Capture Words in Nature


The word Spring in bold lettering that has pictures of varies plants inside.
It's Spring time! Let's get outside and make some art!

Getting Outside and Getting Creative

Teaching students about the world around them through the lens of environmental science is one of my favorite things to do. Building word recognition while experiencing the outdoors is key to their learning.  


Animation showing the relative sizes or sand, silt, and clay with the size of the words while also showing images of them.

In Environmental Science, creating a connection between photos taken by my students and the key terms they are required to learn has done just that. I initially discovered this when providing my students with the above example during our soil composition unit. Images of sand, silt, and clay - the main component net that makes up differing soil structures - using photos of real-world samples from around our campus. 

Seeing the different particles and their relative size in the GIF above allowed them to develop a strong connection to the material. The overwhelmingly positive response I received meant having them create their own examples for our next unit was a must!

Making Word Art

To start this activity, my students and I walked around our school’s campus to capture as many pictures of different plants/flowers as possible. We were beginning to discuss plant anatomy, so this was a great way to engage them.


Screenshot of a camera reel full of images of different plants.
The picture results of a short walk around our campus. Had to make a stop by the garden for those amazing Romanesco!

Back in the classroom, the students were randomly given a part of plant that was to be their topic for the activity; they would make a word art image for that selected piece of plant anatomy. The learners were directed to make a new presentation in Keynote. Inside that presentation, they were shown how to set an image's text to be a picture using the format tool. From there, my students ran with it!


Screenshot showing the word root in all caps being set to the Impact font in Keynote.
After writing the term in the text box, you can use the formatting tool to set it to a font with large, bold letters. The larger the notes, the better they are for this activity, so I chose the Impact font.


Screenshot showing the formatting tool in Keynote setting the text to image fill.
After setting the font, you go to the text fill option and set it to image fill. Here is where you go find the picture you want to be in the word.


Screenshot showing the background settings of Keynote being set to no background so only the word is seen.
Once you are happy with the word art you have created, you can change the slide's background to no fill. This makes only your word visible; when exported as a .png, it will not have a background.

Word Art Results

I had three different ways the learners completed the activity as they worked. The first was the ‘full word photo’, where the learner used a single photo that spanned the entire word. This worked well visually for shorter words and pictures students took where the part in question took up the whole frame. 


The word fruit with an image of a Romanesco inside the letters.
This word art style is nice for condensed and close-together words coupled with a picture that spans the entire screen.

The second was the ‘first letter photo,’ where they only applied the photo text background to the word's first letter. This could be done by separating the word into two text boxes: one with the first letter inside and the other with the remaining letters. One nice thing I saw from these examples was the point of emphasis it provided. It allowed for the first letter to be in a different font, size, and background from the rest of the letters. Below is a sample following this pattern; you can see that your eye is drawn to the detail in the first letter.


The word flower with the picture of a flower in the F of the word.
I like the one-letter look because it provides some contrast to the image, and learners can select a font for the rest of the word they also like.

The last version I saw was the ‘every letter photo,’ where they applied different photos to each letter in the word. To do this, they made each letter in the word have its own text box so they could be different. Again, I noticed this being used for shorter terms, as my students would require more photos of the same object for a longer word. This approach brought about some good conversation about comparing and contrasting different versions of the same pictured plant part. For example, below, you can see an example of this done with the word leaf. Each letter is a leaf from a different plant, so a mixture of textures and colors is present. 


The word leaf with different images of leaves inside each of the letters.
Do you have a lot of images of similar items? Then this is a great option to showcase all of those images.

Helpful Tips

Looking ahead at doing this activity with other classes, I gathered a few tips. 

  1. First, I will give the students a short list of fonts that work best. Impact, Helvetica Bold, or other wide-lettered font options allow students to show more images they photographed. That, coupled with ensuring the font takes up as much of the slide as possible, allowed the most pictures to be shown. 
  2. Second, I would take pictures where the photo's subject takes up the entire camera frame. This helps ensure that no matter what letter and word is filled in, it will contain the image. 

Overall, my students and I enjoyed this activity. It got them outside and drew connections to what we discussed in class. I will use this activity in my other classes as well. For example, in computer science, why not use word art to build an association with the different internal components? Or in architecture, use this activity to show examples of stylistic choices or building properties. The applications are endless!

Learn how, and explore more Everyone Can Create Projects > 

An image of an illustrated student with an iPad showing their work to their teacher.

All Comments

Posted on August 15, 2023

So nice Marcus! I like that you demonstrated different styles of showcasing the letter art - and your tips are fantastic. Also wonderful that students use real-world samples from their campus. Some outdoor fun as well as indoor creativity - and lots of learning!

Posted on February 09, 2024

Hi Marcus

Love this task as a learning outdoors activity and thank you for the hot tips on how to demonstrate the keynote skills and for taking the most effective photo for students.

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