Log book



This is our log book of concrete arts-based environmental education practices. For information, inspiration and reflection. We invite you to send us descriptions of the exercises or tasks that you want to share.




The Colony Creation Art Project

Log entry by Judith Robertson
16 April, 2011, British Columbia, Canada

In the last 4 years there has been tremendous decline in bee populations. With this as motivation, Judith Robertson, a local art therapist, educator, and biologist, had 400 kids in the Nelson area to contribute to an art project about disappearing bees.

With a Columbia Basin Environmental Education Network grant, children, Kindergarten to Grades 6, were introduced to the critical role that bees play in an ecosystem, and the environmental issue at hand. Raising awareness, and as a response to what scientists are calling “Colony Collapse Disorder”, students then each shared what they will do to help save the bees, one person, or one “cell” at a time, to form the “honeycomb” or “colony”.

This colony is now on display at the Kootenay Co-op, an organic food store in Nelson. Like the hard working honeybees, creating this project has been a wonderful community effort, thanks to all who bee- lieve in small acts making a difference!


Mailing address:

c/o Outward Bound
P.O. Box 1749
Leadville Colorado, 80461
E-mail: judith_robertson(at)hotmail.com





Log entry by Jan van Boeckel
26 September 2010, Totnes, United Kingdom

This activity was done at Schumacher College, in the United Kingdom, as part of the course Native Wisdom in March 2007. I took the participants to the age-old bridge across the river Dart, close to the College. All were asked to put a big piece of paper (50x70 cm) on a hardboard surface, and to take along a pencil and a big marker.

The participants were suggested to gather in groups of two or three in the protrusive spaces along the top of the bridge. I asked them to have the pencil in the hand that they ordinarily would not use for writing or drawing, and have the big marker in their other hand. Then they were asked to face the river that was streaming below them, and to watch the movements of the currents and whirlpools.
They were invited to use their pencil to relate on their paper to this delicate circular movement. From time to time, however, a car would pass behind their backs, crossing the river. Whenever this happened, I asked them to include the sensation of the intruding roaring car in their drawing as well, using the marker with their ther hand.

The idea with this exercise was to allow for and include the sensory experience of the "artificial" engine sounds, while at the same time being in a state of mindful receptivity and attentiveness to the river's subtle movements taking place.

The impact is on various levels: one tunes in to the water spirals while simultaneously - in the back of the mind - being also in anticipation of the possibility of a car coming by at any moment. When the car passes, how does that new "stimulus" change the other sensation? Is it an intrusion? When reflecting back on the experience, did we hear the sound of the car louder or in a different way? And once the car had passed, how difficult was it to re-enter in the mindful engaging with the natural movement of the river? How do the auditory and the visual sensory experiences and the objects of our focus relate to each other and impact one another?

Finally, the question came up, that often in a process of making art in a natural environment, we erase or shift away from "artificial," "unnatural" elements, like electricity poles, or condense trails of airplanes. What happens if we take those elements mindfully in, while being attentive to natural processes, rather than ignoring or overlooking them?



Log entry by Jan van Boeckel
3 April 2010, Warshaw, Poland

The following text comes from the transnational project
Animus, which was promoted by the Institute of Polish Culture in Warshaw. Animus is an International Network for Training in Culture Animation. The general goal of the project is to establish sustainable and spreading network of training institutions in culture animation.

"Surrounded by nature, we have all more than once reflected on that old tree which holds memories of so many things, or on the meadow flower, wilting before our very eyes. Vanishing and everlasting – two important descriptive categories, but also the source of artistic inspiration. The young people were to find material and venues for two symmetric forms. One was to hold back time, to put up resistance to change. The second, the ‘sister work’, would allow us to observe those selfsame changes - those changes taking place between the birth of form in the few days spent in Ristiina and the subsequent disappearance or dispersal of that same form."

The Touch of Memories project publication can be downloaded here





Log entry by Eva Bakkeslett

18 September 2009, Engeløya, Norway

I sometimes do a walk with my students in the woods, bare-feet. It really helps them to reconnect and sense the landscape as they walk, silently, being aware and mindful of the landscape and the million inhabitants below and above.
A friend of mine does "reconnection walks" with adults. At a certain point on her walk she gets them digging a whole a foot deep where they bury their feet and stand for a while - like a tree.  Another thing my students of all ages enjoy is to find a special place in the woods that they connect with and explore it with different senses. Sniff the ground, lie down and look up, listen and jot down the different sounds like music and I give them a portable 10x magnifier-loupe so they can explore the micro-worlds emerging in their space.

