Smash Art using Nature

By Kristin Gillis

Ever notice how many amazing colors are found in nature? The vibrant green of a leaf, the brilliant pink and purple of a flower, the rich brown of bark? Get kids to interact with nature by simply exploring your outdoors and have students try to find as many colors as they can! We had our students explore The Glenn and find as many different items as they could from nature to use and test on our papers. After we gathered items such as: flowers, rocks, bark, leaves, swiss chard, tomatoes, carrotwood seeds, seed pods, and more, we taught them how to test what they found by pushing the material down on the piece of paper, then rubbing the material back and forth to see if the color transferred! We learned that some materials work and some don’t. We also discovered some materials change the surface of the paper, and this helped us introduce the concept of “texture”! Then, we worked on creating self portraits by gluing the materials down on the paper to resemble our faces! We had the choice to add whatever features we wanted like eyebrows, cheeks, hair, teeth, and more!


  • Swiss Chard (pink stock and green leaf)
  • Carrotwood Tree Seeds (orange)
  • Bark (brown)
  • Flowers (yellow, pink, purple, white)
  • Other misc. nature items
  • Watercolor Paper
  • Glue
  • Paintbrushes (for glue)


  1. Have a class discussion with students by asking them, “What colors do you see in nature?” or “Can you find (this color) in nature?”. Get students to start thinking about all the colors that surround us!
  2. Talk with students to let them know they are going to experiment using nature to color on their paper! Some items require a little strength, so let them know they will be using their muscles (have them practice so they know what to do/how to really test it, otherwise they can become frustrated thinking it should work when they aren’t applying enough pressure to make it transfer).
  3. Have students search for materials!
  4. Bring back to the table and have students test by pushing the material down and rubbing back and forth.
  5. See if the color transfers!
  6. If a material changes the texture, stop and have students explore what it feels like (bumpy, smooth, soft, rough, etc.)

When done testing and coloring, have students select from the nature materials and use glue to create a self portrait!Extension: Discuss with students what items from nature worked and which items did not work. Have a discussion asking questions such as, “Why do you think this item worked?”, “Why didn’t this item work?”, “What would you look for next time?”, etc.

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