Rhythm in Nature Inspired by Alma Woodsey Thomas

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In honor of Black History Month, we’re sharing two activities inspired by the art of Alma Woodsey Thomas. Activity 1 encourages a walk in search of flowers, then becomes a matching game to create art. Activity 2 encourages a trip via Google Earth to look at the world from a distance, then becomes an activity to turn the world from afar into a paper “painting.” 

What We’re Learning & Skills We’re Building

  • Color recognition – choosing colors of construction paper that match with colors seen in artwork  
  • Observations of nature – seeing colors and patterns in nature 
  • Patterns & rhythm – recognizing repeated colors, shapes, sounds, and movement
  • Appreciation of Black history & art history – learning about Alma Woodsey Thomas, her art, and her legacy as the first Black female artist featured in the White House art collection


Optional Materials

Finding Visual Rhythm

Rhythm is defined as a strong, regular, repeated pattern of movement or sound. Alma Thomas saw rhythm in nature. Let’s think about what that means!

Clapping is a repeated pattern of movement and sound. Together with your child, clap to the rhythm of a favorite song. Now, take a look at Thomas’s painting Iris, Tulips, Jonquils, and Crocuses. As you follow the vertical lines in the painting, try clapping for each “dot” of color, and then try singing a note for each “dot” that isn’t dark blue. Do we find rhythm in this painting? Does this painting sing a song?


Activity 1 — Color Matching

Early springtime is approaching! Bright flowers are popping up and trees are just beginning to blossom. Let’s look outside for rhythm in the colorful patterns of nature. Then, we’ll create paper art inspired by the work of Alma Woodsey Thomas. (Check out more of her art here.) 

  1. Take a walk outside to snap a few photos of flowers, plants, or natural scenes that catch your eye. Or, make sketches on paper with markers, colored pencils, or crayons. 
  2. Choose a photo or a sketch from the ones you took/drew outside. Print out the photo, or keep it on your phone, tablet, or computer so you’ll be able to view it as you complete step 4. 
  3. Choose sheets of construction paper that match the colors in your photo or sketch. Cut or tear the paper into 1” x 1” or smaller pieces.  
  4. Using a glue stick, paste the construction paper pieces onto your printed picture or sketch, roughly matching the colors of the paper pieces to the colors in the natural scene. (If you didn’t print the photo, place the pieces on your device’s screen without using glue.)

Activity 2 — Side-by-Side Mapping

Alma Thomas also painted the world as if she were seeing it from an airplane. An example of this is her painting Light Blue Nursery. This activity allows for more creative freedom, and it’s aimed at children who’re ready to map color placement from a picture onto a blank piece of paper. It can also be done using washable paint (instead of construction paper pieces). 

  1. Find an aerial view (a zoomed-out picture that’s taken from above) of a natural scene using a maps or navigation app on your device. Or, sketch an aerial view on paper.
  2. While looking at the photo or the sketch, or just by using your memory, plan out where you’ll put different colors of construction paper (or paint) on a blank piece of paper or cardstock.
  3. Cut or tear pieces of construction paper (or choose paints) that match the colors in the scene. 
  4. Using a glue stick, paste the paper pieces onto the blank piece of paper.

More About Alma Thomas


Alma Thomas is famous for her abstract paintings which drew inspiration from the natural world. She often painted plants, landscapes, and flowers. She painted scenes from close up (as if she were looking at something right in front of her) and from far away (as if she were seeing it from an airplane). The image on the right is Alma Thomas’s Air View Of A Spring Nursery, 1966 (courtesy of the Columbus Museum). It’s the painting that inspired our second activity above.

Family Life 

Alma Thomas was born in Columbus, Georgia. Her sister gifted the Columbus Museum with objects from their family home. Check out the Virtual Museum for Kids – Alma Thomas’ Family History. These objects give people a look into parts of her life, including having a family member who was a slave. 

Art in the White House 

Alma Thomas’s painting, Resurrection, was the first painting by an African American woman to become part of the White House art collection! The Obamas gave this painting a place of honor in the White House Old Family Dining Room.