Week 4 – 32 New Participants, 30 Repeat Participants

Total Landmark Participants: 111

Location: Ardee Library, County Louth


“We had a lovely morning – it was so relaxing and I could tell that all of the children enjoyed themselves so much – something that isn’t always easy in the classroom. They used all the materials and created beautiful pieces of art work, which look so creative and natural in the classroom! Collon National School, Teacher (2nd Class).

“It’s the best nature place to be in,Student (2nd Class), Collon National School

“It felt like being in a cave,” Student (2nd Class), Collon National School

“It was the best day,” Student (2nd Class), Collon National School

Each Landmarks workshop, involves walking a path of art stations, which contain different art materials and activities. Walking and making art through an indoor route, can be like walking a path outdoors, observing and engaging with different experiences along the way.

Children are offered an opportunity to work in silence, while natures sounds are playing in the background. Each week one or more different land artists are profiled. This includes showing pictures of their art and talking about their methods of making art from natural materials, or within natural environments. The land artists’ ways of making art, are an engaging starting point for children to learn about how to work creatively with nature. Artists can re-shape our ideas about life experience in general, and in the case of land artists they also re-shape how we perceive and interact with the natural world.

Drawing on their ‘feel’ of mud, bog, branches, moss, leaves, charcoal and natural wool children can instinctively mark the pages of their artist books with their own inner experiences. The opportunity to work freely, through touch and instinct, can fuel both imagination and ideas. By working through stops along an indoor path of art materials (within a limited period of time) children can focus their expression, and be involved in the activity of ‘making’. Changing the pace and materials of their art making, means that children do not have time to ‘get in right,’ but instead work with what’s at hand and the impulse to experiment. These are skills that can be transferred to other areas of their life, as the ability to experiment can be useful for learning and developing self confidence.

The pictures are small artist books created by Collon National School students, 2nd Class.


Week 3 – 9 Repeat Participants, 1 New Participant

Total Landmarks Participants – 79

Location: Ardee Library, County Louth


“Nature is art. Nature is so creative and colourful,” Ardee Educate Together National School, Teacher (5th Class).

“It was creative, colourful and fun,” Student (5th Class), Ardee Educate Together National School.

Land artists create artworks from natural materials, within a variety of atmospheric conditions, temperatures and terrains. Learning about the methods and ideas of these artists can fuel discussion, critical thinking, and generate new ideas for working with natural materials.

Richard Long ( is a walking artist, who uses his feet to create lines of drawing (or paths) across a variety of terrains throughout the world. He also creates cairns, stone circles and lines within the landscape and inside art galleries. These stone arrangements are also accompanied by ‘mudworks’, the mixing of clay and water to create large scale handprints and smearing across interior walls. Long uses photography to document the stones he assembles along his walks, and uses words to create a picture about his travels. He collects words, like he collects stones and clay, that are directly related to the landscape in which he walks. These ‘textworks’ are word pictures; they are direct encounters with the elements, his activity, and his senses. They are also precise statements about his experience. “Day to Day, Camp to Camp, Water to Water, Summit to Summit, Boulder to Boulder, Footpath to Footpath, Rainstorm to Rainstorm, Experience to Experience” (A Eight Day Walk in the Cairngorm Mountains, Scotland 2007 by Richard Long). 

Richard Long considers his art to be about a person walking down the road making his mark. In essence, Long makes his own map, his own route through territories both personal and elemental. He says, “I use the world as I find it” (Richard Long quoted in Land Art by Michael Lailach) His art offers a compelling influence for children and young people finding their sense of place. He encourages us to make our mark, and create landmarks as we make our way through the world.

This series of mud pictures, inspired by the artwork of Richard Long, were produced by 5th Class students at Ardee Educate Together National School. Two students wrote the following alongside their mud pictures:

“Nature is where my art is”

“Flower, Tree, Mountain”

Artist Books by Children

February 19, 2011


Week 2 – 30 Participants

Total Landmarks Participants – 78

Location: Ardee Library, County Louth


As the children created their books, the art pieces portrayed their innermost thoughts and feelings” Scoil Mhuire na Trocaire National School, Ardee, Teacher (4/5th Class)

By simply folding paper into accordion and three dimensional shapes, many different “pages” emerge for art and writing. A variety of different art materials can be used to portray a child’s sense of nature – watercolour pastels, charcoal, oil pastels, ink stamps, photos, drawings, and samples of trees, grasses and flowers. The artist books were created by students visiting a number of different stations containing art materials. Through stamping, drawing, and collage the children worked in their own way, creating spontaneously to build up textures and assemble ideas. The small books were also an important expression of working within a library.

