Art installations can create three dimensional spaces within classrooms. They are environments for learning, and offer children a place for retreat – a space to restore energy and inspiration.

Within the classroom , nature (within the reach of children) has been associated with imaginative replenishment. Re-charging the creative ideas of children can be beneficial for learning in a variety of subject areas. The idea of an art installation made from natural materials, can stimulate the senses, it is an opportunity to encourage children to ‘get in touch’ with the world around them. The physicality of building up an artistic space over time, brings the idea of the nature table to new levels. Using natural art materials (i.e. wood, mud, charcoal, river water, seeds, leaves, flowers, etc.) invigorates perception, by linking physical experience to ideas. Using nature to┬áre-shape classroom experience and space, can invite new ways of looking at social relationships, language and the qualities of mathematical arrangements. Patterns, processes of change, symbolic representations, descriptions and experimental reasoning can be activated through artistic practice.

The Children and Nature Network (www.childrenandnature.org) has a selection of research publications which attest to the fact that nature is good for children. Besides the benefits of increasing children’s time outdoors, there is also a case to be made for bringing the outdoors into the immediacy of children’s lives within classrooms. The textures and details of nature, as an artistic medium of expression, encourages exploration, observation and the sharing of experience. Art can express feelings and cognition, it can also spark ways of communicating our experience with others. It highlights our relationship with surroundings, and it can offer children a means of influencing their sense of place.

The artworks shown were part of a classroom based art installation made by the students of St. Colman’s Abbey Education Centre, Newry, County Down, Northern Ireland. The project was sponsored by Sticky Fingers Arts for Young Children.