artists were also able to make connections to spiral and concentric forms
seen in everyday life, such as in snails,
conch seashells, the human eye, or the
center of a tree trunk.
Collecting as Preparation
I asked students to gather natural
materials on their own after school,
around where they lived. I suggested
looking for small objects such as twigs,
pinecones, shells, leaves, petals, and
pine needles, all of which needed to be
small enough to fit into a quart-size
plastic bag. I encouraged them to find
materials that were on the ground
rather than breaking them off from living plants. Students brought back their
bags filled with natural objects, ready
to make site-specific sculptures.
We headed for the beach early one
morning right after the park service
groomed it, leaving us a pristine canvas. To start our activity, I gathered
students and reviewed the forms they
had seen in artworks by Goldsworthy
and Smithson. I asked students to draw
spirals or concentric lines into the
sand, using their finger like a pencil.
They used the objects from their bags
to embellish their sand drawings.
I asked students about what would
happen if we left their artwork on the
beach. They responded, “The water
would come and take it away!” I shared
that this was a dilemma Goldsworthy
faced as an artist who made tempo-
rary artworks in nature. He had to
deal with wind, rain, snow, and ice,
all of which are temporary and chang-
ing. But this was what he loved about
working in nature. I then explained
that, to share his work with others,
Goldsworthy would take photographs
of it. He documented his forms so that
others could see his often temporary
We used our school’s digital cameras
to document artworks. My husband,
who is a teacher and photographer,
shared some photography tips on site.
He taught students how to focus their
images before taking the picture and
encouraged them to fill the frame. He
demonstrated how to stand tall when
taking their photos and to avoid what
they didn’t want (such as their feet) in
I printed out nametags for each
student, and we included them in the
photographs to identify each student’s
work. Students took turns using the
cameras to document their artworks.
Once students had photographed their
artworks, they picked up their objects
and put them back into the bags. I then
gathered the group on the beach once
again to discuss what they had made.
The following week I returned to
the classroom with students’ photographs of their artworks. They were
very excited and wanted to share their
accomplishments with each other. We
put their photographs on the board
alongside images by Smithson and
Goldsworthy. In looking at the work
together, students were able to use new
vocabulary to describe and create collaborations with nature or their everyday surroundings.
Don’t teach near a beach? No problem!
This lesson can be done in a sand box
on the school playground, in grassy
areas, or you can even bring nature
into the classroom. I have worked
with preschoolers to bring nature to
them like Smithson did in some of his
works. In one lesson, we used soda box
trays filled with sand.
Aileen Pugliese Castro was a visual arts
instructor at Arts Umbrella (teaching outreach at Lord Roberts Elementary School)
in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
Students select and use the qualities
of structures and functions of art to
improve communication of their ideas.