Artfully Outdoorsy in the Montessori Room: Realistic Leaf Drawing from the Botany Cabinet!


Let's draw "African Blue" basil today!

All photos in the post are by Carolyn at Magical Movement Company

Recently, I have been so enjoying drawing herbs with Kelly Johnson at Wings, Worms & Wonder. I actually won a place on the class list for her eCourse. (One of the best things I've ever won!) You can check out Kelly's wonderful resources by clicking here: Herb Workshop.

One of the herbs I am learning to draw in the class is Shiso, or Japanese Basil. I didn't have Japanese Basil growing in my garden, but I found a big pot of African Blue Basil at my Health Food Store yesterday and so I got to work on my drawing with an actual specimen! 

While I was drawing, I thought about how young children might be able to draw a realistic rendition of this plant. I went straight to the Montessori Botany Cabinet and found a puzzle inset that matched the leave shape of this beautiful looking (and smelling!) herb. 

I decided to try this out using a sprig from my basil plant, some nice drawing paper,  and a simple set of children's colored pencils that would be found in the Montessori classroom. 

From my herb drawing class, I am learning how to really examine the leaves (and flowers) of a plant and this basil plant has these fabulous purple veins that are very fun to re-create on paper!

Even the stems and underside of the leaves of this basil plant are a nice earthy shade of purple. Just beautiful with the green of the main part of the leaf! (called the "blade" or "lamina")

Since this is the season for noticing the leaves on the trees, I decided to collect some leaves in my yard and then match, identify, and draw them, Montessori-style!

I set up a variety of leaves on a pretty shiny steel tray and then proceeded to find the leaf shape inset in the Montessori Botany cabinet. This is a very appealing way to set up a seasonal shelf work that children are always attracted to! In our Montessori classroom, children often brought in leaves from their yards and they would be added to our leaf tray for further investigation and eventually making a drawing.

Then, I realized why Kelly (Wings, Worms, & Wonder) writes so often about keeping a "Nature Journal." When I got to tracing these leaf shapes and then coloring them in...I decided I just had to keep them in a beautiful little book! 

Watch for my upcoming post about making a Nature Journal with Kelly Johnson's ideas! You can have my blog posts delivered directly to your inbox by subscribing here: Magical Movement Company Subscribe. 

Then, I looked through all my leaf and tree books to figure out the names of the plants the leaves were from and found yet another outdoorsy/ artsy avenue for learning through the art of play!

I found the little card guide, California Trees & Wildflowers very helpful (see photo above) and realized I could add this to my bag that I keep in my car for trips to the beach or the woods! I have some simple drawing supplies, nature guides and a pair of binoculars in that bag. I always take it with me when I go for walks on the beach near my home. You can read more about what children can learn at the beach by clicking on this post:Beach Exploration: The Outdoor Classroom at its Best! 

I also discovered a fabulous Kindle book, The Book of Leaves: A Leaf by Leaf Guide To Six Hundred of the World's Great Trees.   I have it downloaded on my little iPad mini so I can carry it along when I go on nature excursions in the future. 

Here's the link for that book: Amazon Kindle Site

You might also like my post about young children making beautiful still life drawings from the harvest of the Children's Garden in our Montessori Outdoor Classroom.

You can find that post by clicking here: Summer Time Art in the Montessori Classroom!

I am so happy to have you visit my blog and hope you got some inspiration for your arty, outdoorsy Montessori adventures! Please leave a comment if you like...I love hearing your ideas!

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