DerryNews.com, Derry, New Hampshire

October 10, 2013

Londonderry school enjoys nature lessons

Artist-in-residence widens students' world

By Julie Huss
jhuss@derrynews.com

---- — LONDONDERRY — They are making their garden grow and learning all about art in the process.

Students at South Elementary School are enjoying lessons in nature under the guidance of visiting artist-in-resident Cynthia Robinson.

The Moultonborough-based artist has been at South School for several weeks, teaching all grade levels about nature and the art they can find there.

The school’s outdoor garden courtyard served as a natural classroom while Robinson led the lessons, including how to find space and shapes in the natural landscape and how to create a window of greenery, flowers and other outdoor assers.

Robinson’s visit was made possible partially through a New Hampshire State Council for the Arts grant and through other South School fundraising efforts, including the school’s “Art to Remember” program where parents can purchase items bearing their child’s artwork.

South Elementary art teacher Marcia Connors said having Robinson at the school has been good for engaging students in the art of nature in the garden.

“The kids just love to be out here,” Connors said.

One morning last week, Robinson was teaching students about space, value and how shapes of all types can be found outdoors.

Students then wandered on their own or in groups to search out garden space to create a drawing.

“When I come out here, it lets my mind wander,” 10-year-old Jesse Baldwin said. “It makes me feel good and free.”

The fifth-grader sat quietly with his sketchbook, studying a nearby perennial and an autumn pumpkin display arranged nearby.

His classmates scattered among the garden area, some near a far wall, others standing along a pond complete with fish and turtles.

Emma Strangman, 10, was interested in the pond for her sketching exercise.

“I love the fresh air, the plants and the fish,” she said.

Her friend Alexandra Kelly, also 10, used her small viewfinder to scope out the perfect scene.

“We can pick anything to do,” she said. “I think I’m going to draw the waterfall and the turtle.”

Robinson said she has visited many schools to teach her nature lessons and South School’s garden was one of the most extensive and pretty garden areas.

“This is an anomaly,” she said. “This is a great opportunity and what a resource it is for the school.”

The garden also helps students be calm, creative and receptive to learning.

“Outside in nature, the pattern completely shifts,” Robinson said.

Connors said South Elementary is very proud of the garden and all the experiences students can get while being in the space to learn.