We were invited to make art with the entire school of 220 students for a whole day this week. This is part of a week dedicated to art in the school so we were wanted to allow each child a day of making. Logistically it would be impossible to spend much time with each class so we decided to set up three activities that we would introduce in the classrooms and invite the children in small groups to draw on the background and gain an overview of the larger artwork taking shape on the wall.
The theme of an ‘enchanted forest’ was one of the school’s suggestions and we created a narrative for this by asking the children to imagine a forest growing out of thrown away plastic. We asked about the material starting a discussion about what plastic is and where does it go when we’ve finished with it. They worked with collected plastic milk containers cutting intricate patterns to create foliage. Next they studied characteristics of native birds seen around the school grounds and made preparatory sketches. In the last session we asked the children to imagine how these birds might adapt to their new surroundings and to create a bird for the installation a wide array of printed cardboard and junk mail that they had brought from home.
It was difficult to communicate collage techniques to this amount of children: some favoured small torn pieces of paper to create a texture while others could envisage images and patterns used in a new context. One of the youngest children recognised a large swirling camouflage print as a perfect beak for a ‘jungle bird’. The children that worked with the small pieces became frustrated with the slow progress and were happy to be encouraged to work with larger shapes or to focus on areas such as eyes or beak to let the image read as a bird. It’d be interesting to try this activity again in the small art club group.
The artwork was installed the same day against a backdrop of small drawn images of things that might be floating or flying in the forest air.