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Arty Autumn Time: Getting Creative in the Classroom


Each season has its gifts and pleasures, and autumn brings longer nights by the fire and crisp mornings, with the aromas of falling leaves and fruits filling the air. In schools, children are settling into their new classes and enjoying playtimes kicking the leaves and splashing in puddles.

Now is the time to unleash the artistic potential of the season and get creative with the inspiration around in the environment. Here are my top five tips for Autumnal Art:

1. Stick With It

Sticks are brilliant teaching resources. Real sticks, not the lollipop kind, are free if you know where to look, and come in a great variety of shapes and sizes, so can provide a lesson in descriptive language before you start anything arty. But, attach to each other or build them up to create pictures, hangings or sculptures, dip them in paint or mud and use them as paint brushes, or wind wool or string around them for weaving tools. And you can use them in drama lessons too (imagine what you can use them as… a sword? a spear? a paintbrush? a wand?). Charcoal drawings on autumnal coloured paper are particularly effective too, especially if you explain how charcoal is made. Useful ‘stick’ books are Not A Stick by Antoinette Portis and Stanley’s Stick by John Hegley.

2. Leaf It Out

There are loads of things you can do with leaves. Collect a huge stash of leaves on a walk, preferably with the children obviously. Look for the ones with a good even shape and no holes in them, as they work better for the art projects. Make sure they are dry before using them for art, but not crispy and brittle. Try to get a good variety of different types of leafs. Identifying and classifying is a good skill to tick off the list here if you can. One of my favourite things to do for a class is filling up a sand tray with dried leaves and just letting the children play with them, as the sound and feel of the leaves is incredible (as is the mess, so best done outside!), but here are my recommended arty activities:

Printing – Painting one side of a leaf and placing down evenly and firmly on paper. These can either be overlapped and used as a background paper or done individually and cut out to be added to an autumn display here and there or to a tree full of autumn leaves. The latter can look stunning, if you’ve got the artistic skill to create a tree. A good place to start to draw trees is the handily titled book 20 Ways to Draw a Tree, which is a fab place to start to draw anything from nature, and available from Amazon. Tree barking rubbing is a good way to create the effect of the wood if you want an authentic look for the paper for the tree too. Once you have done the tree, you can leave it up all year and change it for the season (bare for winter, buds and blossom for spring, green leaves for summer).

Rubbing – Placing leaves under paper and rubbing the paper with crayons is fab. A word of caution though, test your materials first. The success of this depends on the weight of the paper and the way you use the leaves – experiment until you find what is right based on what you have on hand, as it can go wrong…!

3. Pinecone Hedgehogs

Pinecones are awesome. You can make so much with them, so feel free to experiment. One of the easiest things to make are hedgehogs because all you need is a carefully chosen pinecone (this can take a while with young children), and two large black head pins. Under supervision, the children can choose where to add the eyes for their hedgehogs (tip: it’s the non-pointy end, so that the stem part becomes the nose). If you are feeling in a hedgehog mood, you can make one for the wall, by creating a face and adding a body made of handprints or leaf prints. An individual handprint or a leaf could work just as well as the basis of hedgehog.

4. Mud, Mud, Glorious Mud

Mud can be used as:

Simple clay – it won’t last more than a day and is best left outside, but is a load of fun, so make hedgehogs by adding sticks, make worms etc.

Paint – just add water

Build homes for animals – build in lesson about hibernation and you’ve got two lessons in one!

Face paint – it’s inevitable really

5. An Apple A Day and Vegetable Glue

• Make the best of the season’s bounty with using apples. Do some cooking and tasting, but why not try (some carefully supervised) apple carving? They are really easy to carve and you can move on to pumpkins and other vegetables too. There’s the obvious apple printing and colour pattern making. As they are symmetrical, it could start some work on symmetry and patterns. Don’t forget to think about seeds and pips, and how they can be used to create beautiful intricate patterns too. Look for inspiration in the book Titch by Pat Hutchins and The Tiny Seed by Eric Carle.

• Harvest time is a good time to think about nutritional health and the rich variety of the fruit and vegetables that are available. What I Do with Vegetable Glue by Susan Chandler and Oliver’s Vegetables by Vivian French are great places to start. Artistically, get the children to draw them, create pictures of faces with them in the style of Giuseppe Arcimboldo (he was a late medieval Italian artist and you can find out more about him on here), print with them, cook with them, colour match them and explore their different shapes and textures.

Have fun during autumn. Make the most of the season, and all those lovely smells, textures and crunchy crisp days. Look forward to the time of glitter glue and sparkles coming after half term…!

Book Recommendations

Titch by Pat Hutchins
The Tiny Seed by Eric Carle
What I Do with Vegetable Glue by Susan Chandler
Oliver’s Vegetables by Vivian French
20 Ways to Draw a Tree
Not A Stick by Antoinette Portis
Stanley’s Stick by John Hegley

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