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Learning Guide
Documenting Nature

Using different media including watercolors and photography, Heather Murphy and Francisco Valenzuela try to document the natural world as part of their work for the USDA Forest Service. Visual and written records help us learn more about the effects of pollution, forest fires, and human encroachment on wild areas and populations.

Click here to see Heather Murphy and Francisco Valenzuela featured in the Inspirations from the Forest exhibition.

Contemporary artists Sidne Teske and Jim Denney see their work as documenting ever-changing landscapes. Natural landscapes are altered to make way for homes, farms, and the extraction of resources such as copper, oil, and coal. What changes have you seen in your own community? The activities in this section will help you document the environment around you, and to reflect on the changes you find there.

Click here to see Sidne Teske and Jim Denney featured in the Inspirations from the Forest exhibition.

Activity: Nature Journal
Documenting Nature in Your Own Community

Heather Murphy's nature journalFollow her instructions to document the nature you find in your own schoolyard, local park, or backyard.

Activity: Art Adventure
Nature Photography

Photographers such as Francisco Valenzuela and Terry Evans are fascinated by natural landscapes. Francisco has documented the powerful devastation left by the eruption of Mount St. Helens in Washington. Terry Evans creates artworks with her photography by approaching nature at unusual angles. You can approach nature photography from new angles too.

Francisco Valenzuela offers basic tips of the photography trade to help you learn how to take better photographs. Click here to download his tips (PDF).

Digital cameras work great for a project like this, because if you take a chance and it does not work out quite like you had planned, you can delete the image and try again!

Visit the website of the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument where Francisco Valenzuela worked to learn more about the historic eruption on May 18, 1980, and about volcanoes in the U.S.

Activity: Writing Project
Nature Writers

Go online to learn about one of the following nature writers and how their work influenced people to protect natural landscapes. Write a short biography of the person you select, and then explain whether or not you think they were able to make a difference through their writing. See if you can find what changed because of what these authors wrote.

Web Connections

For more ideas on nature writing or to find more authors who are considered "nature writers," click here.

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