Article Type Making Art Together Making Art Together Categories At Home Art Studio Collage Nature

Leaping into Leaves

Matelynn Buckley, Riley McLaughlin, Shaunna Glucksman, Tori Hosmer

We are excited to share a series of blog posts created in collaboration with the Curriculum in Early Childhood Education students at Holyoke Community College! The HCC students completed a Service Learning Project with Carle Art Educators this fall, continuing a partnership developed over the past two years. Students worked in groups to develop At Home Art Studio projects inspired by illustrations in The Carle’s online exhibition Now & Then: Contemporary Illustrators and Their Childhood Art. Students planned the projects, experimented with materials, and documented their process for the blog. The following is Matelynn Buckley, Riley McLaughlin, Shaunna Glucksman, and Tori Hosmer’s description of the project. For more information, check out this video the group made! 

Collage bird made of layered leaves.
We invite you to join us in exploring the outdoors and using the nature around us to make beautiful works of art. We hope that you get outside to collect leaves along with a variety of materials to spark your imagination. This blog blends nature and inventiveness, asking people to collage with leaves they find or make. 
Cover image of the book The Night Gardener showing a large owl topiary in front of a night sky.
Our project design was inspired by The Night Gardener written and illustrated by The Fan Brothers. The story is about a gardener who went about at night creating magnificent creatures by cutting shapes into the leaves and branches of trees to create a topiary. As the night gardener’s topiaries grew in number, the community was brought to life. The townspeople gathered each day to marvel at what new animal topiary has joined their neighborhood. We were influenced by this admiration for nature and the change of the season with the fall leaves all around us.  

We wanted to focus on collecting and arranging natural materials because it is a child-centered activity, allowing participants to make whatever they want with the materials they find. This allows for an unlimited amount of creativity. This activity enhances literacy learning as we have created prompts for discussion to promote the development of reading, speaking, and language skills. We ask questions such as, “Like the Night Gardener, what are some ways you can contribute to your community to bring people together?” or, “The author/illustrators are brothers, how can you work together with your family and friends to create art?” Each person in our group approached the project in a different way and it was so interesting to see what everyone made from their materials! 

Collage of a bird perched on a branch. The bird is made of bright red, yellow, and green leaves.

Matelynn had fun searching for leaves to make a bird sitting on a branch. She was inspired by the animals in her neighborhood to create these images using leaves, stems of leaves, and hot glue. She used scissors to trim her leaves and arranged them to look like a bird before gluing them down.  

Collage of a chipmunk made from a variety of red, yellow, and brown leaves.

This is another example of an animal that is in Matelynn’s neighborhood, a chipmunk! This project was really fun for Matelynn because she was able to find different shapes, sizes, and colors of leaves to create her project.  

Collage of a flower made with yellow leaves with a red center.

Shaunna went outside and collected a bunch of leaves that were pointed at the end to create a flower. She used a small red maple leaf for the center of her flower. Shaunna decided to just arrange the leaves on top of a paper plate instead of gluing them down.  

Collage of a face made out of drawn leaves.

Riley’s friend created a face by tracing common leaf shapes, cut them out, and positioned them to make a face. He made facial features such as eyes, eyebrows, nose, mouth, and ears from construction paper and drew inspiration from the leaves found in forested areas. 

Collage of a figure made from leaves of a variety of colors.

Riley worked with a preschooler that she babysits to create her example. She took him outside to collect leaves and they brainstormed ideas for their project. He decided he would make a “Big Mario” out of the leaves collected.  They worked together to sort and arrange the leaves to make the body, legs, and arms. When the boy was content with his creation, they glued them down to a piece of paper. They tried experimenting with different types of leaves, and tearing them up to make smaller pieces. 

Collage of a fox face made with a variety of brown leaves and acorns for eyes.

Riley’s mom went outside and collected leaves, sticks, and acorns to create animals. She was inspired by the wildlife that likes to camp out in her backyard occasionally. She was very creative with her materials and had a lot of fun choosing which leaves she wanted to use and where to put them. She carefully picked her leaves by color to make it look more like a fox. Like Shaunna, Riley’s mom did not glue her materials down, but instead arranged them on a piece of cardboard. 

Collage of a moose with oak leaves for the horns and acorns for the eyes.

Riley’s mom continued her animal theme by making a moose! She used leaves for the body and the antlers, and acorns for the eyes! 

Collage of a moose head with pine needles for horns, acorns for eyes, and acorn caps for nostrils.

Riley’s mom created a second moose, but this time only the head. She used one leaf for this project and used sticks as her antlers instead of leaves. She also used the acorns for eyes and their caps for nostrils. 


The Carle wants to thank the students of EDU 210, Curriculum in Early Childhood Education, for sharing their knowledge and creative responses to picture books. We hope you enjoy exploring books and materials! 



Matelynn Buckley

Riley McLaughlin

Shaunna Glucksman

Tori Hosmer