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The Eye of the Beholder

Standards: 4.8 Humans and the Environment

Duration: 30 to 40 minutes

Setting: Outside – General, Forest, StreamWetland, Farm

Vocabulary: intricacy, interactions, commonalities

Summary: Students use various exercises to better appreciate the intricate detail nature provides.

Objectives: Students will gain a deeper understanding of how the intricacies and beauty of nature and how to see these details.

Materials: charcoal/pencils/crayons, paper, clipboards


Art is an important part of human history. Humans have been creating art for almost as long as we have been around (see Handouts for examples). Much of this art was and still is inspired by nature. There are many things in nature we all find beautiful and that catch our eyes–water moving, fire burning, sunsets, landscapes, etc.

Nature provides an unlimited variety of objects to view and interact with and each time these interactions are slightly different. Nature is always moving and growing and changing, and in that sense is almost “alive.” Viewing and interacting with these objects and landscapes gives us a sense of beauty and provides us with images that spur on our creativity and imagination. Think of how different art would be if we were locked inside all day!

Often times, even with all the beauty around us, it is easy to overlook the intricate detail that nature provides or take it for granted. Often times we are not patient enough to investigate the simple aspects of our surroundings and wait for nature to amaze us instead of actively investigating it.


Warm Up:

Ask students what objects in nature they find particularly interesting to look at. Are any of them artists/photographers? What makes something “beautiful?” Are they able to quantify this quality? Why do they think humans create art?


There are three different sub-activities here that deal with noticing the intricacies in nature.

Activity 1: “Photographer and Camera”

Divide students into groups of two. Have students sit next to each other on the ground but facing in different directions. One person is the “photographer” and chooses something to draw. The photographer then describes the scene to the “camera” (the other person) who has to draw it based only on the detail the photographer gives, and cannot see it! The idea here is to give as much detail as possible to get an accurate picture. When finished, the two people compare the drawing to the real object/scene, and then switch places.

Activity 2: Near and Far

This activity is done alone and involves drawing the same object twice–once standing 10 footsteps away, and another standing one footstep away. Students will fold a piece of paper in half and draw each distance on a different half of the paper. Students will then compare their two drawings and see what details they noticed in each, and if there are more in the close up.

Activity 3: Free Drawing

Now with an idea of what items catch their eye in nature and with an appreciate for detail, students can now spend time making their own nature drawing using any materials available. They can also make leaf rubbings as part of this drawing, and can choose any subject as long as it is an image in nature.


Ask students to describe some of the details they especially noticed while they were drawing. Do they find drawing to be calming or frustrating? Why do they think so many people throughout the ages have looked to nature for inspiration and art subjects? How might the ability to notice details be a useful life skill?


Have students search for and choose a favorite work of art based in nature done by someone else and explain what they like about it.

Have students research prehistoric art and what subjects and materials people used then.



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