Land Ho, Island Explorers!

Posted by on Oct 25, 2016 in Art Classes, drawing, Illustration, Peaks Island | 5 comments

The Peaks Island Elementary School, also known as PIES, is brimming with curiosity even after the bell rings. I’m excited to share the latest Side x Side project I’m working on with fellow teaching artist, Pamela Moulton, as part of the school’s After School Academy.


This arts integration is based upon one we did at Ocean Avenue Elementary School this past spring. Who knew geomorphology could be so much FUN?

We kicked it off in theatrical style, thanks to Pamela’s bounty of hand-crafted costumes.

Pamela and her performance collaborator, Sharoan Cohen, brought loud squeals from the students as they emerged from a special package from Professor Pitcher, an Earth Sciences researcher in need of assistance. They took questions from the kids and their intrepid leader, Jonathan Downs.


We shared a visual presentation of land forms in photography and painting.


Everybody wanted to get into the act!


Are kids always this angelic after school? Yes, and no!


For the next visit, I made sketchbooks for the explorers. Drawing is the first step in sharp observational studies.


We began outside, drawing any natural thing that caught our fancy.


For some kids, this meant getting INTO a tree to draw.


For another, it meant drawing a leaf turned brilliant red.


We returned to the art room to open another package from the Professor.


WOW. A big hunk of sparkle! Quite a few explorers identified this: micah!


There was more to see and touch, and magnify.


I love the sound of drawing.




The attention to detail, to placement on the page, to color contrasts of warm and cool…all landed intuitively within their sketchbooks.


The following week, another letter arrived from Professor Pitcher. She teaches at the University of Toronto, and is studying deep fissures in the Earth’s crust. While on Peaks Island during the summer, she collected some island rocks. As she ran for a ferry, she was unable to carry them all.


She included photos of our island’s land forms, like cove, peninsula, pond, and cliff.


Island Explorers set out with the mission to find her hidden package!


Two right turns, and four manhole covers, and one big driftwood log later…


Just at the edge of the high tide, tucked under a house..was a very old leather pocketbook. Full of rocks.


It was time to draw the findings.


Maybe even identify a few.


We returned to the art room where Pamela enlarged an island map drawing found in the Professor’s bag. Everyone was eager to help with mapping.


They took turns tracing the outline of Peaks Island.


There were spools of thread and tape to add to the mix.


A blue and green coastline emerged.


Quick eyes spotted the similarity: thumbs up, Island Explorers!


Tomorrow they will seek more knowledge while building sculptures for a 3D prototype of island land forms. Bring it on!

Many thanks to the Peaks Island Fund for supporting arts integration.






  1. This is so wonderful Jamie. Lucky kids!

  2. The whole thing is terrific! Art, science, scavenger hunt…great ideas.

  3. Great! The color pencils look great on the color paper. Nice sketchbooks! Great program. Looks like the weather was great too.

  4. Fantastic! Echoes of Nature Lab at RISD!

    • Rika, I carry that RISD Nature Lab forever in my heart!

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