Environmental Art: Outdoors Learning at School Grounds

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Environmental Art: Outdoors Learning at School Grounds

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  • 1. outlook • MAY 2007 groundnotes September 2008 Schoolgrounds-UK Environmental art Art and the school grounds are natural within one colour band (for example, partners. The outdoors offers not just the ‘Environmental art is about many the different shades of greens, or the space to experiment with scale but also – things, including being sensitive different shades of brown) by drawing on the outdoor environment to the natural cycles of our world. ● different shapes of leaves, flowers, itself – a wide range of exciting stimuli. It is about using natural materials stonework This Groundnotes looks at how without causing harm to the environment; it is about allowing ● different textures of plants and surfaces. environmental art . . . natural processes to change the Collect a number of special items and ● uses the environment for inspiration. place them in a prepared set of plastic art created (to even crumble and For example, making drawings of pockets (slide carrier sheets, floppy disc fade over time); it is also about natural features like trees and flowers sheets or similar). Decide why they have a expressing a concern for the ● uses the environment as a resource. fragility and robustness of special nature. Do they look like For example, making artworks nature.’ something else? Do they have a magical from natural materials such as bug Sonia Percival, artist and feel or power? Is their sculptures constructed from twigs, landscape manager colour/shape/texture appealing? Projects bark, leaves etc. could include . . . discoveries to set pupils thinking about ● building up a story from your found Getting started – what the outdoors has to offer an artist in objects investigating your grounds the way of inspiration and resources. The ● drawing round each found object on to Look at what you have outdoors while results of your environmental ‘audit’ paper and making the object into these thinking of your outdoor area from an could itself be developed into traditional magical other things. Use soft pastels to artist’s point of view. Walk around your and non-traditional works of art. capture a more natural look. grounds and reflect on how art permeates With younger pupils, encourage With older pupils encourage them to all your outdoor areas. You can do this them to look at: look at: with your children, and use your ● the different colours, and the variety ● edges, holes and lines – for example, LEARNING THROUGH LANDSCAPES
  • 2. groundnotes • SEPTEMBER 2008 lines and patterns in bark; cracks, markings, paths and edges of the hard playground area● repeated patterns – ripples in the pond, stem lines, windswept piles of leaves, reflections● focal points – a large tree, area of grass, play equipment, viewing spots, entrances, brickwork. Pupils can develop their observations intraditional ways such as drawing orpattern making or use what they havefound to think beyond the obvious anddevelop new ideas such as . . .● using an avenue of trees as a corridor of space for hanging things● using earth, soil and stone for creating pictures, making earth pigments for painting, sculpting, mud painting.Planning your projectDecide on numbers Your environmentalart project could involve the whole school,individual year groups or classes, or smallgroups of pupils. Who is involved willdepend on how ambitious your project is school grounds? If your school grounds Magic carpetsand the amount of space you have to work can only offer limited resources, you could Look at some images of woven rugs andwithin. Bear in mind that you will need to make a visit to a nearby park or woodland carpets from different countries or perhapsmatch the number of tasks and resources to collect inspiration. Or ask your local from a story book. Find a good space toto the number of pupils involved. ranger service to come into school with create either one large carpet or several.Choose a theme Consider which themes resources from their country park. Make the outline with sticks and go fromand topics run through your curriculum there using leaves, flower heads, seedand could benefit from an environmental heads, bark, grass, petals, sticks, stonesart connection. For example, topics such and/or feathers to create patterns.as mini-beasts, caring about the Autumn leaves give you a wide rangeenvironment and personal identity may of rich golden to red colour and very largenot be part of the art and design pieces of bark can act as a good base. Bearcurriculum but offer potential for in mind that you will need to choose across-curricular links. sheltered spot if it is windy.Consider the seasons Remember tofactor in seasonal changes when planningyour project as these may affect yournatural resources – for example, autumn Thinking bigleaves, summer flowering grasses, winter The outdoors is unique in offering theskeletal tree shapes. Each season brings opportunity for large-scale environmentalwith it its own colour and textural palette. art projects. Here are some exciting ideasWhich season offers the most in your to help get you started.Useful art resources with and can be purchased from your local garden centre.Natural materials that readily lend Rose petals These are great forthemselves to artistic creations include: providing strong colours, and a sensory Willow withies These are very flexible experience too. Lots of linesthin branches which can be used to Leaves For a wide range of shapes The repetition of shape, size and colour inconstruct large and small shapes. Willow and colours you could visit your local a long line constructed using the samecan also be worked as a living material to arboretum. material is very appealing to the eye. Findmake growing features such as arches, Clay A bag of clay gives you a natural a long length somewhere in your spacefences, domes and tunnels. medium not just to shape and mould (the edge of the playground, field, Seed heads These can be collected itself, but also to help hold other materials pathway) and place along it as far as youfrom around your grounds or from pupils’ together. The soil in your school grounds can a line of the same natural material.gardens and hung to dry until needed. may contain enough clay to be used in Use dandelion heads, acorns, beech nuts, Pebbles and composted bark Each this way. leaves or pine cones. You could wiggle orgive a different colour and texture to work curve your lines.ENVIRONMENTAL ART
