Nature as Art

by Reece Wells

GUESTS TO STEAMBOAT come for the winters but stay for the summers. Opportunities for outdoor recreation abound but what about the creative child looking to find a home in the wilderness? As a parent or grandparent, how do you get kids outside exploring and creating in nature? Yampatika, a non-profit organization inspiring environmental stewardship through education, has a few suggestions for turning the Yampa Valley into an artist’s paradise.


Let children explore their artistic side by creating their very own nature paint brush! This is a great activity for close to home or on a hike. Look for sticks, leaves, pieces of grass, pine needles, flowers, pinecones, seed pods, or any other natural found object to create the paintbrush bristles. Tie on the natural found objects to various sticks with string or a rubber band. 

Once the paintbrush has been created, dip the bristles into some paint, and voila! Explore how different materials make different kinds of brushstrokes. See how many different materials work!


Birds are great architects. Their dwellings are complex structures. For inspiration for nest building, walk around the neighborhood or visit one of Steamboat’s hiking trails and look for bird nests. If you find one, be sure to observe quietly from a distance! See if you can figure out what it is made out of. Make observations about the shape, size, and location.

How do birds build these incredible homes? They don’t even have hands! They use their beaks to gather and collect materials, and their beaks, feet, and even their bellies to create the nest. This process might take a few days or weeks to build. To test out your own nest making skills, collect items in nature like long grasses, twigs, and a bit of mud and try to build a nest! Be patient. Birds have been doing this a long time but it is brand new to you. Start with a few pieces and experiment with how dried mud can hold grasses and twigs together. Remember, birds don’t build a nest in a single day. By building nests we can better understand how incredible birds are and what works of art 

their homes turn out to be.


Trees hold stories about the place where they are growing because they are often the oldest living thing there. Take a journal and pen or pencil, find a tree you like and make up a life story for it. Explain why it only has leaves on some branches or why the trunk has so many animal holes in it. Think about what that tree has seen and experienced. What kinds of organisms visit the tree? Does the tree have any friends? Does the tree have any enemies? What do trees like or dislike? What kind of changes has the tree been present for? What kinds of things have happened around the tree? Does anything live in the tree, like birds or insects? What plants are growing near it?

Describe the place, or habitat, where the tree lives.


Yampatika is an organization that provides outdoor education opportunities for children and adults throughout the Yampa Valley. Programs include day camps, guided hikes, wildflower ID, tours, and much more! Get more information and sign your kids or yourself up for programs at RW

ELEVATE THE ARTS: Taking children into nature can build a life-long love of the outdoors. For young artists, allowing them to experience nature on their own terms, through art, can create a connection that inspires a new perspective on creation. Commit to a once-a-week outing for a month. Try and see the world through your child’s eyes. View nature as a canvas that it is your job to help record.