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Sometimes on rainy days it is a challenge to get our students outside. While I like to think that we shouldn’t let the rain stop us, sometimes it’s nice to have a cozy day inside. On the days when we are out in nature I like to collect a selection of items that can be used as inspiration on our inside days. From sticks, rocks, and leaves to abandoned shells and pinecones, an afternoon forest walk can be as good as a trip to the local craft supplies store.

Sticks are probably the most abundant thing we encounter during our nature walks, and they’re also one of the easiest to collect and store. (In fact, the stick was officially inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame in 2008, with their website claiming that “Children build with sticks … they are the original building blocks for creative play.”) Sticks can be used to create different letters of the alphabet, or to spell out students’ names as a class. Sticks are also incredibly easy to manipulate, since you can break large ones into smaller pieces, as well as place small ones together to make a single large one.

Pinecones are another favourite in my classroom. Students love the kinesthetic nature and texture of pinecones, but they also provide many opportunities for crafts. One of the most popular projects amongst my students is creating animals out of the pinecones. We made pinecone owls by pulling apart cotton balls and stuffing the fluff in-between the cracks. Not only was this fantastic practice for their fine-motor skills, some pipe-cleaner wings and beak and some googly eyes are all you need to make this pinecone into an adorable owl. To finish off this project we attached fishing line to each of the pinecone owls and hung them from a tree in our classroom, so we could enjoy them for months to come.

Not only is gathering art supplies from nature cost-effective for the classroom, it provides a solid plan-b for those inside days. Either finding a project the class can take on collectively, or simply adding these items to the communal craft supplies and seeing where their imaginations go with it.

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