Identify Sculptures

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Lesson Summary:

This lesson explores our personal connections to the natural world throughsculpture. Students will use natural objects and/or bodies to create an art piecethat represents a part of their identity. Pieces may contain biotic components,abiotic components, or both.


Students will be able to…

  • Explain the meaning and importance of identity
  • Examine their personal connection within the natural world
  • Use natural materials to create a piece of ephemeral artwork
  • Identify which parts of the environment are biotic and which are abiotic


Formative: At the beginning of the week, during your community agreement, ask students to find a natural object that represents a part of them. Explain that each natural object must be no bigger than their hand and must be something that won’t miss its home if we carry it with us for the week. Each object will be placed inside of a bandana to represent our team for the week. This is a great introduction to the idea of natural objects symbolizing parts of ourselves.

Some great questions to ask before or during the lesson are as follows. What does identity mean? What are some examples of an identity that some of us might have? Do we share any identities?

Summative: Students will have the opportunity to share what their sculpture represents for the rest of the field group. Ask students to draw their sculpture on a blank page of their notebook and include a description of what their piece symbolizes. Can students identify which parts of their piece are biotic and which parts are abiotic?

Age Group: 3rd-12th grade


Venue(s):  Any Outdoor Space with an abundance of natural materials and room to spread out.


Materials: Andy Goldsworthy Book, pencils, journals


Duration:  1 hour

The lesson:


If possible, create an Andy Goldsworthy type sculpture beforehand in your outdoor classroom. Here are some examples of his work (


After students have explored the space a bit ask them to have a seat. Ask students to look around the area and point out any part of the space that sticks out to them. If the instructor sculpture is in a visible area and sticks out, students may have asked what it is or pointed it out during their exploration. Ask “How do you think it got there?”


Explain to students that you made the sculpture and that it is a method of art used by a famous artist named Andy Goldsworthy. Show students the Andy Goldsworthy book, particularly highlighting pages where is uses the types of ecosystem that you are currently in (leaves for a forest ecosystem, sand/rocks for the harbor). Instruct students that they will be in charge of making their own sculpture but that, like many pieces of art, it is going to represent something.

Use formative assessment questions to begin conversation about identity. After having a conversation about identity and having several student examples, give your own example by explaining the meaning behind your sculpture. For example, I created a tiny covering over a nook in some tree roots using cedar branches. This represented my time as a Boy Scout where I once had to make a similar shelter using sticks and leaves. I explained who my identity as a scout was very important to me because it is what made me fall in love with the outdoors.

After students have seen your sculpture, explain that they must make their own sculpture that represents a part of their identity (Make sure to be clear that this sculpture is only representing a part of their identity rather than their whole identity. It can be overwhelming for students to try to fit their whole lives into a tiny art piece). Have students to sit silently and think about a part of their identity that they view as important. Once students have had time to think let them know that they will have the opportunity to share what the sculpture represents with the whole group. Explain that they don’t need to explain the meaning if they don’t want to, but they must present a sculpture to the group.

Offer the Andy Goldsworthy book for any students that are having trouble feeling inspired, and release those that are ready to go. If students aren’t sure how to begin, instruct them to go walk around and see if anything around them gives them inspiration. Float around to all of the students to ensure they are creating something.


  • Once students have had time to create their pieces (15-30 minutes depending on the group), call everyone back together. Explain that will go to each person’s sculpture one by one. Once you choose a student to go first, choose pieces that are nearby so there isn’t a lot of walking back and forth. Remind students to respectfully listen to each person’s presentation.
  • Here are some potential debrief questions.
  1. Did you use mostly biotic or abiotic elements while making your piece?
  2. What was something you learned about one of your classmates that you didn’t know before?
  3. Did you learn anything about yourself while making you sculpture?

Transfer of Learning

  • Are there any examples of art inspired from nature in your home community?
  • Could you make any art pieces using things found in the natural spaces where you live?



  • This lesson leads nicely into a baskets lesson. Vi Hilbert’s baskets in the Great Hall are woven from a natural material (cedar bark) are most tell stories related to the identities of those who made them. This is a great connection to explain how humans have been using natural materials to tell stories about their identities/culture for hundreds/thousands of years.
  • Weaving our Community Together




Created by {Criqui} on {3/26}.