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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Baba Yaga and Vasilisa the Brave

For the last week of this five week cycle of storytelling and art from around the world, we travelled to Russia to hear about the enigmatic Baba Yaga.  She is a many-faceted figure, variously seen as a Moon, Death, Winter, Earth Goddess, totemic matriarchal ancestress, female initiator, or archetypal image.[4]

After discussing some of Baba Yaga’s traits: iron teeth, lives in a house that walks around on chicken legs, sails through the sky in a mortar yielding a pestle,  the children listened to one of the many tales involving Baba Yaga: Vasilisa the Brave. It exhibits Baba Yaga’s ambiguous nature – scary, yet wise, and the choices of a girl who triumphs through courage and perseverance.

Below is a selection of the wonderful illustrations of Baba Yaga by children on the course. I’m always amazed at the detail, personality and energy of these drawings that the children do without hesitating as they listen to the stories.

 

Vasilisa’s magic doll by Lily.

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New Creative Course for Children

22814176_2138041869756309_782321284008138379_nFor this five week course, we are sharing stories, poems and art from ancient cultures around the world. This week, we looked at Māori culture and the story of Maui the demi-god who pulls up Te Ika a Maui (known today as the North Island of New Zealand), with his magic fishing hook. The slashes and cuts made by his brothers fighting over the land were said to have created the many mountains and valleys of the North Island today.

After listening to the story and looking at some images of Maori sculpture and art (rich in symbolic pattterns), the children drew some pictures in their books and wrote down some ideas for their own stories, such as imagining what else may have been hooked on the magic fishing hook, and how Maui felt when his brothers refused to take him fishing.

After the break, the children chose one of their drawings to develop into a print. We used styrofoam to etch into, ran the ink over it and printed it – one to take home, and one for their books. They then worked on their own stories. There was no pressure to read them out, but the children enjoyed sharing their ideas and knowledge about myths in general. Most didn’t know much about Maori culture, but lots about the Greek myths, which we agreed to investigate next week. One boy decided to write part two of his story when he got home.