Let’s celebrate nature and create outdoor art with these forest school mandala activities.
Forest school mandala activities
What is a mandala?
A mandala is a circular symbol, often seen in Hinduism and Buddhism, which represents the universe.
It can be used as a focus for meditation, and making one is very calming and centring.
You can use any materials you like to make a mandala, indoors or outside.
They often use symmetry, repeating patterns, fractions and concentric designs, making them a wonderfully creative way to play with math concepts.
Outdoor art projects in forest school
Taking art outdoors is a wonderful way to celebrate nature’s beauty and make use of the natural materials available in your garden classroom or forest school.
Handling natural materials speaks to our senses and gives us a tactile connection with the environment.
By spending time creating the circles and patterns involved in a mandala, we are encouraged to slow down, pay close attention to the materials we are using, and have a direct connection between us and our environment.
How to use mandalas in forest schools
A mandala can be a solo or collaborative project.
It can be a simple daily ritual, or a detailed, elaborate project.
You could make a mandala as an art-meets-math lesson.
Create a mandala as part of an opening ceremony at the beginning of a new term.
Make a series of mandalas using seasonal materials in the spring, summer, autumn, and winter.
You can also use mandalas as a guide and tool to mark transitions, to commemorate people and events.
How to make an outdoor mandala
Gather materials from the natural environment, and use them to create a circular design.
You can begin with one circle, drawn on a sheet, drawn with chalk on the ground, made from a ring of leaves or pebbles, or around a hula hoop.
You might like to lay out four leaves, rocks or flowers at stations around the circle to denote north, south, east and west. Or set out a line of leaves or twigs in a ring.
Then begin to fill in your mandala.
You can add additional rings of materials, in bigger and smaller concentric circles around your original ring.
You can explore symmetry, both mirror and radial, and create repeating patterns of items around your circles.
If you are working in pairs or as a group, each person could be invited to create a new ring, one after another, as you grow your mandala larger and larger.
Think about the colours, shapes, sizes and textures of the materials you use, and create you own unique design.
Materials to use for mandala making
Decide first what guidelines you have for collecting materials from your environment.
Will you only use fallen items or will you pick from trees and plants?
How much material do you want to collect?
Be sure everyone joining in is clear about any plants or materials to avoid touching, and remind your children about the rules you have in place about tasting any items.
Items from the forest classroom or garden classroom which are good to use for mandalas can include:
:: leaves, both fresh and dried
More ideas for making mandalas
Take a look at these mandala activities from NurtureStore’s archive for more ideas:
Clay faces – which can be adapted to create mandala designs
You can find printable mandala sheets in my Amazing Play Dough Printables Pack, which act as a guide to starting your circles and using symmetry in your design.
Free Forest School and Garden Classroom resources!
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Seasons School is NurtureStore's year-round program of living and learning with nature. Our activities and resources focus on hands-on, nature-based learning that connects children with the natural environment.
If you're looking for nature study lessons, arts and craft projects, campfire recipes, foraging ideas, outdoor math and literacy activities, outdoor games, and ways to explore forests, gardens, and outdoor spaces - think of NurtureStore as your forest fairy godmother!
Whether you're in a forest school or outdoor classroom, running a school gardening club, bringing nature lessons into your class, home educating with nature, or wanting to connect with the great outdoors at the weekend, you will love the Seasons School ideas.
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