March 23rd centaurs were fortunate to spend a day with Nancy Hugo, arborist and author from Virginia. Her book Seeing Trees highlights the stages of trees, up close photography and the intelligence of trees. As we settle into our first year of being in our new building that includes a landscape full of trees to roam, I was thankful to read that Nancy Hugo is pretty local and was excited for her visit to launch our observation of trees.
Earlier in March we took students out on two occasions to sketch. The evergreens were full of color and texture but many of our new trees were at the very beginning of their life cycle. On the first observation of what we thought was a tulip tree near the basketball court with bare limbs, students captured the lines, height, thickness and thinness of branches. The second observation led us to believe the tree could be a tulip tree because of its tiny red buds. But on the third observation with Nancy Hugo, the nick-named “non-tulip tree” was actually an American Elm! Nancy’s reassurance that the excitement of not knowing & naming your own tree is just the right way to start learning about trees.
Our students impressed us with their readiness to drop and draw at the trunk of any tree. Their magnifying lenses captured details of the delicate fuzz, their sharp eye defined the shading of seeing a darker seed like shape inside and one student imagined using the shape as a pattern for a dress! We are so excited to see the next stage of growth after spring break.
To open the experience of observing trees, we also considered how we are like trees “We can stand tall, but sometimes need to bend” and “Be a shelter to a stranger or a friend”.
In a choice based studio classroom, all students used the first 15 minutes of two studio classes for tree observation then determined if they would like to continue or work on an artwork in progress. During Nancy’s visit, we used the entire class to make three stops American Elm, American Sycamore and Red Bud Tree. A new beginning of trees to see!