Working with younger kids I would also get them to create a small "dwelling" inspired by animal architecture. Local materials, consideration for positioning with wind, shelter and view in mind. I have not tried this with older students but think it would work, get them to rediscover the joy of playing and got the potential of total absorption. I have a few great books on animal architecture to get them going and we also discover nests and dwellings as we walk. It becomes a practical mediative exercise that also engages them physically. If you have big autumn leafs you could ask them to pick one up and use it as a map - leaf-navigation - a game I invented whilst walking in the woods one autumn with my then 9 year old daughter. It is great since you don't know where you'll end up. At the end of the map you pick another leaf and carry on walking. It gets you off the paths and connects patterns. Then you'll get them looking at Google Earth to see the aerial patterns of your particular area.

photo Eva Bakkeslett

See more photos

Link to Eva's website



Log entry by Jan-Erik Sørenstuen
29 August 2009, Grimstad, Norway

The Christian Intercultural Association (in Norwegian: KIA) is an organization that works for multi-cultural fellowship and for equality, mutual caring and friendship irrespective of language, cultural or religious boundaries. Seventeen participants mainly from African countries joined the land art course, called KIA-land art at Dømmesmoen in Grimstad. The course lasted for three days in August 2009, and started with the viewing of the film "The Painted People in Ethiopia," about the body art of the Omo people.

See the film on YouTube

The participants were supposed to use a simple craft tradition from their own cultural background with Norwegian materials - on their own, or on their group members' bodies. Then they situated themselves in a Norwegian natural site. The result was photographed for an exhibition. In this way the participant transformed elements from his or her own culture into Norwegian nature. Conversely, the participants could affect Norwegian ways of thinking about art and cultures.

The participants adjusted themselves visually to an apple tree, an oak, a willow, an elm, or rowanberry tree. It could also be a flower meadow, to the earth and soil of Dømmesmoen site, or to the 'rolling stones' at a forest moraine site. It was also possible for them to choose a site and materials themselves, after they had presented their idea to their art professor.

Human bodies, a natural site, flowers, berries, fruits, branches, sticks, willow, reed, seaweed, ferns, clay (for body painting), sand, stones, wire, thread, or whatever one chose.

Garden scissors, needles, hands or whatever one needed.
On the day when the aesthetic part of the course wasd performed, it was raining heavily. That is why most of this kind of work was made as indoor activities. When the groups had finished transforming their participants, they went out to be photographed in their chosen environments.
If it was the pictures from the Omo people, or the knowledge that they were working at a university site that made some of them skeptical and even frightened in the beginning, is difficult to say. But when I emphasized their own cultural memories and the playfulness in the didactic way of working, they really started to cooperate and develop ideas. And for some hours the workshop was a boiling pot of laughter, creativity and aesthetics.

On the following evening we made aesthetic documentation with paper-prints of photos from the land art exercise, glued to cartoons, like posters, and mounted on the walls in the church basement.
The participants were told that the pictures might be used in various presentations of body-land art, without using the names or origins of the participants.





Log entry by Sarah Alden, Wai-Yi Lai
21 March 2009, Helsinki, Finland

In July 2009, Sarah Alden (Canada) and Wai-Yi Lai (Hong Kong), both Master students in Environmental Art at the University of Art and Design Helsinki, plan to do an art education project in Hong Kong. The project  is aimed to contribute to the field of Arts-Based Environmental Education through producing a document outlining the actual event and process. The outcomes, translated from English into Finnish and Chinese, will be made available online.

Here follow some examples of the planned activities with the participants:

Wild palette
Action 1: Who can draw? Not only human hands can draw, so can the natural force – let wind be the paint; twigs be the brush.
Action 2: Hidden colours. Paint with the natural paint. Leaves might not be green, rocks are no longer grey. Open your senses for the wildest colours.

