Into the Magical Forest: Creative Schools

Dod yn ôl at fynghoed: this is the title of the latest Creative Schools project I am working on in Tonypandy. In Welsh, it translates as “to return to my trees”, or “to return to a balanced state of mind”. The aim is to bring the children back into contact with nature through outings, stories, and creativity: collecting and printing leaves, working with clay, and willow weaving. There is a small area in the school yard that is to be transformed into a nature portal, a magical area the children can retreat to.

On an outing to a local forestry area, the children collected natural items to form a gateway into the  woods where stories would be shared. Some had never been walking in a forest before. They jumped through the gateway in turn reciting the password: I mewn i’r goedwig hudol! (Into the magical forest!)

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The Gateway to the Magical Forest

Discovering a fairy stone, and puffball mushrooms.

 

 

Doing leaf rubbings using wax crayons.

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Working with clay.

 

 

Clay sculptures inspired by the woods and stories.

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Printmaking Project at Beaufort Hill

As part of the Lead Creative Schools scheme – a joint Arts Council of Wales and Welsh Government initiative – Year 3 children at Beaufort Hill Primary School in Ebbw Vale have been collaborating on a storytelling project. They have brought together a small group of creative practitioners to help them create their own stories based on The Greedy Zebra and The Crafty Chameleon by Mylene Hadithi, making masks, creating performances and dance. I have helped them to create four banners of their stories using a combination of cyanotype and monoprint.

For the first workshop, I asked the children to draw their impression of the stories onto acetate. I then printed the drawings onto the material back at the workshop. For the second workshop, the children created borders around the prints using a selection of leaves to print impressions in different colours onto a yellow background.

I was impressed how quickly the children picked up the stages of the printmaking: squeezing and rolling out the inks, placing their leaf carefully onto the inked plate, covering it with paper and rolling again until the ink had saturated the leaf enough to get a strong print, peeling the leaf carefully from the plate, transferring it to the banner, and rolling it again to create the impression. They worked in small teams, experimenting with colour combinations and enjoying the chance to get messy!

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The finished story banners

Creative Practitioner Project

I’m very excited to have been chosen to work as a creative practitioner in a local primary school as part of the Lead Creative Schools Scheme, an extensive five-year plan to embed the arts and creativity into the Welsh curriculum.

I and a fellow practitioner, Lowri will be working with a group of about twelve Year 2 learners to create a storytelling and outdoor art project, taking inspiration from the rich local history of the area surrounding the school.  The artwork created in response to the stories will be installed in a small wooded area in the extensive school grounds. 

Lowri, who grew up in the local area, and whose first language is Welsh, told us about the Tŷ unnos (one night house), an old Welsh tradition that claims if a person could build a house on common land in one night with a fire burning in the hearth by the following morning, the land then belonged to them as a freehold. The squatter could then extend the land around by the distance they could throw an axe from the four corners of the house. Old axe and spear heads were discovered in the back gardens of local houses, and as they can now be viewed in the National Museum in Cardiff, we considered taking the children on a field trip to inspire them for their stories and artwork.

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One aspect of the artwork will involve making prints from the children’s stories – both monoprint and cyanotype – onto material which will be hung as an installation in the wooded area. Clay and willow may also be used to create structures and sculptures…who knows how things will develop and grow as the children become immersed in the tales…I’II be posting regular updates as the project unfolds.