness to
sensitivity, new and personal ways to articulate and share one’s
environmental experiences, which might be beautiful but also disgusting,
peaceful but also threatening."
An example of an arts-based environmental education exercise for
children in which
both dimensions are combined is the following. "Children are fascinated
with the dark side," says Mantere, "that is why they love fairy tales and
monsters." In this particular exercise, children are asked to go out in nature and to find three
different objects: one related to 'birth', one to 'living', and one to
'dying.' Subsequently, upon return, they are asked to speak about what
they have found and to make the experience into an artwork.
Log entry by Eva Bakkeslett
3 October 2008, Engeløya, Norway
The other day I took
the children from my Art School out in the bay below our house to make
houses and homesteads inspired by animal architecture. We talked about
where animals, birds and insects choose to have their homes and what
materials they use to create their houses. The children were so inspired
and made amazing structures exploring the beach for good places and
useful materials. They learned about mixing clay with straw for the
structure to remain solid and to make flexible strings out of seaweed
and how to make houses out of stone, wood and straw. The younger
children made whole environments with fires glowing of orange
rowan-berries and ponds surrounded by shading juniper-bushes.
2. THE ARTIST'S
Log entry by Henrika Ylirisku
May 2003, May 2005, Karkkila, Finland
We held two week-end
courses in a teepee located in Karkkila (app. 60 km from Helsinki). The
first course was held in autumn 2003 and the second in May 2005. These
pictures are from the last course. The name of the course was
"The artist's sketch book". Our focus was to offer the students an
overnight experience in a beautiful forest environment (and by the camp
fire) mixed with artistic exercises. We wanted to give them a chance to
investigate the new environment by the means of artistic exercises and
train their sketching skills and techniques. Our goal was also to change
the attitudes the students seemed to have to artistic exercises: all the
pictures don't have to succeed completely and be finished. Relaxed
sketching is an important skill and a good way to practice drawing and
We gave small tasks to the students during the time spent in the forest.
For example they made some drawings from the views and the forest
details they liked. We went to the dark night forest to draw with the
help of pale moonlight. We made croquis drawings by the camp fire of
each other and investigated the teepee structure with pictures. All the
drawings were made into the sketch books made before going to the
The pictures I sent are from the Sunday morning exercise. The students
went to the forest in pairs to look for a place they liked or felt
somehow special. Their task was to build from the materials found from
the place the creatures/spirits they could imagine living in that
special place. The grassy haired and friendly forest spirits (male and
female) guarded the path leading to the teepee in a steep hillside. The
miniature shelter was a living place of some small forest gnomes that
like to admire the impressive view over the forest.
1. LINES IN THE HAND
Log entry by Jan van Boeckel
28 August 2008, Kuusiluoto, Finland
The exercise consists of the following elements:
1) The participants receive a white cardboard of 10 x 10 cm, and are asked
to use a pencil to make a not too detailed drawing of the main lines in
one of their hands. They should use the hand that they ordinarily don’t
use for drawing. The reason for using the "wrong" hand is to cause an
estranging effect and to focus on the lines of the hand that is most
important or predominant in our everyday actions.
It is important that not too much time is spent on drawing, as the lines
should not be too elaborate: rather more sketchy and abstract.
2) The participants are then asked to form small groups of four to five
persons each. Within the group they exchange the cards, so that each
participant has the hand line drawing of somebody else. The group finds a
quiet space for itself. One group member is asked to be reporter to the
later gathering of the whole group again.
3) The participants are asked to spend some minutes meditating on the
drawing of the lines they have in their hands. When doing that, they
should try to experience themselves as being in a landscape, a landscape
that is formed by the lines on the paper. They should try to feel the
different sensory experiences that being in the landscape seems to bring
4) Subsequently, the group members tell each other of how it is to be in
the landscape that they have in front of them, one after the other, until
all have had their turn.
5) After all groups are ready, they assemble together with the others to
one big group.
6) The facilitator then asks the reporters to tell about the experiences:
did the participants talk about all kinds of sensory experiences? Which
ones were easier to describe, which ones more difficult? Was there a
difference between participants who talked about themselves as being
inside a landscape, or looking at it from a distance (the difference
between talking about "I am in a…" or "What I see in it is…"
7) The answers give openings to talk about our (usually) visual-centred
relation to the landscape, compared to more orally-centred perceptions
among different indigenous or non-literate peoples. Visually-centred
people tend to regard landscape as something that unfolds itself in front
of us, as a map we hold in our hands.
8) After that, the participants take their own cards with their own hand
lines back again and go out into the area to locate a spot which in some
way resonates with the lines they have on their card. They should look for
some kind of identification, connection, and this can be in a tree, a bush,
the grass, a rock, or even the sky, or assembled natural objects, Once
found, this resonating part of the environment is then used a point of
departure to make a personal art work, using pen or crayons and paper,
found natural objects; the art work can also be a piece of writing such as
a story or poem. The choice is free. If time allows (there should not be
time pressure), the participants gather again and those who want show
their art work to the others and tell about it.