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“I’m capable of doing new things”: Virtual nature art class

Amy Weiss | Dec 10, 2020

Growing up in Anoka, Jean loved exploring outside. She lived near the Rum River, where she collected shells, rocks, and leaves. Years later, she’d often go camping with her family. They enjoyed it so much they built a cabin once her kids were older. And, once Jean and her husband retired, they spent 20 years at their family cabin. It’s safe to say Jean has always loved nature, but she didn’t know much about the leaves she collected and forests she camped in—until she took a virtual nature art class at Walker Methodist Plaza.

When one of Jean’s friends at Plaza called her to tell her about the class, Jean wasn’t sure she should join. But the possibility of learning and creating quickly convinced her to sign up.

This class wasn’t Jean’s first experience with art. When she worked for a school district, she took oil painting classes, enjoying the interactive structure. So, when the class at Plaza, led by artist Sarah Nassif on Zoom, turned out to be interactive and educational, Jean was thrilled. After the first class, Jean went to her old home by the Rum River (where her son now lives) to find leaves to bring to their next meeting.

“I like it because we had something to do outside of class. We had responsibility to learn and take initiative,” she explained. “We had to collect leaves, and during class we’d ask questions about what other residents found. We worked together—and had a lot of fun.” For Jean, this was the best way to learn. Sarah prepared material for residents and answered questions when the group met. She made time for discussion and taught students about the leaves’ structures, growth, patterns, and more. Jean’s favorite new fact? Maple leaves have five points: M-A-P-L-E.

At the end of the class, Sarah created a field guide booklet with the residents’ art pieces. Inspired by this idea, Jean made a coloring book for her five-year-old great-granddaughter. Reminded of her passion for art and learning, Jean plans to use the skills and knowledge she gained during the virtual art class to keep creating.

“Trees are often close to each other, relying on others—just like us,” said Jean. “This class reminded me that we’re capable of doing new things. I started new relationships and learned more about other people, not just nature. I had a great time.”

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Learn more about other virtual classes at Walker Methodist, like watercolor and dance

Special thanks to the Walker Methodist Foundation, Aroha Philanthropies, and COMPAS for providing this program.