500 children!!

NEWPORT COMMUNITY INFANT ACADEMY ARTSWEEK 2015 – Soil Culture*

500 children, communal painting, earth pigments on canvas © p ward 2015500 children, communal painting, earth pigments on canvas © p ward 2015

I was recently invited to develop and lead environmental art activities for Newport Community School in Barnstaple, North Devon. The activities offered opportunities for staff and pupils to explore and celebrate our relationships with Nature, in particular soil and local earth pigments. The school has 500 pupils between 3 and 12 years old. A range of activities, including mud painting, making soil balls, bundles of sticks and leaf sorting, were presented to the teaching staff and then left for them to interpret. The communal artworks created were included in an exhibition for children and parents at the end of the week and a 6x1m earth pigment painting made by the whole school was left as legacy of the week’s hard work.

For me to develop such a large-scale event for so many was extremely daunting – how teachers do it day-in-day-out is amazing! It was incredible to see a painting evolve at the hands of 500 children, with only the most arbitrary guidelines, to become a vibrant expression of their experience and of North Devon itself. All participatory group paintings I have facilitated have somehow turned out well, but I have never tried it with 500 children before, and it is certainly a way of working I hope to pursue further in the future. The other simple activities, and reflection upon them, seemed to give children and staff space to try something new and also a space to learn through a different, more hands-on approach. The whole event has given me a great deal of satisfaction and confidence to tackle such events again in the future.

The exhibition was well attended by some most bemused but interested parents looking for their individual child’s work only to find it absorbed into the totality. The school, to their credit, thoroughly got behind both the educational and experiential value of art activities and also the contemporary conceptual nature of the final exhibition. Many thanks to Georgie Treanor for helping organize ARTSWEEK and to the children, teachers and staff for their patient and enthusiastic participation, and to Francesca for her support and help preparing the canvas.

francesca hemming the canvas © p ward 2015francesca hemming the canvas © p ward 2015

soil . making paint . local history . geology . local resources . environment . culture

earth pigment logo © p ward 2010

INTRODUCTION to TEACHERS PACK

“Art does not reproduce the visible, but makes visible” Paul Klee

Art is one way we learn about the world. The learning and creative processes are based on both sensory experience and reflection. The process and expression of such experience is what we know as Art. From the beginning of human history we have learnt about the world through experience of the materials that are available in our immediate surroundings. From this experience, and through trial and error, we have developed the technologies to enable us to survive. As communications and transport have become more versatile and far reaching we have often lost our knowledge and understanding of the local environment and the materials it provides.

In North Devon, as elsewhere, our culture and identity as a region has been based on the natural resources available. For many centuries the chief industries were mining, for iron and copper, and sheep farming wool on the steep hills and valleys. The soils have promoted a rich and varied agriculture from dairy and beef cattle to crops. Bideford and Barnstaple both had large potteries supplied by clay pits in Fremington and Peters Marland. The potteries have unfortunately closed now but the white ball clay pits at Peters Marland and Meeth still quarry and export clay for use in brick- and paper-making. And, of course, Bideford has a black earth pigment named after it that was mined until 1969. Bideford Black was used in the boat industry, to paint tanks in WW2 and by Max Factor to make mascara.

By learning about the materials in our local environment and appreciating their importance to our lives it is hoped that we may also learn to respect them a little more.

“Sitting quietly, doing nothing, spring comes, and the grass grows by itself” Zen Proverb

THE ACTIVITIES

  • THE SOUND OF CHILDREN LISTENING – we have quietly listened to the wind and trees and birds and the sounds of Newport. We have felt the sun and wind and rain on our faces and the earth beneath our feet.

circles made by walking © p ward 2015circles made by walking © p ward 2015

  • CIRCLES MADE BY WALKING – we have been walking in big circles on the playing field, making big muddy drawings with our feet.

a workshop for a week © p ward 2015a workshop for a week © p ward 2015

presentation display © p ward 2015presentation display © p ward 2015

paint making table © p ward 2015paint making table © p ward 2015

work in progress © p ward 2015work in progress © p ward 2015

500 children, communal painting, earth pigments on canvas (detail) © p ward 2015500 children, communal painting, earth pigments on canvas (detail) © p ward 2015

  • 500 children – communal painting on canvas by all members of the school using North Devon Earth Pigments. We have learnt about where paint comes from, how the rocks it is made from are formed, where they can be found in North Devon and how to make paint before adding our mark to the big painting.

soil investigation table © p ward 2015soil investigation table © p ward 2015

  • Soil Balls – we have been investigating soil brought in by teachers from around North Devon to see what it is made of and what creatures live in it and then forming it into balls with our hands.

500 soil balls, exhibition table 1 © p ward 2015500 soil balls, exhibition table 1 © p ward 2015

500 soil balls, exhibition table 2 © p ward 2015500 soil balls, exhibition table 2 © p ward 2015

leaf collage, display table © p ward 2015leaf collage, display table © p ward 2015

  • LEAF COLLAGES – we have been collecting leaves and sorting them to see how many different plants, shapes and colours there are.

charcoal leaf drawings 1 © p ward 2015charcoal leaf drawings 1 © p ward 2015

charcoal leaf drawings 2 © p ward 2015charcoal leaf drawings 2 © p ward 2015

  • CHARCOAL DRAWINGS – we have been looking very closely at leaves and drawing them using charcoal.

500 BUNDLES OF STICKS, exhibition table © p ward 2015500 BUNDLES OF STICKS, exhibition table © p ward 2015

  • BUNDLES OF STICKS – we have been gathering sticks from the playing field and tying them together. This simple activity has led to discussions about fuel, building materials and ways of tying things.

dirty hands and cordyline structures © p ward 2015dirty hands and cordyline structures © p ward 2015

  • DIRTY HANDS – we have been getting our hands ‘dirty’, covering them and some paper with mud.

cordyline structures 1 © p ward 2015cordyline structures 1 © p ward 2015

cordyline structures 2 © p ward 2015cordyline structures 2 © p ward 2015

  • CORDYLINE STRUCTURES – we have been using cordyline leaves to explore natural fibres and making all sorts of things from them.

word wall © p ward 2015word wall © p ward 2015

  • WORD WALL – we have been writing down words that the ARTSWEEK activities have inspired.

exhibition space and slide show in the assembly hall © p ward 2015exhibition space and slide show in the assembly hall © p ward 2015

  • SLIDE SHOW – here are some pictures of us exploring, creating and enjoying the activities this ARTSWEEK.

remnants - soil balls, leaves and bundles of sticks returned to the playing field after the exhibition 1 © p wardremnants – soil balls, leaves and bundles of sticks returned to the playing field after the exhibition 1 © p ward

remnants - soil balls, leaves and bundles of sticks returned to the playing field after the exhibition 2 © p wardremnants – soil balls, leaves and bundles of sticks returned to the playing field after the exhibition 2 © p ward

© p ward 2015


 To see more of the work visit http://www.newportprimary.devon.sch.uk/artsweek-19th-23rd-january-2015/

* Soil Culture is a project by the Centre for Contemporary Arts & the Natural World to raise awareness about soil through the arts (www.ccanw.co.uk)

 

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2 Comments on “500 children!!”

  1. Peter I am in awe at how beautiful this project has turned out. You have helped shepherd an experience these children will never forget. All the images are compelling. The group painting is stunning and how easily it could all have turned to mud…literally. Very inspiring on so many levels. Well done!…I hope you get to do something similarly soon.

  2. […] 500 Children! https://intim8ecology.wordpress.com/2015/01/26/500-children/ […]


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