Near the end of my student teaching placement at Nootka Elementary School a couple months ago, I did a sequence of fabric collage lessons with a 3rd Grade class who had been working with a really exciting urban agriculture program called Growing Chefs: Chefs for Urban Agriculture. Before working with these students, I had visited their classroom a few times and had noticed that they were growing an incredible array of edible plants on their window sills. Their teacher explained to me that through Growing Chefs her class had been working with volunteer chefs who visited them every two weeks, helping the students plant and tend to their own indoor vegetable garden. When they visited, the chefs would engage the students in activities and games focusing on plant growth, local and urban agriculture, sustainability, and nutrition. The idea was that the students would eventually harvest their vegetables, and the chefs would then teach them to cook healthy meals with the plants that they had grown.
Whenever I visited the class, the students were always eager to show me their flourishing plants, and I decided to tie my art lessons with them into this exciting classroom work. In my sequence, I first had the students complete small exploration fabric collages, in which they experimented with combining texture, colour, and pattern in different ways. Most of the students had never made collages before, so this was a great chance for them to practice their cutting and gluing skills.
We then talked about the different types of plants that they had been growing, the different parts of plants, and all of the different textures that are found on plants. They then made their own collaged plants to add to a collaborative garden. The students were really invested in the activity, and it was great to see them working together to embellish their class collage with no prompting from myself. They worked intently to add thoughtful details such as clouds, insects, birds, and grass. When completed, the collage was hung on their classroom wall and was a lovely accent to their real-life garden.