Illustrations Courtesy of Carol Felixson
If your youngsters aren't checking out UCLA staffer Carol
Felixson's "Drawing From Nature" feature in the Los
Angeles Times, they're missing out on a whole lot
of fun. "Drawing From Nature," which runs in the Times
Kids' Reading Room the first Sunday of each month, teaches children
how to make fun pictures of plants and animals with easy-to-follow
instructions and low-cost materials.
Since the Times began running the feature three years
ago, young readers have created colorful drawings of stink beetles,
yucca plants, tree frogs, popcorn flowers, great horned owls, butterflies
and other living things, big and small.
"Drawing From Nature" isn't all fun and games. Each article
includes brief instruction in science and an art technique. But
Felixson, education and outreach coordinator for UCLA's Stunt Ranch
Reserve and the Mildred Mathias Botanical Gardens, has a kid-friendly
writing style that makes the lessons easy to digest.
Felixson credits her stepfather, Gene Gach, a former PR man, with
coming up with the idea for the feature. "I was trying to get
the word out about the K-12 environmental programs at the Stunt
Ranch and the Mathias Botanical Gardens," Felixson says. "My
stepdad noticed the LA Times Kids' page, and said, 'You
might want to send them a story to publicize your programs.' "
Felixson wrote an article titled "A Hand With Yellow Fingers"
about one of her favorite residents of the botanical gardens —
the banana plant — and recruited a young friend to draw a
picture of the big-leafed plant to illustrate the piece. Then, she
submitted the package to Mary Ellen Walker '74, editor of the Times
Kids' Reading Room.
Walker loved the submission and suggested that Felixson turn her
stepfather's idea into a monthly feature that would blend science
and art instruction. "Drawing From Nature" now runs at
the top of the Kids' Reading Room, which is part of the Times
Reading by 9 childhood-literacy effort. Felixson does the writing
while school-age artists supply the drawings.
Being a kid at heart has helped make the project a success, Felixson
says. "I try to get into the head of a 9-year-old, which for
me is pretty easy."