volunteering in the community
Sustainability for the Common Good
Geo 300 Oregon State University
August 16,2012

Avery Nature House is a program of the Corvallis Environmental Center,  providing a broad-based environmental education program for all ages, designed to help discover your connection with nature, your place in the ecosystem, and your part in a sustainable community

Mission Statement:
The mission of the Corvallis Environmental Center is to provide learning opportunities and technical outreach to Corvallis area residents and businesses, giving them tools to pursue ecologically, socially, and economically sustainable practices.

Aug13-17   Forestry Adventure-extended day 9am-4:00pm

Explore all that is involved with forestry and a complex ecosystem.
Tuesday – Bus trip to Oregon Gardens Forest (Sponsored by OFRI)
Wednesday-  Bike to OSU Forestry Labs
Thursday – Bus trip to Starker Forest (Sponsored by Starker)
Friday – Meet at Peavy Arboretum – this is the one I volunteered at Aug. 16, 2012

Avery House Nature Center Environmental Summer Camp
children studying forest ecology at Peavy Arboretum

Netting waterbugs is fun!


I’m a Fine Arts/ Education major at OSU and I love teaching art to kids.  I especially love interdisciplinary learning, wherein an art project can serve to deepen understanding of other fields of study, such as environmental science..  A big part of art is slowing down to take the time to see things well, noticing differences in shapes, patterns, texture, size, compositional integrity, relationship.

As a lifelong organic gardener, I can say that the rich biodiversity of nature continually interacting with the abiotic elements, continually changing through the seasons has been my most inspirational life long art teacher.

I lit up at the opportunity to volunteer teaching an ecology art lesson to children for Geo 300, Sustainability for the Common Good community service.  I called Miko. the director of the Avery Nature House Center to see if I could volunteer and she was excited to find out that I have a couple of years of experience teaching art to children.  She told me about a camp group of 8-11 year olds that were spending the week studying the forest eco-system and would be out at Peavy Arboretum with a teacher named Tammy all day on Friday, Aug. 16, 2012 and asked if I would like to teach an art lesson about the Oregonian temperate forest ecosystem.

I said I’d love to!

Miko asked me what type and medium art project I would like to teach.  I said that I could have the children make a treasure map of the hike they went on, drawing with pastels and gluing on found nature objects to make a collage of the ecosystem complete with deciduous and conifer trees, ferns, trail, water sources, rocks, sun, and other vegetation and wildlife. She said great and that she’d be sure to provide paper, glue and crayons.  I brought along a couple of large boxes of pastels.

Creative Drama

I also value creative drama as a fun way to bond with kids so I brought along the Into the Forest Game that we used in class for our group presentation.

When I arrived the kids were happily Into the Forest Game with nets from the pond.  We introduced ourselves and shared what our favorite animal is.  Mine is my housemate Chris’ dog Sunny.

Then I showed them the food chain web chart in the forest ecosystem game and engaged them in questions about producers and consumers and how each species gets their energy and nutrients.

I explained that four different colored poker chips would represent four different nutrients that trees need in the forest ecosystem.  Sunlight, water, minerals, air.

For the first round they were all deciduous white oak trees that someone planted too close and I scattered the poker chips and some didn’t get enough sunlight or water.

Second round: still trees but planted farther apart.

Third round, everyone picked a card to become one of the biodiversity of species in the forest ecosystem and we studied them and the chart to see who was an herbivore or omnivore or producer and who eats who.  Then we went on the grass so that we could crawl around, pretending to be the diverse species as we gathered up the strewn poker chips.

One girl chose a turtle and she didn’t want to be too slow so she picked a different card and got to be a millipede instead!

One girl chose the death and decay card and ended up being able to eat everyone but then a mushroom got to eat her!!

discovery of nature’s treasures


Next we sat on the grass and got out the art supplies.  I showed them a cool board game with an ecosystem on it and suggested that everyone make their own treasure map of the hike they went on today and  let all of the trees, water, ferns etc. be the treasure and think of a creative way to turn it into a game or map to show your mom and dad or a friend about things that you saw in the forest.

I asked them if anyone knows what a conifer tree is and what kind did they see on their hike.  Some answered that conifers have needles and cones and douglas fir is the most common conifer species here in Corvallis. Then we talked about local deciduous trees like white oak and big leaf maple and how deciduous trees drop their leaves in the autumn.  We drew trees, streams,the pond with a bridge and the trails.  I asked the children to look around and notice colors and shapes and help me to remember what they saw on their hike and what they saw around them where we sat by the pond on the grass.  One boy named Ezra added some lumberjack logs that impressed him up by Cronemiller Lake.  A girl named Ella enjoyed adding the nice bridge over the pond. Everyone got quiet and absorbed into the art, seeing and remembering details and several got in to designing the game part of making stages along the trail with special highlights to progress along, turning it into a treasure map or board game.  Everyone had fun.

After we cleaned up the art project, there was still time to net for water bugs so they had fun to show me where they had been catching the best ones and were pleased to let me have a turn. We had fun watching the water striders and back swimmers.  They had collected several into a wash basin and were excited to tell me about them.

Everyone gave me a really big thank you for coming to teach art.

As a child, I really loved studying everything in the forest, ponds and rivers , so it was wonderful to teach art ecology.  It felt very natural that I would love to do it more.  It’s very rewarding to share skillfulness with children, nurturing wonderment, reverence and knowledge for loving and protecting our beautiful earth.

As I said in my group project, I think that education is invaluable for planting seeds for future ecologists and the consciousness and stewardship needed for sustainability.  When children bond with the biodiversity of nature early, they take it to heart and naturally care for it.  Ecological relationships are so wonderful to gain deeper knowledge of the beautiful efficiencies of nature.  If you want to design something super efficiently, just comprehend nature better.

  1. julie says:

    This sounds like a lot of fun!! Thanks for sharing your experience!

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