I find that holidays and visits to different places provide inspiration for flexible and open-ended outdoor activities with children. Andrea Stevenson demonstrates this effectively in this post where her daughter was inspired to create her own chalk figure after seeing the Uffington White Horse. Children need these real life experiences to broaden their understanding of the world. They also enjoy time to play with the ideas and concepts of that experience.
The White Horse of Uffington is a sight not to miss if you find yourself travelling around the South-East of England. The Bronze-Age chalk figure found at White Horse Hill is the oldest chalk figure in England and measures 110 metres long and 38.5 metres high. It is impossible to view the chalk figure in its entirety from the ground, but the bits and pieces are none-the-less impressive to explore. The deep chalk filled trenches are refilled each year to keep the horse looking bright and fresh and you can get involved in helping with this process through the English National Trust.
The White Horse became the inspiration behind the idea of creating our own chalk figures. We started by selecting our designs. My horse-loving daughter decided to fashion her own horse, but any simple figure will work. Using a stick, we carved the figures into the soil in our garden.
This could be done on any dirt surface, but starting with a slightly packed down and smooth surface was helpful. It was a bit of a trick to get the carving just right and repacking the dirt around the edges as we went along was key in keeping the trenches clear.
We then moved onto the fun part – crushing the chalk. Our chalk had been around for a day of two and was about at the end of its usefulness so was perfect for this activity. We put the chalk into a re-sealable bag and starting crushing. We decided we wanted our chalk to be fairly fine because our trenches were rather small, but larger chunks of chalk could be used for larger trenches.
We clipped a corner off of the bag to create an easy-to-pour system, but spoons could be used as well. We slowly moved the bag over the trenches to fill them up.
Voila! A stick, a bit of chalk and a little creativity and we have our very own ancient chalk figure.
Common sense says that this type of artwork is applicable to most ages – the complexity of the design and symbolism will depend upon the age of the children with whom you work.