  • 3. Large drawings groundnotes • SEPTEMBER 2008Thinking laterally about drawing will helpto explore the largest canvas you have inschool – your grounds.● Use willow or other long branches to make huge ground drawings. Lines and shapes can be made with branches. Colour can be added with grasses, leaves or petals.● Create a large hoop of willow then tie string across the shape in different directions. Thread found objects into the centre of the hoop.● Draw with naturally found objects – use the objects to create temporary pictures.● On a sunny day use shadows for inspiration – for example, draw the outlines of tree branches straight on to paper.Land artMany schools have created amphitheatres,mazes and monoliths – all of which aresmall scale land-art forms. This mayrequire more planning and expertisedepending on the scale of an idea but asimple floor maze using bricks, pebbles orshredded bark can be easy to lay out. Looking for inspiration? Long, simply walked up and down until he had made a mark in the earth. Encourage your pupils to look at work by The most famous land art work is well-known artists. Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty of ● From about the late 1960s the term 1970, an earthwork built out into the ‘environmental art’ was applied Great Salt Lake in the USA. Other land specifically to art that addressed social artists include Michael Heizer, and political issues relating to the Dennis Oppenheim and Walter de natural and urban environment. One of Maria. the pioneers of this was the German ● Contemporary environmental artists artist Joseph Beuys. Lothar include Andy Goldsworthy. He uses Baumgarten is a more recent ice, rock, leaves, branches, wood and practitioner. stone from the places in which he is ● During the 1960s and 1970s artists also installing the final creation. He may began working directly in the focus on holes, lines, repetition, shapesUnderstanding the landscape – creating what was often and colour. Other important referred to as ‘land art’, sculpting it into contemporary environmental artistsenvironment earthworks or making structures with include Chris Drury, Richard LongEnvironmental art offers pupils a great rocks or twigs. One artist, Richard and David Nash.opportunity to explore importantenvironmental issues in relation tounderstanding and caring for the planet,including: Space to place During a project in Surrey, seven schools● working with nature and its processes. across different sectors visited places of For example, choosing materials from significant heritage value. One such place sustainable and managed places; not was Ashtead Common, a national nature picking plants reserve and site of a Roman villa. To● developing a sense of place and an connect with this special place the pupils understanding of local materials made drawings of one of the key● recycling materials – both using environmental features to be found there – existing materials in a new way and 500-year-old pollarded oaks. These recycling artwork back into the drawings were the first steps in the design environment. For example, creating a of bigger pieces of artwork for the school spiral of leaves and seed heads within a grounds, including a mosaic, carved raised bed and leaving them to benches and metal work sculpture. decompose over time. ENVIRONMENTAL ART
  • 4. groundnotes • SEPTEMBER 2008 skills. I love working with groups to create an artwork that draws people together; a place of beauty for meeting, talking, learning and eating.’ Lizzy uses cob, a traditional building material made from a mixture of earth, clay and straw: ‘I am completely inspired by our complex relationship with the earth – from growing food and making pots to buildingMud, glorious mud! houses. It’s part of our ancient landscape and a very spiritual medium.’Partnerships with professional artists can The ingredients for cob can often becreate new opportunities for pupils, and sourced on-site, making each projectextend teachers’ knowledge and unique and self-sufficient. Lizzy has beenexperience. Working partnerships might impressed with the enthusiasm thatextend over many weeks, or involve a inner-city children have shown for such aone-day workshop. Projects like these can low-tech medium:often access specific funding. ‘I’ve worked on countless art projects Lizzy Bean, for example, is an with schools and understand the benefitsenvironmental artist who is passionate of working outdoors but I’ve beenabout mud. This summer, Lizzy won Arts particularly moved by how much theCouncil funding to research and develop children enjoyed the tactile qualities ofher work building earth sculptures and clay mud, and how they loved heaving loads ofovens. As a result, she was able to deliver earth around. They became so absorbedgroundbreaking projects with schools that at the end of the day, they had to beand environmental education centres in dragged off home!’the region. Lizzy’s other projects for school grounds ‘These projects bring together children from Woodhouse Primary School have included mosaics, murals, playgroundeverything that’s important to me,’ she came to Bell Heath Study Centre to build a trails and the creation of outdoorsays. ‘Using sustainable materials and beautiful earth oven this May. They had classrooms. For further information, pleasebuilding something that’s both functional the opportunity to create something out of visit www.lizzybean.com or contact herand sculptural. For example, year six the ordinary while learning real hands-on directly at lizzybean88@hotmail.com.Useful reading Useful websites Further resources● Nature’s Playground by Fiona Danks and ● For information on key artists and Groundnotes 2005 Pictures Outdoors Jo Schofield (France Lincoln) movements visit www.tate.org.uk available to download from the Member ISBN13:97807112 24919. A practical Services pages of our website ● For contact details for your local guide to exploring the outdoors with www.ltl.org.uk. authority arts office visit ideas for environmental arts and crafts. www.artscouncil.org.uk,● Environmental Art by Hilary Ansell © This resource was originally www.scottisharts.org.uk, created as part of the Schoolgrounds-UK (Folens) ISBN 9781841914695. This www.artswales.org.uk, membership scheme from the book gives ideas for displays and www.artscouncil-ni.org. national school grounds charity projects using environmental art. ● For details of artists experienced in Learning through Landscapes● Silent Spaces by Chris Drury (Thames & working in schools visit the Learning operating in Scotland as Hudson) ISBN 0500092761. One through Landscapes website Grounds for Learning (registered charity no. in England and Wales artist’s view of environmental art www.ltl.org.uk and/or 803270 and in Scotland SCO38890). practice with inspiring images of the www.artistsinschools.co.uk. To find out more about artist’s work. membership call 01962 845811 or visit www.ltl.org.ukENVIRONMENTAL ART