- Awaken alertness and the senses to nature
- Concentrate on the natural surroundings with a calm mind

Action 1: Sound of silence. Listen to a tree's whisper

- Reflection of our own deep experience

Shall we talk?
Action 1: I’m a tree. Everyone has seen a tree before, but hasn’t tried to BE a tree yet
Action 2: Who's talking. When we are silent, THEY start to talk.
Action 3: Let's join them. Music from our body
Action 4: Let's join them. Developing songs out of natural materials.
Action 5: The Big Band. Experimental natural concert

- Make a symbolic contract with all participants
- Detachment from the modern / electronic world and entrance into the natural world
- Use movement and sound to connect with surroundings
- Share discoveries with each other

Sarah Alden with soundscape of bird sounds in early spring.


Link to blog of Wai-Yi Lai



Log entry by Jan van Boeckel
8 March 2009, Helsinki, Finland

Between February and May 2009 a course is running at the University of Art and Design in Helsinki, with the title "Art in Environmental Education." At one of the recent sessions, the participants went out in the snow-covered vegetable gardens near the university, to look for signs of spring coming and to express this in an artwork. This took some effort of perception and imagination as the spring still seems to hide herself well.

Water Bubbles

The water drips in the guise of spring
getting away from solitude of the darkness,
and imprisonment of the unforgiving cold
It is finally spring,
so the birds can sing songs of praise,
The crowing,
only interrupted by the lumberjack,
and a silhouette of mechanical sounds
fill the air, and
They all rejoice,

Kabiito Richard

Kabiito Richard (Uganda): "Light refracts from the ice on the ground and into the blossoming water drops. I got attracted by the zeal and courage of the drops, which stood up to the might of imposing temperature and took nature's course - the 'drip'."

After listening to the sounds of the birds that have already arrived, Sarah Alden (Canada) made this ice sculpture.

Kabiito Richard with drawing and poem (see left) of the melting water that is pressed out of the tree  (click to enlarge).



Log entry by Jan van Boeckel
November 2008, Hällefors, Sweden

In November 2006 Meeting Place Hällefors in Sweden conducted a three day workshop involving a film maker, a professional story teller and a visual art teacher. The theme was "Gläntor", or the "clearings in the forest". The film maker enabled participants to make a small film on their "clearings" experience, the story teller facilitated a session creating stories and performing storytelling on the subject of the open spots and the "spirits of the place" (genius loci) in the forest, and me, the visual artist, did a workshop on approaching the light from the dark. The participants worked on black paper and first "masked out" the trees by putting masking tape on the paper. Then slowly rays of light were allowed to enter the art work. At last the masking tape was pulled away, in a inversion process of light paper becoming the sillouettes of dark trees.

Read and see more



Log entry by  Mari Järvinen
October 2008, Helsinki, Finland

As part of the international IP course on environmental art at the University of Art and Design in Helsinki (March 2006), at which art education students and teachers took part of the Netherlands, Austria, Norway, Denmark and Finland, Mari Järvinen organized a felting workshop on the island of Suomenlinna, just outside of the capital Helsinki. The participants first made a long silent walk together - forming one line behind each other - through the snow, letting the special environment of the island in wintertime set an impression on them. After that everybody went individually his or her way to look for special, typical motives in the environment on the island, which they could use as inspiration for making a felting art work subsequently inside the art studio. The results were 'exhibited' outside in the snow.





Log entry by Jan van Boeckel, based on personal communication with Meri-Helga Mantere
 October 2007, Finland

Artistic methods can also help teachers to address issues of value and lifestyle raised by the ecological crisis. Such issues, says Mantere, can be approached by artistic methods, "reaching otherwise unattainable areas of experiences". Arts-based environmental education aims at an "openness to sensitivity, new and personal ways to articulate and share one’s environmental experiences, which might be beautiful but also disgusting, peaceful but also threatening."
An example of an arts-based environmental education exercise for children in which both dimensions are combined is the following. "Children are fascinated with the dark side," says Mantere, "that is why they love fairy tales and monsters." In this particular exercise, children are asked to go out in nature and to find three different objects: one related to 'birth', one to 'living', and one to 'dying.' Subsequently, upon return, they are asked to speak about what they have found and to make the experience into an artwork.