Collectively the folded books create a kind of landscape of images, which can be displayed within a classroom either on a table or on a wall. The artist books can then be collectively re-positioned into many different kinds of overall shapes. By turning the books around, different pictures are revealed, so that a rotating display can be achieved within the classroom.

In The Irish Times, Michael Viney has recently written about the importance of children’s engagement with nature as fuel for their imagination (February 5, 2011). By observing and feeling nature, children generate a sense of wonder about the natural world. It is this sense of wonder that in turn encourages a receptivity to the changing states of seasons, weather, and growth. “Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth, find reserves of strength that will endure” (Rachel Carson, The Sense of Wonder). Artist books can map a child’s observations of nature, and document change. It is this contact with changing conditions that also reflects human nature. It is an opening to being in touch with a dynamic sensing of the world as ‘alive’. “It is not half so important to know as to feel” (Rachel Carson, The Sense of Wonder).

These are photos of folded books created by students of Scoil Mhuire na Trocaire and Ardee Educate Together National School.


Week 1

Total Participants – 48

Location: Ardee Library, County Louth


“The workshop was very different and experimental, and offered creative freedom. The students were so interested they didn’t want to go,” Ardee Educate Together National School, Principal and Teacher (5/6 Class)

“That was really cool,” Student Ardee Educate Together National School (5/6th Class)

“A brilliant morning and they were all so keen” Ardee Brigin and Girl Guides

Transforming classroom space into a different kind of surrounding for students, is one of the goals of Landmarks: Nature, Art, Schools. Site-specific installation art is assembled for a particular space, and it is often composed from a collection of different ingredients. It is not unlike a three dimensional nature table, where organic materials are suspended, placed on the ground, and displayed on walls. It is an environment within reach of students, and may also become a den, shelter or breathing space within the school day. An installation encompasses an area, it can be entered into, and invites interaction. It offers a set of physical conditions which can affect the nature of the individual.

Incorporating ceiling hooks for suspending artworks can change the shape of a classroom. String, wool or wire can be hung from the hooks, so that students’ artworks can be attached over time. More dimensions are added to the overall classroom space, with layers of string/wool/wire becoming webs or geometrical patterns.

Assembling a collection of individual artworks into a larger entity, is an example of biodiversity. It is a habitat, whereby different kinds of artworks and people accommodate diversity. Different approaches, perspectives and ways of handling materials are brought together in one creative space. The fact that this habitat is mostly ‘natural’ means that it constantly changes, both growing and decaying at the same time.

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 re-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 ( 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.

Learning and Nature’s Art

December 13, 2010

Educational Benefits of Working with Nature: A Summary of Research Findings

Research Supporting Nature Based Classroom Art

1. Encouraging children’s sense of wonder with nature influences positively on their capacity to learn in all subject areas. It is vital for classrooms to include nature, as a means of stimulating learning. (Richard Louv, Author)

2. Nature enhances children’s skills in the following areas –

Problem Solving, Teamwork, Experimentation, Decision-Making, Adaptability, Confidence, Enhanced Communication, Sensory Development, Intellectual Stimulation (Carol Duffy, Childhood Specialist, Ireland)

3. Recent research proposes that exposure to the outdoors reduces anxiety, and enhances learning. (Dr. Dorothy Matthews, American Society for Microbiology)

4. “A den (made from natural materials) is the child’s sense of self being born, a chance to create a home away from home that becomes a manifestation of who they are. The den is the chrysalis out of which the butterfly is born.” (David Sobel, Antioch New England Graduate School)

5. “By bolstering children’s attention resources, green spaces may enable children to think more clearly and cope more effectively with life stress”. Engagement with natural settings has been linked to a child’s ability to focus, and enhances cognitive abilities. Nearby nature is a buffer for anxiety and adversity in children. (Dr Nancy Wells, Cornell University, New York)

6. The outdoor environment enhances the understanding of social relationships, language, physical movement, reasoning, curiosity, and the capacity to imagine possibilities. (Jane Williams-Siegfredsen, Viborg University College, Denmark)

7. Fostering children’s identity to include personal and social relationships to nature, improves their empathy and sense of inter-connection with the world-at-large. (Anita Barrows, Clinical Psychologist, Berkeley, California)

8. Nature based art can reach sensory, emotional, cognitive, symbolic and creative levels of human experience be de-familiarisation. Taken for granted everyday things, are sensitively given new meaning and enhance a child’s capacity to perceive. (Jan van Boeckel, Research Fellow Aalto University Helsinki, Anthropologist, Filmmaker)