We learned about the artist (woop! woop!) John James Audubon and how he spent hours sitting outside with his sketchbooks and pencils studying all the different life forms he found in nature. The students noticed that his birds didn't look like the bird shapes we store in our memories, but rather, that his bird drawings actually look like the birds we see with our eyes! We discussed how our hands and our eyes have to become "besties" in order to truly document on paper what we are seeing.
The students were paired up into groups of three and sent out into the vast beyond to locate elements of nature that fascinated them. Once again, we had to become artist scientists and study what we saw very closely, and draw with our hands very slowly so that no detail was lost ...
After devouring The Study Group's in depth book, "Observing Drawing with Children", I have discovered that these little tykes are really capable of thinking (and drawing) outside the box, and I now have boundless tools in my art teachery toolbox to help pull it out of them... if you haven't read this one and have any interest whatsoever in enhancing artistic skills in your children or students, I highly recommend it this read!
And after a hard study session, there is no denying their sense of pride and achievement :) :) :)