Log entry by Eva Bakkeslett
3 October 2008, Engeløya, Norway

The other day I took the children from my Art School out in the bay below our house to make houses and homesteads inspired by animal architecture. We talked about where animals, birds and insects choose to have their homes and what materials they use to create their houses. The children were so inspired and made amazing structures exploring the beach for good places and useful materials. They learned about mixing clay with straw for the structure to remain solid and to make flexible strings out of seaweed and how to make houses out of stone, wood and straw. The younger children made whole environments with fires glowing of orange rowan-berries and ponds surrounded by shading juniper-bushes.

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Log entry by Henrika Ylirisku
May 2003, May 2005, Karkkila, Finland

We held two week-end courses in a teepee located in Karkkila (app. 60 km from Helsinki). The first course was held in autumn 2003 and the second in May 2005. These pictures are from the last course. The name of the course was "The artist's sketch book". Our focus was to offer the students an overnight experience in a beautiful forest environment (and by the camp fire) mixed with artistic exercises. We wanted to give them a chance to investigate the new environment by the means of artistic exercises and train their sketching skills and techniques. Our goal was also to change the attitudes the students seemed to have to artistic exercises: all the pictures don't have to succeed completely and be finished. Relaxed sketching is an important skill and a good way to practice drawing and observing.

We gave small tasks to the students during the time spent in the forest. For example they made some drawings from the views and the forest details they liked. We went to the dark night forest to draw with the help of pale moonlight. We made croquis drawings by the camp fire of each other and investigated the teepee structure with pictures. All the drawings were made into the sketch books made before going to the forest.

The pictures I sent are from the Sunday morning exercise. The students went to the forest in pairs to look for a place they liked or felt somehow special. Their task was to build from the materials found from the place the creatures/spirits they could imagine living in that special place. The grassy haired and friendly forest spirits (male and female) guarded the path leading to the teepee in a steep hillside. The miniature shelter was a living place of some small forest gnomes that like to admire the impressive view over the forest.




Log entry by Jan van Boeckel
28 August 2008, Kuusiluoto, Finland

The exercise consists of the following elements:

1) The participants receive a white cardboard of 10 x 10 cm, and are asked to use a pencil to make a not too detailed drawing of the main lines in one of their hands. They should use the hand that they ordinarily don’t use for drawing. The reason for using the "wrong" hand is to cause an estranging effect and to focus on the lines of the hand that is most important or predominant in our everyday actions.
It is important that not too much time is spent on drawing, as the lines should not be too elaborate: rather more sketchy and abstract.

2) The participants are then asked to form small groups of four to five persons each. Within the group they exchange the cards, so that each participant has the hand line drawing of somebody else. The group finds a quiet space for itself. One group member is asked to be reporter to the later gathering of the whole group again.

3) The participants are asked to spend some minutes meditating on the drawing of the lines they have in their hands. When doing that, they should try to experience themselves as being in a landscape, a landscape that is formed by the lines on the paper. They should try to feel the different sensory experiences that being in the landscape seems to bring along.

4) Subsequently, the group members tell each other of how it is to be in the landscape that they have in front of them, one after the other, until all have had their turn.

5) After all groups are ready, they assemble together with the others to one big group.

6) The facilitator then asks the reporters to tell about the experiences: did the participants talk about all kinds of sensory experiences? Which ones were easier to describe, which ones more difficult? Was there a difference between participants who talked about themselves as being inside a landscape, or looking at it from a distance (the difference between talking about "I am in a…" or "What I see in it is…"

7) The answers give openings to talk about our (usually) visual-centred relation to the landscape, compared to more orally-centred perceptions among different indigenous or non-literate peoples. Visually-centred people tend to regard landscape as something that unfolds itself in front of us, as a map we hold in our hands.

8) After that, the participants take their own cards with their own hand lines back again and go out into the area to locate a spot which in some way resonates with the lines they have on their card. They should look for some kind of identification, connection, and this can be in a tree, a bush, the grass, a rock, or even the sky, or assembled natural objects, Once found, this resonating part of the environment is then used a point of departure to make a personal art work, using pen or crayons and paper, found natural objects; the art work can also be a piece of writing such as a story or poem. The choice is free. If time allows (there should not be time pressure), the participants gather again and those who want show their art work to the others and tell about it.

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