Photo Contributed Inspired by nature students Ruby Woo,left, Isabelle Ramos, Catherine Shrubshall and Lucas De Souza Pedro from the High School at Vancouver Island University put their artwork up for sale to raise money for a camping trip that will help expand their understanding of the natural world.

Vancouver Island University high school students inspired by nature

Students expand knowledge of natural world through art

A student art show at Vancouver Island University’s Museum of Natural History recently showcased some incredible work with nature as its theme – birds, trees, rivers, landscapes and more.

The masterpieces were created by students from the High School at VIU for a class called Inspired by Nature. Thanks to a unique approach embraced by science teacher Caitlin MacDonald and art teacher Laura Filgate, students spend four hours a week during school out in nature learning about the science of their surroundings and translating what they see and feel into art.

“We created Inspired by Nature because we wanted to come up with a way to reconnect our students to their natural world. It’s really about integrating environmental sciences and art in a way that creates a deeper, more holistic understanding of the natural world for our students,” said MacDonald.

Filgate said she “absolutely loves teaching the class” and points out, as far as she knows, the collaboration between art, science and nature that makes up the programming for Inspired by Nature is unique to the High School at VIU.

“By getting out into nature we take a break from the traditional classroom setting. When that happens we watch the kids’ excitement grow and see them become more focused and personally invested in the learning,” said Filgate. “As we challenge them to push their boundaries they begin to develop a new appreciation for the natural environment around them, which is in turn reflected through their art. It’s a new teaching approach so I am also learning by being a part of it.”

Student Isabelle Ramos said so far they’ve been exploring places around Nanaimo like Buttertubs Marsh, Nanaimo River and Neck Point Park, just to name a few.

“I really enjoy this class because it’s a really ‘chill’ environment. We go out and look at different animals, birds, flora and fauna and learn how they interact with the world,” said Ramos. “As I learn more about the natural world around me I’m finding I’m using what I’m learning in my everyday life and looking at nature in a whole new light.”

The students sold 13 of their prints at the Museum of Natural History art show, raising $260 for a class camping trip to Hornby Island. The plan is to spend three days in nature to expand on the concepts introduced by the Inspired by Nature class.

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Dane Gibson is a writer with Vancouver Island University’s communications department.

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