Foraging with Kids Workshop at Hay Festival: Setting up
Back in May, Adele Nozedar and I ran a workshop at Hay Festival. We aimed the workshop at children and their parents, and included foraging and drawing activities. We were also there to promote out book, Foraging with kids, and had a lovely banner that kept nearly blowing away.
I brought a whole array of amazing natural history finds for the children to handle, examine and draw. These included lots of skulls I’ve collected over the years…
…and insect specimens. Years ago I picked up some insects preserved in perspex; these are now invaluable for inspiring kids. I also have a collection of somewhat macabre legs taken from birds. People are forever bringing me dead stuff they find (it’s ok, I welcome it!) and I often take off a leg for reference before storing the animals. (For more on this, check out my Youtube video: Birds, beasts, and bodies in the freezer.)
I gathered together lots of common garden plants for the children and their parents to eat. These included marigolds, roses, sage, and lavender. These tie into another book Adele wrote and I illustrated, The Garden Forager.
Foraging with the children
After introducing ourselves, Adele and I sent the kids off to a nearby area of wild plants, and told them to bring back anything they could lay their hands on. We laid all these treasures out on a table and went through them one by one, deciding what was edible. We also pointed out some things that are best avoided, such as members of the cow-parsley family. I learned from Adele that vetch was tasty; and all the children tried sorrel, nettle leaves, vetch, and hawthorn. I pointed out that buttercups can be toxic to cows (see my blog for more on these flowers) so we avoided eating them.
Drawing at Hay Festival
Next, the children were free to chose anything from the nature table to draw. We had endless supplies of A4 paper, pencils, and rubbers. Everyone got stuck in, and some of the drawings were lovely. Children drew everything on offer; from roses to pheasant feet, a nettle they’d foraged to a scorpion in plastic.
For those who weren’t keen on drawing, or who were too little to thoroughly embrace the activity, we provided magnifying glasses and a dissecting microscope.
It was wonderful to be in the heart of Hay Festival, surrounded by kids perched on logs, drawing treasures from the natural world. I wandered around providing encouragement (and umbrellas when it started to rain!).
Edible plants at Hay Festival
To finish, we offered all the children and adults the chance to try a wide variety of edible plants. Some were obvious, like wild garlic and field sorrel. Others were more surprising; borage and marigold flowers were devoured, and some adults were keen to get home and try baking biscuits with lavender.
As always, a few of the children balked at such strange food, but most got thoroughly involved and tried a whole range of wild and garden plants.
At the end of the workshop, they went home with their drawings and a few leaves to nibble on. The children seemed happy, and lots of the adults had learned new plants to keep an eye out for. We made ourselves available, and encouraged anyone who wanted to stay on to ask questions and to handle the specimens.
It felt a little hectic at times (mainly due to the wind and rain), but I left feeling that our foraging and drawing workshop at Hay Festival had been a success; both for those who came, and for me and Adele. This is the third time we’ve “done” Hay festival, and was probably the most enjoyable as I wasn’t under pressure, drawing live.
For more on foraging, have a look at my blog, “Edible Plants & Botanical Illustration”.