Using natural resources in an open ended way can inspire children’s storytelling and creativity as illustrated in the work of Diana Suskind. 

sw1Stonework: Children’s stonework is the child’s open ended response to the invitation to work with stones. Stonework can be a work in progress and the child’s creation.


Diana Suskind explains that stonework promotes self-reliance and provides children with opportunities to make their own decisions. Children learn to solve social challenges such as not taking someone else’s stones and sharing their stones with others.

“Children begin by choosing stones from a barrel, then deciding where to build and what to create with them. Children collaborate with others or work independently. This process encourages children to view themselves as active, socially- competent and proactive. It is a unique opportunity for children to foster and develop new skills. 

Stones, a ready natural resource allow children artistic expression. They can create and recreate. Stonework offers a child a tangible mirror of self in their impermanent world.”

Using stonework with a wide range of audiences from Nepalese children in Kathmandu, children in the States and adults at the OnDesign Conference in Berkeley, California, Diana illustrates how using natural materials can also inspire storytelling and unlock creativity. Diana shares with us some of the imaginative stories from participants.



On July 25, stonework enabled a group of five years olds at Chautauqua Children’s School, Chautauqua Institute, New York to focus and work uninterrupted on their creations. The children viewed ‘Five Birthday Cakes’ which shared how children in Nepal worked with the stones. They then gathered their stones and without talking began to create their story with stones. On July 4, four American children from Kentucky and California constructed their own stonework facing the water on the deck of Suskind’s summer cottage at Otisco Lake, Amber, New York.


They watched ‘Five Birthday Cakes’ and saw the creations from OnDesign participants prior to doing their stonework. Prior to construction, the children located larger stones from the shoreline and smaller ones from the road bringing them independently in
a bucket and placing one stone each into four piles. One grandfather and Maddie, the oldest child wrote down the dictated stories for the other three children.





“The Happy Sun. Once there was a happy Sun. The happy Sun decided to go for a walk. On his way he met a parrot. The parrot said “you are so hot” to the Sun. The Sun said, ”thanks.”
The parrot said, “would you like some mango smoothie?” The Sun said “Of, course, thanks a lot.” Then they walked to a bar in the rainforest. The Sun said, “How much do they cost?” The parrot laughed. The parrot said” They’re for free because
I work here.” The Sun liked that place and the parrot said ”Would you like a job here, because we have one more slot.” And so he did. And they lived happily ever after. The end.”
Katriona Briggs, Age 8, Menlo Park, California, USA

“The Helicopter Gets Stuck in the Clouds. The helicopter gets stuck in the clouds. The windshield got messed up and he was in the air and there was another helicopter; they both crashed into a mountain.” Sam Schultz, age 6 Louisville, Kentucky, USA

The Sun of Different Colours and Weather. In the middle of my sun is two hearts, representing care and the red stone represents that everybody is different and the little rocks on the outside in between the big one is rain. So I made rain and
the sun together. I made lots of red rocks on the outside of the little sun because of thunder and lightning.” Maddie Schultz, age 9, Louisville, Kentucky, USA

Jet Speeder. It goes really fast. It’s a really fast racecar. And it carries a really fast boat in the trunk. The person that drives
it is named ‘Thunder Man’. His eyes are really bright.” Stephen Briggs, age 6, Menlo Park, California, USA