The Pennsylvania State University

School of Visual Arts

Nature Love: Building in the Woods


How might young children form relationships with nature through art? Rebecca Brittain Taudien (’09 MS), current Ph.D. candidate in Penn State School of Visual Arts’ Art Education program, explores this question through her dissertation research.  As part of her dissertation, Taudien has been working with three-to-five-year-old children from the Sky House classroom over the past year-and-a-half, investigating what comes to matter when young children relate to and engage with nature through art.

Nature Love: Building in the Woods, an art exhibition recently on display at The Child Care Center at Hort Woods, featured the art of the Sky House classroom’s students. The works on display, a documentation of collaboration between the artists and nature, were created in the forest of Hort Woods, adjacent to the child care center on campus.  Through an emergent curriculum, children used found natural objects in the woods as well as natural art materials, such as charcoal and clay, to create their site-specific artworks.  They then documented their art through photography. 

The children selected the title for and curated the exhibition; each child chose his or her three favorite photographs to have on display and provided titles for the works.  As curators, they handwrote the signs, including the title for their show, and collected natural objects, such as leaves, acorns, and sticks, to include as part of the exhibition.  The art was hung at a height appropriate for children since the target audience was the children themselves.  The creation of the art and the exhibition demonstrates the importance of including children as collaborators by giving them agency as artists and curators of their own artwork.

Photos courtesy of the young artists.

Flower Muddy GerderSnowman