Kids love to collect rocks. They love to play and experiment with them. Incorporate them into their learning with this hands-on activity. Rocks are a simple material that can be used for a nature art outdoor learning activity and even brought inside for math or art centers. We grabbed our collection of pea stones for this easy art, math and nature learning activity.
As a teacher and mom, I love all of the learning possibilities for this activity and all of the hands-on play and exploring that happens. Spend some time outside to collect the stones, and then bring them inside to explore and create with or stay outside and make it an outdoor learning activity using nature.
The great thing about using stones to create art and do math is that it is virtually free and it is an easy way to get kids outside exploring nature. If you are looking for more easy ways to take learning and play outside, visit my 63+ Outdoor Learning Activities post.
A free hundreds chart is available, a link is at the bottom of the post. The chart provides an easy way to incorporate math into your activity and I have included some activity ideas using the hundreds chart below.
Since this activity includes using small stones, make sure that any children doing the activity are developmentally at an age that they do not put small objects into their mouths. The small stones can pose a choking hazard.
Nature Art Outdoor Learning Activity Materials
You don’t need much for this outdoor learning activity. All you need is:
- 100+ small stones
- Baggies or Paint Brushes
- Hundreds Chart (Available through Hands-On Teaching Ideas below)
Start by printing off the hundreds chart if you plan to use it. One copy can be printed for each child doing the activity. Give children some time to get their hands on the stones and time to simply play and become familiar with the rocks.
Challenge children to count and line up their collection of stones. This is a great opportunity for discussion and learning as they play. Ask questions such as:
- How many stones do you have?
- Can you line up all the stones on the 100 chart?
- Which stone is the biggest?
- Which stone is your favorite? Why?
- Can you sort the stones by color?
- Can you sort the stones by size?
- Try sorting the stones by shape?
Having these discussions encourages children to distinguish between the stones and look closely at them. There is also math built into these questions as children sort and classify their stones.
Preparing Your Nature Art
Once children have had time to explore their stones, you can choose to paint them. The idea of painting 100 individual rocks wasn’t appealing to me, so I have shared a trick that I use when I have a lot to paint.
This is also a fun way for children to be involved in the painting since it is quick, easy and virtually mess free!
Start by adding a few rocks to a bag. I painted 10 rocks at a time each color of the rainbow. Add as many rocks as you want of the first color to the bag. Squirt a bit of the paint you want onto the rocks in the bag to be, fill the bag with air, seal and shake.
If the color doesn’t show up very well, a coating of white paint on the rocks first will help. Put all of the rocks in a bag and squirt white paint onto the rocks, fill the bag with air, seal it and shake. You will paint all of your rocks in under a minute!
Once you shake the bag and the rocks are all covered, empty the wet rocks onto a surface to dry (wax paper works well). Let dry and then put a few rocks at a time into a bag with whatever paint color you want to cover them with.
Once they are all dry, you will have a beautiful collection of colorful stones. You can choose to do any colors you want and as many of each color you would like.
Nature Art Outdoor Learning Activity
Once you have all of your stones ready, it is time to create! There are a few ways that you can present this nature art project to children. One way is to give them the materials and challenge them to create something specific, such as a flower, person or a specific setting.
Watch them as they create and problem solve to make certain shapes and designs using the stones.
However, I personally prefer to let children choose what they want to create. By simply supplying the materials it gives children the freedom to create anything their imagination comes up with. Also when children are given choice they will often become more focused and engaged in what they make since it was their idea.
When I did this activity, I simply gave children all of the stones and a hard surface to create on and let them make anything they wanted to.
The materials can be used countless times and I love the fact that I can get the stones out again and again and let children create. You can provide the hundreds chart, or just a flat surface.
The hundreds chart can be laminated and used over and over again with the stones. It makes a great outdoor learning activity center.
If you aren’t planning on using the stones again for more activities, you can also provide glue for children to secure the stones down to paper, cardstock paper or cardboard works best, and then keep their nature art all stuck together once dry.
Math Outdoor Learning Activity
Although the colorful stones work wonderfully for nature art projects, you can reuse the materials for hands-on math activities.
I love using these rocks to give children the opportunity to create beautiful pieces of nature art, but I also like the idea of using the rocks for other things. The rocks can very easily be used for math centers and activities. I’ve included a few ways to integrate math into this nature art outdoor learning activity.
Once you have printed the hundreds chart, encourage children to count, and fill the chart. Challenge them to make 10 lines of 10 with different stones. Below they are sorted by color, but children can sort the stones, even if the stones are not painted, by sorting the biggest stones on the bottom row and organizing them by size with the smallest stones in the top row.
Nature Art Outdoor Learning Art Activity Math + Art
Depending on the colors of rocks you have provided for the children, you can also give them the hundreds chart and challenge them to create a picture using 100 stones to fill the chart.
Below a child has started creating grass and trees, a flowers and a butterfly, using their stones. They could fill in the background to make their photo include 100 stones. Or they can leave it and simply fill some of the squares.
There are lots of things you can do with the hundreds chart and the stones. Make your math lesson hands-on by giving children a number (100 or less) and have them show the number on the chart using the stones. For example, 30 would be represented by filling 3 rows.
You can also have two piles of different colored rocks for children to choose from. Practice simple addition, by starting with a number, such as 15 and adding 9. Children show the 15 with one color and the 9 with another color. Then they see the total of the two colors together.
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More Hands-On Activities
If you enjoyed the nature art outdoor learning activity, then you may also like the activities below. From more nature art ideas and outdoor STEM activities to hands-on sensory paint and a backyard escape room, there is lots to keep kids busy and learning.