Capture Words in Nature

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 makeup differing soil structures - photos of real-world samples from around our campus. 

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

Making Word Art

To start this activity, my students and I took a walk 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 class, the students were randomly given a part of plant that was to be their topic for the activity; they were going to make a word art image for that selected piece of plant anatomy. The learners were directed to make a new presentation in Keynote. Inside of that presentation they were shown how they can set the text of an image to be a picture using the format tool. From their 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 that has large, bold letters. The larger the letters the better they are for this activity, which is why I went with Impact.


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 your word art you have created you can change the background of the slide to no fill. This makes only your word visible and when exported as a .png, it will not have a background.

The Word Art Results

I had three different ways the learners completed the activity as they worked. The first was the ‘full word photo’. This had the learner use a single photo that spanned the entire term that they had written out. This seemed to work well visually for shorter words and pictures that the students took where the part in question was taking up the entire frame. 


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

The second was the ‘first letter photo’, where they only applied the photo text background to the first letter of the term. 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 that 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 from one another. Again I noticed this being used for shorter terms, as my students would have needed more photos of the same object to do this for a longer word. This approach did bring about some good conversation about being able to compare and contrast 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 you have a mixture of textures and colors present. 


The word leaf with different images of leaves inside each of the letters.
Got a lot of images of similar items? This would be a great option to be able 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 am going to give the students a short list of fonts that worked best. Impact, Helvetica Bold, or another wide lettered option showed more of the pictures that were taken by the students. Coupled with making the font take up as much of the slide as possible made for the greatest amount of the pictures to be shown. 
  2. Second I would take pictures where the subject of the photo takes up the entire camera frame. This helped to make sure that no matter the letter and/or word that is going to be filled in contains the image. 

Overall my students and I really enjoyed this activity. It got them outside and drew connections to what we discussed in class. I will definitely 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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