Summer Craft: Au Naturel Self-Portraits


The weather has noticeably been getting warmer and all my students have been pointing out the signs of summer out on the playground: the presence of bees, sprouting plants, the need for getting not just wet but drenched in the sandbox. Such are the signs of the season.

So what better way to delve deeper into these interests than to scour my own backyard for materials?

I gathered leaves, branches, palm fronds, soil, sand, beans, kernels, you name it! I wanted your little ones to have as many options as possible, to ensure that this is as much of a sensory exploration as it is an art project. Using huge pieces of paper, each child struck a pose while laying flat, and I worked quickly to trace their moment in time. Then each mini vogue-er amassed a variety of natural materials, and got to work gluing away.

The most interesting part for me was just sitting back and watching them create: such intense focus, not being limited to the standard 8 1/2 x 11 piece of paper, but a full life-sized scale, taking so much time to place the smallest increments of sand in just the right place. Some covered themselves from head to toe, making realistic hair, boots, and eyes; others simply focused on one set of features, dropping beans here and there. Either way, both they and I were simply thrilled with the results.

After drying, I knew these had to be showcased. But how, where? Flashbacks of trying to find an adequate space for the dinosaur flooded my mind. After a couple trips to the store, I strung twine across the fence surrounding the playground and hung each portrait up with pride. Soon the child community was fascinated with walking along the yard’s perimeter, picking out the portraits of them and their friends. It was pretty darn adorable.

Granted, such focus in a project needs an equally devoted amount of time. Some children were satisfied after covering only one portion of their outlines, others spent several sessions meticulously placing kernel after kernel, bean after bean into a perfect pattern. Either way, I’m thrilled with the amount of interest and excitement this brought on…especially with all natural materials!

I truly hope you enjoy our preschool’s modern take on the age-old debate of “nature versus nurture”…or in this case, a cheeky little bit of both.



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