School gardens can be a source of natural art materials to facilitate the development of classroom learning.

The educational benefits of working with nature develop children’s problem solving skills, and enhance their adaptability, confidence, and intellectual stimulation (Carol Duffy, Childhood Specialist, Ireland).¬†Bringing the school garden indoors can develop environments that bring children in contact with their natural world. Recent research proposes that exposure to the outdoors reduces anxiety and enhances learning (Dr. Dorothy Matthews, American Society for Microbiology).

“By bolstering children’s attention resources, green spaces may enable children to think more clearly and cope more effectively with life stress.” Engagement with natural settings has been linked to a child’s ability to focus, and enhances cognitive abilities. Nearby nature is a buffer for anxiety and adversity in children (Dr. Nancy Wells, Cornell University, New York).

Encouraging children’s sense of wonder with nature, influences positively on their capacity to learn in all subject areas. It is vital for classrooms to include nature, as a means of stimulating learning (Richard Louv, Author).

The photos were taken at St. Colman’s Abbey Education Centre in Newry, County Down, Northern Ireland. Where students worked to create a ceiling installation composed of sewn muslin, sheep’s wool, pine needles and branches. They also explored poems dedicated to the many aspects of winter light – mist, early dusk, candlelight, firelight, and the light qualities of cloudy, snowy and frosty days. The project was called Poetry of Earth and it was funded by Sticky Fingers Early Years Arts.

Collecting natural materials from the school garden, and school trips can develop creative spaces within the classroom for children to renew their sense of wonder, amidst the routine of classroom learning. For many children, creating a space for their imagination can help with learning in a variety of subjects. This is more than just bringing in contributions to the nature table, it’s about a chance to create an area of focus in order to refresh perceptions and renew a sense of curiosity about the world.