Nature-Based Arts And Crafts

One of the most magical aspects of summer camp is that it opens a child’s eyes to a world of nature filled with artistic opportunities that cannot be experienced anywhere else. As traditional camp professionals, we want to offer children the opportunity to become fully immersed in the present moment and enjoy nature by allowing them to use their imaginations without the use of technology. Camp Birch Hill in New Durham, N.H., takes pride in giving campers a genuine camp experience by designing a schedule that is focused on outdoor recreation. The Fine Arts program encourages projects that are ecologically friendly, and uses materials from natural environments. Teaching children about sustainability and the value of looking after the environment is important; incorporating these lessons into art classes can make learning about them fun.

One of the many ways we like to encourage nature-based play is through arts and crafts. Our arts pavilion is an open-air structure with a roof, four supply closets, and no walls. Nestled among pines and birch trees, the pavilion is the perfect place to relax, make art, and enjoy the fresh air and greenery—rain or shine. During the daily schedule, campers are running around for a large portion of the time. Creating an environment in which they do something with their hands is a fantastic way to balance things out. 

There are many things to consider when planning arts-and-crafts activities for the summer. What are the associated costs? What materials are needed? Will campers have a finished product at the end of each class? Is the class age-appropriate? In the next section, I’ve listed some of the favorite nature-based art projects and provided a simple guide on how to make each item. For more detailed step-by-step processes and various ways to create each activity, visit our Pinterest page in the Camp Craft section at www.pinterest.com/birchhillcamp.

Before beginning any project, be sure to have all of the supplies ready.

Pet Rocks

Part of the fun of decorating pet rocks is searching for the rocks. Take the arts-and-crafts class on an adventure to find the perfect-sized rocks. Then head back to the classroom and give them a wash. They are now ready to be painted and dressed up however each camper desires. Some suggested materials are paint, paintbrushes, googly eyes, feathers, pipe cleaners, stickers, grass, leaves, and twigs. Once finished, these beautiful works of art bring color and imagination to any environment. They are a fun cabin accessory and a great souvenir to take home.

Dream Catchers

Dream catchers are another camper favorite. Start by taking a class on an adventure to find one-foot long, bendable twigs to make a circle. During this activity, take the opportunity to demonstrate to campers the right way to respect nature. Then head back to the classroom to begin weaving. Having a sample of the particular project really inspires children to work hard at their own because they are able to visualize what they can create from their materials. Also, note that some campers may need extra assistance, depending on their age (e.g., making a hoop from their twigs to be sure the ends are overlapping). It is often empowering for older campers to help younger ones with their projects. For the next step, wrap a thin piece of wire around the ends to secure it in place. Next, cut a few feet of wool, twine, string, or any kind of material that will allow for a webbing design. Tie one end of the wool to the twig hoop, string a few beads onto the wool, and push the beads toward the tied end. Then wrap the wool around the other side of the hoop, string a few more beads on the wool, and wrap the wool around the far side of the hoop. Repeat this until there is an interesting webbing design. Lastly, tie a short length of wool on the hoop and string a bead or two on it; then tie a feather onto the end. Repeat this a few times to get the desired look. 

Paint A Pot, Plant A Seed

For an eco-friendly, fun, and educational craft, Paint a Pot, Plant a Seed can be used. In this activity, campers use small terra-cotta pots or old tin cans (making sure to puncture holes in the bottom for water to escape). First, have the class design their pots using materials such as paint, glitter, buttons, googly eyes, or pom-poms. Second, they can use soil and seeds from the local plant shop or each camper can plant his or her own seed. Take this opportunity to teach the class about looking after their plants. This gives them something to take home after camp so they can continue to watch the plants grow.

Respecting the environment while also creating a harmonious environment for campers are challenges for any successful arts-and-crafts program. Whether out in nature or sitting at a glitter-stained table, participants can be shown that camp is a symbol of life, creativity, and most importantly—fun. They will take their artwork home to remind them of camp all year long.

Sarah Ferguson is the Social Media/Photographer/Director at Camp Birch Hill in New Durham, N.H. Reach her at bellalunaluz@gmail.com.