The Nature Connection | Book Review

The Nature Connection by Clare Walker Leslie has been part of our book collection for over a year, and it’s been such a worthwhile book for our nature-deprived family that I thought it was high time to review it here. This book is responsible for getting my kids excited about spending time outdoors, and the activities inside are so well designed that once underway it’s close to impossible to bring them back inside.

With Earth Day right around the corner, this book would be an AWESOME gift for nature-loving kids.

Let’s take a peek…

The Nature Connection Book Review

The Nature Connection has been part of our book collection for over a year, and it’s been such a worthwhile book for our nature-deprived family that I thought it was high time to review it here. This book is responsible for getting my kids excited about spending time outdoors, and the activities inside are so well designed that once underway it’s close to impossible to bring them back inside.

The book encourages kids (ages 8-13) to get outside, and enjoy nature. And it works!

Note: The Nature Connection is designed as a interactive journal, meaning that you write and draw right on its pages. If you’re planning to use this with more than one child, you’ll want to offer them separate notebooks or buy a copy for each child.

Take a look at this video with the author and a group of school kids:

Says Leslie,

“I’m trying to win over kids who are much more interested in Game Boys and the internet because they have not had a grandfather go fishing with them. They haven’t had a grandma go berry picking with them. They haven’t had anybody take them outside and share with them the love of nature. This is why today so many kids don’t like nature. Because nobody has shown them how to be outside.”

Yes! And this is partly why my poor suburban kids, raised by a city mama, sometimes freak out at the thought of taking hikes. Sigh.

The book begins with tips on how to be a naturalist. It also includes ideas such as what to pack in your outdoor adventure kit and worksheets for tracking the phases of the moon (see the end of this review for a link to this as a FREE resource).

We’ve been carrying Adventure Kits around for a while now (we call them “Adventure Packs”) and we got some new ideas to include clips and a pen knife that weren’t already in them. This makes sense since we started carrying these packs around from age two, when pen knives weren’t exactly needed.

This introduction is followed with a month-to-month guide of twelve sections for tracking and noticing how nature changes throughout the year. You can see a few of our entries from the winter months below.

The Nature Connection has been part of our book collection for over a year, and it’s been such a worthwhile book for our nature-deprived family that I thought it was high time to review it here. This book is responsible for getting my kids excited about spending time outdoors, and the activities inside are so well designed that once underway it’s close to impossible to bring them back inside.

Each of the “month” sections invites you to do “Nature Quests” and describe what you see. The monthly sections also include short narratives, activities, and ideas for exploring the unique qualities of each season. In February we searched for animal tracks (easy to find in snow and mud) and learned about how the groundhog searches for its shadow.

This Winter we spent some time in Lake Tahoe, California, which is far more seasonal than the sunny Bay Area where we live. While you can see snow in the distant mountains, the area has had what some call the worst winter ever and that little mound of dirt just off-shore is usually underwater. The drought has been really hard on us Californians!

Family at Lake Tahoe

While walking around that mound, my 6-year old hunted for treasures amongst the small shells and discovered what she thought was a bone. Yes, I think she was right!

The Nature Connection has been part of our book collection for over a year, and it’s been such a worthwhile book for our nature-deprived family that I thought it was high time to review it here. This book is responsible for getting my kids excited about spending time outdoors, and the activities inside are so well designed that once underway it’s close to impossible to bring them back inside.

She was fascinated by it, chose it for her “Picture of the Month” drawing, and wanted to bring it into school to show her friends.

The Nature Connection Book Review

For families like ours that have to make treks to spend time in nature, this book is a goldmine. When I tell my kids that we’re going on an outdoor adventure and mention that we’re bringing this book along, excitement mounts!

Buy The Nature Connection

You can find The Nature Connection on Amazon (affiliate) and you can download free worksheets for The Nature Connection from the publisher, Storey. We haven’t started a Moon Journal yet, and my kids are excited to give it a go. Thanks, Storey!

Art Dice and the Creative Confidence Book

book creative confidence

Do you have Creative Confidence?

Do you think that some people are just born more creative, or do you believe that we can learn to become more creative? In the newly released creativity and innovation-boosting book, Creative Confidence, authors David and Tom Kelley not only explain that creative super-powers lie within each of us, but they go on to share actionable tools for increasing our abilities to innovate.

Stanford University’s K-12 Lab Network recently invited me to lead a hands-on maker workshop as part of the Creative Confidence book launch party for IDEO founder, David Kelley. If you’re an educator who’s interested in Design Thinking, I promise that you’ll lose hours digging into the d. School’s K-12 Lab and the K-12 wiki.

For the hour that led up to the highly anticipated panel led by David Kelley, we set up a fun creativity-booster with Art Dice in a room just off the main stage.

creative confidence d school

If you’ve been following my blog for some time, you may recognize this game as Art Dice. If you’re new-ish to Tinkerlab, here’s the original post.

Art Dice is a fun prompt/tool/game for creating randomly generated art. Every flip of the dice becomes an opportunity to explore art vocabulary, drawing skills, color recognition, and shape identification. With a few changes, these dice could also used to chase away writer’s or artist’s block: Simply roll the dice and draw or write about what pops up. Combine a few dice together and rise to the challenge of combining disparate ideas into a cohesive whole.

art dice setup tinkerlab

Since I needed a few sets of dice, and didn’t have the time to paint six sets of wooden dice (as I did with our original sets), I made paper templates and printed the dice onto heavy card stock. You can download them for free here.

