Plein Air Haikus – Bay Area Discovery Museum

Plein Air Haikus

Children will create a haiku that communicates their unique perspective and appreciation of nature.

Materials Required

  • Clipboards (one per child)
  • White paper
  • Thin and thick Sharpies
  • Pencils


  1. Find a space outdoors to serve as inspiration and hike over to it. On the way, introduce what a haiku is:
    • A haiku is a traditional form of Japanese poetry. It consists of three lines. The first line has five syllables, the second line has seven syllables, and the third line has five syllables. The subject is usually nature or the seasons. This type of poem does not need to rhyme.
    • Younger children may need support understanding what a syllable is. Clap your hands for each syllable if children need help learning about the rhythm of a haiku.
  1. When you reach the spot you chose, ask children to walk around and observe what they see, smell, hear, or feel.
  2. Once the group has shared their different observations, give an example of a haiku: “Oh Golden Gate Bridge, you’re so very red and tall, Why aren’t you golden?”
  3. Pass out a clipboard with paper and pencil or Sharpie to each child. Invite them to write a haiku inspired by their observations.
  4. While still outdoors, invite children to share their haikus with the rest of the group.

Additional Tips

Try these add-on activities:

  • Once their haiku is complete, children can use the Sharpies to create an illustration to accompany the haiku. When children are finished with the Sharpie, pass out water color pallets and invite them to add color to their creations.
  • For younger children, try providing a template for a haiku. Lines illustrating each syllable can be helpful, or try a fill-in-the-blank style.
  • Try a “speed haiku” session to take the pressure off the act of creating. Put a large garbage bin in the middle of the group. Give children three minutes to write a haiku, then have everyone throw it away. Repeat this several times.

Links to Creativity

One of the most common misnomers about creativity is that it only flourishes when we give ourselves free rein and avoid abiding by any rules. For many people, and many situations, constraints actually ignite a desire to push back and redefine our limitations (Stokes, 2001). Claude Monet, the famous impressionist painter, imposed constraints on his work to challenge his own creativity. Haikus have a very simple set of rules, and once children understand these rules, they are free to express themselves as they try this newfound format for writing.

Supporting research includes:

Stokes, P. D. (2001). Variability, constraints, and creativity: Shedding light on Claude Monet. American Psychologist, 56(4), 355.


This activity was contributed by the Bay Area Discovery Museum. ©2016 Bay Area Discovery Museum. For more information and resources see

Plein Air Haikus

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