Creative Nature Art Projects Using Earth’s Gifts

Picture of Calum


International Primary Teacher and Outdoor Learning Specialist, with over ten years experience. I hold an MSc in Outdoor Education and PGDE in Primary Education.

Dive into the vibrant intersection of art and the natural environment, where children can use materials found in nature to craft beautiful works of art. This blog post will explore the endless possibilities of nature art, encouraging young artists to look closely at the textures and colours surrounding them. I’ll provide practical advice on collecting and using natural art materials and various art and craft ideas designed to inspire. The benefits of integrating these artistic endeavours with outdoor learning will also be highlighted, showcasing how these activities support a holistic educational experience.


On a sunny day, nothing is better than taking your class for an outdoor art lesson.


Discovering Nature Art in the Great Outdoors

You might be wondering where to start. A good starting point for me was taking my class on a nature walk, where they foraged natural art materials and used those natural materials for art projects in the school. If you have a natural area in your school with trees and natural foliage, this could be the perfect beginning for your natural art-making adventures.

However, I am very aware that all school contexts are different, and access to quality natural areas may not be available. So use what is available to you. Many good quality outdoor art lessons are easily facilitated in the most basic playground environment. Please click on my previous blog, where outdoor learning can take place, for further discussion on learning environments.


Early years learners forage in the local forest for natural materials to make their forest creatures (please see the picture below).


The learners used their collected natural materials to make their forest creatures.


A learner enjoys drawing chalk animals to scale in the playground.
A learner has fun drawing different woodland creatures to scale using chalk in the playground.


Gathering and Using Natural Art Materials

Young children naturally gravitate to playing with natural resources around them. Gaining an education in nature helps children connect to their natural surroundings. For example, in a study by Eva Änggård  (2010), it was suggested that when children learn about the natural world around them, the unseen becomes visible, which means that children start to understand the cycles and rhythms of the natural environment around them. This helps them feel connected to the natural world and have a foundation to learn how to live harmoniously. Therefore, when we encourage children to gather natural art supplies from our “outdoor classroom”, we are encouraging the beginning of a positive connection between them and nature.

The importance of strengthening a child’s development through interaction with nature to enhance [their] cognitive and physical development can be underappreciated (Summers et al., 2019). By taking arts and crafts lessons outside, we are helping to nourish the child’s overall health and development.

Using natural materials for art also helps stimulate children’s senses. Most children are more interested in utilising their senses to explore what they see (Edgington, 1998). For example, infants often investigate things by putting them in their mouths; this way, they learn the texture and taste. Being a fundamental characteristic of young children, outdoor art lessons can be perfectly attuned to them because they emphasise activities that heighten observation skills and sensory-rich tasks.


Learners use acrylic paint pens to decorate pebbles they found in the playground to make kindness rocks.

Learning Outdoors

It is suggested by Szczepanski et al. (2006) that learning outdoors can increase students’ overall motivation. Furthermore, in his research on the potential for outdoor education, he talks about the benefits of working with natural resources. When using natural materials for arts and crafts projects, children reinforce what they are learning with kinesthetic movement and hand-eye coordination. In addition to this, it should be noted that outdoor learning is often a social act where children learn through play and the creative process. The paper also concluded that physical movement when we learn outdoors assists children’s ability to concentrate and improves their overall health.

Besides enabling the children to get involved in careful observation and sensory-rich experiences, learning outdoors can stimulate and strengthen both sides of a child’s brain. An example of an art activity encapsulating these benefits is the leaf drawing and description of the project. In this activity, children are grouped into small teams and given different plants to describe and draw their physical features. They also record the leaf texture, colour and size. The drawing process strengthens the right side of the brain, while the research and analytical aspect strengthens the left side (Harrington et al., 2017).

For further information on the benefits of outdoor learning, please click on the related blog posts below.

Developing the Wellbeing of Children Through Outdoor Learning

The Importance of Outdoor Play


Fusion of Outdoor Learning, Cross-Curricular Skills and Artistic Creation

Searles (2020) states a tremendous potential synergy exists between the creative process and outdoor learning. He further suggests that learning happens by doing and being active. Plus, creative outdoor learning is often collaborative. This social act of learning in the company of peers and educators, in turn, fosters a safe space for our children to develop creative thinking skills. There are also many options to make cross-curricular links when combining outdoor learning and art.


A learner has combined their black-and-white photography, ICT and charcoal drawing skills to create a black-white drawing of a leaf from the local park.


Learners work collaboratively to create outdoor art from natural materials.


Some of My Favourite Outdoor Art Lessons

My Students love to learn outdoors. Here are some of my most successful cross-curricular arts and crafts ideas you might like to do with your students when taking art lessons outside.


KS2 learners made spirals in nature using a variety of natural materials. Prior to making their creations they did an artist study about Andy Goldsworthy.
The KS2 children did an artist study about Andy Goldsworthy. They created spirals and patterns using various natural materials found in the park.


Learners made leaf owls in the playground using natural materials. This project aimed to extend and complement the children’s class owl topic.


The KS2 children enjoyed making butterflies that camouflage to the playground as part of their rainforest class topic.


Early years learners make clay (or mud) faces using natural materials. Attaching the clay is excellent for fine motor skill development.


KS2 learners often enjoy outdoor woodcarving. With the correct tools and risk assessments, this is a rich learning experience, developing fine motor skills while also allowing children the experience of managing risk.


I would love to hear from you. Have you tried an outdoor learning art activity that your students enjoyed?



Änggård, E. (2010). Using “nature” in an outdoor preschool: Classroom, home and fairyland. Children, Youth and Environments20(1), 4-25.

Edgington, M. (1998). Developing a sense of place. 1998, 3-3.

Harrington, G., Farias, D., Davis, C., & Buonocore, M. (2007). Comparison of the neural basis for imagined writing and drawing. Human Brain Mapping, 28.

Searles. M, (2020). Creativity in the Outdoors. Inspiring Scotland guest blog. Accessed: 15th January 2024. Available: Tuesday-tips-Creativity-in-the-Outdoors.pdf (

Szczepanski, A., Malmer, K., Nelson, N., & Dahlgren, L. O. (2006). Outdoor Education-Authentic Learning in the Context of Landscape Literary education and sensory experience. Perspective of learning environments’ Where, What, Why, How and When. Inter-disciplinary context and the outdoor and indoor dilemma. In The Third International Outdoor Education Research Conference–Widening Horizons: Diversity in Theoretical and Critical Views of Outdoor Education Conference.

Summers, J. K., Vivian, D. N., & Summers, J. T. (2019). The role of interaction with nature in childhood development: An under-appreciated ecosystem service. Psychology and behavioral sciences (New York, NY 2012)8(6), 142.