Roots & Shoots: A Sculptural Challenge

By Paula Briggs

This sculptural challenge is suitable for ages 7 through to adults. Just as we use drawing exercises as warm-ups or icebreakers, we can also use making challenges such as this one to encourage learners to open their minds, build understanding, be inventive and practice dexterity skills.

Roots and Shoots challenges learners to take a “seed” or “source” and then build roots and shoots, up and out, using a variety of materials. The aim is to be playful; don’t have a preconceived outcome in mind, instead let the process of playing and exploring with the materials lead you to the end result.

To Begin

Choose a “seed” or “source”. This could be anything – a pebble, a shell, a piece of scrunched up paper. This is the starting point from which you will build up and down to create shoot and root.

Then choose a material. You might want to limit yourself to just one or two materials, plus tape. For example paper and card, or string and wire.


Knowing your challenge is to create shoots and roots from your seed, start to explore and experiment with how you can manipulate your chosen material. For example, if you are working with paper or card, how might you cut, tear, fold, bend, twist the paper to change its form and structure? How might you connect pieces together? Will you use coloured or textured paper? How can you give it structure? (or use its structure appropriately)?

Remember: Do not “design” on paper first, and don’t worry if you have no idea what to do. Just pick up the materials and start exploring, and listen out to the ideas as they form in your head. Keep looking at what you are making and see where you end up!

Doodle: The Opposite of “Craft”

Remember that in this challenge the aim is to experiment and to build an understanding of how you can manipulate materials into something new. How do the materials you have chosen respond to your fingers? How do your hands and brain respond to the materials?

Think of this as a physical brainstorm between brain, hands and materials. Work intuitively, problem solve and take risks. Don’t over think. If you need to use tape to hold something in place – do that. The sculpture you make does not have to last, and it is not about craftsmanship – its is about manipulation, experimentation and learning. So don’t worry if the thing you are making doesn’t look “perfect” – think of it as a physical manifestation of a thought process – and one which is ongoing and not “refined”.

If you try this sculptural challenge – pls tag @accessart (facebook twitter) and (instagram)

This is a sample of a resource created by UK Charity AccessArt. We have over 1100 resources to help develop and inspire your creative thinking, practice and teaching.

AccessArt welcomes artists, educators, teachers and parents both in the UK and overseas.

We believe everyone has the right to be creative and by working together and sharing ideas we can enable everyone to reach their creative potential.

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