ARTS and CRAFTS. You might think of doing these on your kitchen table or in a school-based art room brimming with supplies and tables and sinks and shelf space. But how about doing arts and crafts out in the bush. How about NOT having jugs of glue and paints at the ready. What do you do then and where would one begin?

The African Primary Science Series initiated an inquiry into arts and crafts from a Science point of view. Meaning, what is out there in the immediate physical world that could be investigated, acted upon and used as an arts and crafts agent?

So, you want to paint but you have no paints. It is Coronavirus time and you are NOT going out to a store for supply. Maybe you are also watching your pennies and are not spending bundles on Amazon. But you still want to paint.

The youth on this project went out onto the land and began collecting flowers and leaves of different colors. If you have ever come home with grass stains on your clothing, you know from experience that plants are the original source for color in the natural world.

You will have to experiment. The APSP kids started by rubbing their collected flowers and plants on pieces of paper to see what happened. They also tried out roots, leaves and various soils. The Red Clay Of Georgia comes from deposits of iron oxide. If you boil it with small amounts of water it will produce a fairly strong color. Try doing the same with an assortment of roots, soils and leaves and this will be a reproduction of what the Kenya children were up to.

Any bright dye can be used for sisal fiber dying and these same dyes can be used for painting. At least this is what the APSP theorized and tested out. Children thickened colors by adding whatever was available. In the back country of Kenya that turned out to be maize paste or sometimes limestone (chokaa).

Nobody KNEW to do this ahead of time. It is what they discovered as they took the time to observe their surroundings, collect from it and invent using the resources under foot.

Scientists At Work


Scientists keep records of what they are up to. These adventurers can and should do the same. That means a lab book or a log book used to record dates when soil, flowers and leaves were gathered. Locations for the gathering. Descriptions of what was collected and either drawings of those or photos. This process can be as elaborate and as digitized or as simplified as one chooses. But it is the rigorous work that scientist engage in everyday. In other words, we are not simply mixing up a paste of mashed corn maize and red iron oxide soil for the “fun of it”. This is a delightful discipline.




Paper should come in all shapes, sizes and textures. The ASAP students sometimes resorted to large banana leaves or they tried painting on stones, wood surfaces or blank wall space. A floor tile, a slab of slate or a bedsheet can become a painting surface.

Brushes were not ordered “online”. Get ready because as needed, brushes were made by chewing on sticks or feathering the ends of soft sisal sticks. Some handles were long and others were short and stubby. Obviously, sponges could also be used or torn pieces of fabric.

When they tired of creating paints, the children on this project also drew using crayons, hunks of charcoal, chalk or color-emitting minerals. It is possible to paint or crayon or chalk a leaf surface and then press that onto a piece of paper. Or someone might try using the finger in place of a brush, dipping it into paint, colorful, moistened chalk dust or melted, waxy crayon.

This was the African Primary Science Series and it is tailored made for our era of Coronavirus when adults are returning to traditions that deeply engage the minds and imaginations of children who are insisting on living and learning without the benefit of big budgets or big buildings.