The Intrigue of Leaves

Leaves hold an amazing amount of intrigue for my Kindergarten artists — and for me! I love collecting leaves as I hike, especially knowing I’m going to share them with my artists. I purposefully look for leaves that have a lovely color, an interesting shape, or an exaggerated size (large or small).

When I come in with my stash of leaves, I am always greeted with a plethora of questions and comments.

  • Ooooh! Where’d you get those?
  • They’re so BIG (or small).
  • What are you going to do with them ?
  • Can I touch them?
  • Can I have this one?

    More questions, comments, oohs and aahhs, and claiming of leaves, come as I explain, “We’re going to paint them.”

The intrigue gets to a fever pitch as I pull out our antique paper press.

The circle of Kindergartners tighten in around me and the press. Their curiosity is peaked, and they have more questions.

  • Ooooh! What’s that?
  • What are you going to do with that?
  • Why are you doing that?
  • Can I do it?

I tell them it’s a press, and we’re going to use it to press the leaves so that they will dry flat instead of curled and wrinkly. I explain a few safety issues, and let everyone take a turn loading leaves and paper towels, and cranking the press tight. The burning question becomes: “Can we paint them NOW?” I respond: “Nope, they need to stay in the press until tomorrow.”

“This is going to be an exercise in patience.” I say only to myself.

Finally tomorrow arrives. We open the press and extract the leaves. The Kindergartners are mesmerized by the intense flatness of each leaf. The gently sort through the leaves and choose their favorites.

We paint the leaves using paint markers. The markers allow the artists to more easily add detail. I join them at the table with my own favorite leaf. Sometimes they are very talkative — admiring each others work. At other moments they are silent, eyes, mind, and hands intent on creating the perfect piece of leaf art. The structure of the leaf sometimes guides their design, at other times, they approach the leaf as more of a blank canvas. Always, the uniqueness of painting a leaf — versus a piece of paper — grabs their attention and interest.

I’m fascinated by the way photos — intentionally taken — remove the smallness of the Kindergartners. Instead their hands could the the hands of any aged artist. I love that.

I decided to take photos that highlighted their leaf art. I processed the photos to remove the saturation and color from the background leaving their leaves as the stars, while still including a bit of information about each artist.

When you have leaves available to you, give this a try. It’s a fun activity that is filled with opportunity for exploration, learning, trying, collaborating, creating, and growing as artists and a community. Oh! And if you ever have the change to pick up an old paper press on the cheap –grab it! The possibilities in the classroom are endless.

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