In 2016, our fourth graders at the Presidio Hill School made weekly visits to a local nature preserve to learn of the site’s rich history, replant native plant communities, and create nature-inspired art. The experience fostered a sense of ownership and responsibility for this natural reprieve so close to their urban campus, and became a centerpiece of their fourth grade year.
As the season saw birds migrate, native plants bloom, and local animals thrive over the winter and spring, they became invested in the restoration project and determined to use their art to make a lasting and meaningful impact. They came up with the idea of creating a comprehensive field guide to the Park, and worked as a class to bring their vision to life. Each student researched a plant, bird, or animal species native to the area, and rendered two drawings in full color, learning specific blending techniques with color pencils to achieve implied texture and capture the characteristic details of their subjects. To further inspire the students, I brought in a Bay Area expert, artist Kelly Murphy, who shared insights from her career in scientific illustration and graciously mentored the students on the project.
The final field guides were magnificent works of art, not to mention functional tools, that were donated to the Presidio National Park for future 4th graders and park visitors to use during their visits.