In Sketching in Nature, animator April Hobart helps teachers integrate nature journal activities into their classrooms. In her article, she provides a review of easy-to-find art materials and recommends three drawing exercises. Two of the exercises are very familiar to most of you. Contour drawing exercises are part of any introductory course in drawing. These exercises require students to draw the outline of an object. Blind contour drawings require students to keep their pencils on the paper and to draw without looking at their paper. Regular contour drawing involves drawing the outline of an object while looking at one’s paper.
The third exercise Hobart recommends is the most interesting because it is a low-cost way of learning how to record changes over time and it encourages careful observation over a prolonged period. Hobart’s third drawing exercise involves drawing an ice cube and illustrating how it changes as it melts. Students divide a standard sheet of paper into six sections by drawing light pencil lines. They then place an ice cube on a paper plate and spend 15 minutes drawing and shading the ice cube. After 15 minutes has passed, students begin a second drawing in a new square and once again observe and illustrate changes to the ice cube over a 15-minute period. Students repeat this activity until all six squares are filled. This exercise not only improves the observation skills of “observers-turned-naturalists” (Hobart, 2005), it encourages the visualization of a concept – in this case, melting (DeCristofano, 2007). Visualization helps students articulate ideas, discuss their learning process, and discuss their experiences in science (DeCristofano, 2007). Hobart (2005) also points out that this exercise calls upon students to experiment with shading and to learn how to use their drawing materials under changing conditions.
Hobart (2005) encourages teachers to make drawing a year-round activity. She suggests requiring illustrations with writing projects, engaging students in a weekly drawing exercise, and encouraging students to share their work with others so they remain observant of the world around them.
DeCristofano, Carolyn Cinami. 2007. Visualization: Bridging scientific and verbal literacies. Connect. Volume 21, No. 1 (September/October). Online at http://cf.synergylearning.org/DisplayArticle.cfm?selectedarticle=666
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Hobart, April. 2005. Sketching in nature. Science Teacher, 72(1): 30-33. Search your local library