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Teaching with the Great Outdoors

by Joe FusaroMay 27, 2020 1:37:06 total runtime

With so many places closed to the public these days, one that remains available is the great outdoors. While certain parks or public spaces have closed, others are open for everyone to get a little fresh air or exercise. In the streets outside our homes, we see our neighbors more often than we used to.

Our students have transformed areas in their homes into places that they use for learning and schoolwork each day, and increasingly educators are looking toward getting students more physically engaged, in learning outdoors as well as indoors. Featured here are seven artists who find ways to work in—or work for—the benefit of the great outdoors. Each artist finds ways to weave an individual practice with natural elements and utilizes nature to realize certain ideas.

In one film, Mark Dion takes us through the life cycle of a fallen hemlock tree, and he brings this gigantic “nurse log” to Seattle in order to create an endlessly teachable moment: Neukom Vivarium. Sarah Sze follows her sensibilities to the High Line in Manhattan for a special installation that feeds and houses the birds of New York City. Notice how her signature style—which includes using movement, angular lines, and interconnected forms—plays out in a work that serves as a functional habitat.

Whether one is looking for artists who record the majesty and history of particular places (as Rackstraw Downes and David Goldblatt have done) or seeking artists who engage with public spaces in ways that are unexpected (such as Robin Rhode), this is a collection that presents broad possibilities for learning from contemporary artists working in and with the great outdoors.

Read how Joe teaches with this playlist in his classroom.