They’re bigger than our original dice, but the scale also makes them playful and visually arresting.

PRINT ART DICE

How to Play Art Dice: Round One

The rules: Roll one die. Interpret what you see with mark-making tool/s in two minutes.

We invited our players to roll the line die. The line die includes things like dots, straight lines, zig-zag lines, and a spiral.

With the die rolled, they chose a mark-making tool and had two minutes to interpret the line on their paper. One of the most outstanding parts of this exercise, from an observer’s point of view, is to see the variety of interpretations.

art dice and creative confidence

Art Dice: Round Two

The rules: Roll two dice. Interpret what you see with mark-making tool/s in two minutes.

For the next round, we rolled the line die and the shape die. Again, participants had two minutes to interpret these images in whatever way they desired.

art dice d school playing

Art Dice: Round Three

The rules: Roll four dice. Interpret what you see with mark-making tool/s in two minutes.

For the last round we invited the players to throw four dice: shape, line, color, and mood. The mood dice included words like curious, excited, and angry. 

From the four tossed dice, players could choose two, three, or four of the dice to work with and create a final composition in two minutes. You can see the variety of interpretations of the prompt in this last photo.

art dice d school group

What we learned

After this quick round of drawing, I asked everyone to share their thoughts on this experience. Here are some of the takeaways:

  1. Creative freedom to experiment: There was no wrong or right way to do this exercise, which offered many participants creative freedom to experiment.
  2. Work did not have to be perfect: The short drawing period (just two minutes) signaled to some participants that their work did not have to be perfect, and gave them leeway to experiment and not feel the need to get it “just right.”
  3. Good for team-building: A few participants suggested that this activity could be a powerful way to open up a team-building event.
  4. Prompts work differently for everyone: Some people felt more creative leeway when they only had one die to work with, while others preferred the challenge of working with multiple dice. This reminded me of how differently our brains work, and how prompts like this are not one-size-fits all.

Art Dice and Creative Confidence

In Creative Confidence, the authors write,

creative confidence quote

I would venture to say that creative prompts like Art Dice encourage mistake-making in a safe environment. The stakes are low, and mistakes hold the capacity to lead to new ideas.

When we talked about how Art Dice could be used as a team-building exercise, I kept thinking about how prompts like art dice have the capacity to break down cultural norms and allow us to experience our own unlimited potential.

One interpretation is not necessarily better than another, and one person’s unique interpretation can inspire another person’s way of thinking.

What do you think? Would you like to have a set of art dice to experiment with?

You can learn more about Creative Confidence or order a copy today.

Print your own Art Dice

PRINT ART DICE

 

Red Ted Art: Cute and Easy Crafts for Kids

Gum nut pencil topper

I love arts and crafts books and often dream of opening a maker space where I can share shelves and shelves of inspiring books full of hands-on goodness with my friends and readers. Wouldn’t that be fun? I just added a new book to my library that I love, and I’m excited to share it with you in this virtual maker space today.

The book is Red Ted Art by UK blogger and crafter extraordinaire, Maggy Woodley. Maggy twists crafty standbys into fresh projects with clear photographs, beautiful design, and an easy-to-follow format that children can easily peruse on their own.

But you shouldn’t just take my word for it. When an advance copy of Maggy Woodlley’s Red Ted Art showed up in my house, my four-year-old got busy with a stack of sticky tabs and marked up all of the projects she wanted to do right away! 

Red Ted Art: Cute and Easy Crafts for Kids

We’re fans of repurposing materials, and Maggy is too, which made the activities especially easy to jump right into. We began with a couple projects that we had materials for, which is easy to do with this book. A quick flip through the book’s pages promise that you can complete just about every project with easy-to-find household and craft materials such as magazines, white glue, felt scraps, paint, and bubble wrap.

Project #1: Gumnut Pencil Toppers

As far as I know, we don’t have gumnuts in our neck of the woods, but acorns are aplenty and we worked on assembling our little yellow octopus friend with just a few materials.

Red Ted Art Book interior

  • To make the legs, we cut two pipe cleaners in half and then folded each of those in half.
  • We painted the acorn cap yellow.
  • When the paint was dry we used the glue gun to attach the eyes and legs.

Gum nut pencil topper tutorial

While the instructions suggested assembling this with white glue, an excuse to pull out the glue gun is always welcome in my house.

Project #2: Racing Walnut Mice

The trickiest part of this project was cutting a walnut in half, but Maggy provides clear instructions on how to split a walnut at the weakest point of the nut. I had a little trouble with this (see the chip little mouse’s mouth), but no one seemed to mind.

walnut mouse tutorial

  • Draw on a mouse face.
  • Glue on felt ears and a long felt tail
  • Place a marble inside the mouse and roll it down a sloping book.

My kids loved the little mouse so much that we never made it to the marble rolling part, but I look forward to trying that out.

Order a copy

If you’re in the UK or Europe, you can find Red Ted Art: Cute and Easy Crafts for Kids via Amazon UK.

If you’re in the US, the book will come out this fall (yay), and you can keep an eye out for it via Amazon.

Giveaway

Contest Details: This is an international contest and open worldwide. Deadline for entries is Friday, April 12, 2013, 9 pm PST. Winner will be chosen randomly. Please leave a comment as your entry. This contest is now closed. Congratulations to Irene, winning comment #33! You will be contacted via email.

A question for you…

What are your favorite (or most surprising ) recycled items to craft with?