We have just started a 6 week project at Watercliffe Meadow School supported by SNAP Network (Sheffield Network for Arts/Cultural Providers working with Children and Young People). Over the next half term we will be working with 6 children on transforming ‘Amy’s Garden’ using natural materials such as willow, wool and stones. The sessions will focus on building up creative skills and self-confidence through hands on making. In the first session the children explored the garden through listening to the sounds around them and gathered textures from the tree bark, fences and stones. They took home a creative pack containing pencil crayons, glue stick, sketch book, a small board to create a picture at home and a selection of collage materials.
In their second week, the children made dream catchers using willow, masking tape, wool, stones, shells and leaves. Some of them found the weaving a bit tricky to start with, but with practice everyone got the hang of it and soon began personalising their artwork with hanging stones and hole-punched leaves. They ventured into the trees to hang up their artwork, which looked amazing. One of the group suggested that they make animals next week, and they took home some extra collage materials to create some animal pictures for next week.
In their third week, the children made hedgehog houses out of willow and fabric and then created a clay hedgehog family. During the making the children talked about the animals, birds and insects they saw in Amy’s garden and the idea of bugs, beetles and spiders kept being mentioned. So, for next week everyone is designing a bug of some variety on their mount board and then we are going to try and make them!
In week four we were able to work outside again thanks to the lovely sunshine! Following on from last week, we created some bugs using foam, cardboard, wool, pipe cleaners, felt and other bits from the collage box. Everyone made their own unique creature and some gave theirs names. One student took home a supply of bug bits and glue to create some more at home! Brilliant!
In week five we made flags inspired by Tibetan prayer flags. The children printed onto pieces of fabric using foam stamps and letter stamps with printing ink, and after a short drying time we hung them in the garden. It was quite a windy day so we had to masking tape everything down and occasionally chase after the printing sponges!
In week six we took inspiration from the work of Andy Goldsworthy to create some fantastic nature sculptures in the garden. The children responded really well to the idea of making a pattern and seemed to thrive on the freedom and flexibility that gave them. They used a mixture of materials and created complex designs, some of which they developed a narrative alongside. At one point two boys were discussing whether it mattered if their sculpture had to ‘be’ something or not.
We have really enjoyed working at Watercliffe Meadow over the last six weeks and being able to establish a relationship with a small group of children. We are in the process of writing a report with Tash Wood, Y4 teacher, about the project which will be presented to the Paul Hamlyn Foundation (who have supported the project) and at a SNAP event later this year. More details to follow.