Pictures with nature

18 July 2007 | Story by Daniella Pollock

Painting by twigs: Sue Nepgen and three eager artists at the eco-art workshop at Kirstenbosch on 11 July.

It's been 12 years since Sue Nepgen, part-time lecturer in the School of Education, started running Eco-Art Holiday Workshops for kids in grades one to seven at Kirstenbosch, teaching them to appreciate nature through art.

Each July, as well as other school holidays when possible, the Gold Fields Environmental Education Centre at the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden is abuzz with youngsters making fridge art for home, but also learning about Kirstenbosch, its flora and fauna.

Our Plants and their Wildlife was this year's theme for the workshops. Nepgen, two of her UCT students - Kim Franklin and Carey Upham - and trainees from the centre took some 110 kids on a guided walk of the garden, conducted video-microscope investigations of plants and organisms and, the highlight of the programme, lost themselves in hours of eco-art. For this the kids are asked to use dried plants and a palette of art stuffs to create pictures around the theme.

The idea, says Nepgen, is "to sensitise pupils to the environment using art, while nurturing their creativity".

Both the walk and the art take the textbook to the tangible, she adds.

Nepgen received the Debbie Brown Trust Award for Environmental Education from UCT in 2002. She plans to publish her research on integrating art and environmental education.

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