Thursday, 11 December 2014

Arts Award Discover with SS Mary & John CE Primary School ’Art & Science’ at the Museum of The History of Science – Hannah Eastwood

I have had the wonderful opportunity to be part of the Arts Award project with SS Mary & John Primary School at the Museum of the History of Science. The project ran during the Autumn term of this year with children and leaders from their after school Art Club.
Children began the term by considering their own experience of the arts and mapping their responses visually.

The next week, the group visited the museum and were given a short ‘highlights’ tour of some unusual objects on display. These included the museum’s unique spherical astrolabe, the revolutionary clock, amazing sundials, orreries and telescopes. The children interviewed a member of the museum’s staff whose work includes planning and designing exhibitions and publicity. There were lots of interesting questions such as:

What is the oldest object in the museum?
What is the best part of your job?
Did you always want to work in a museum?
What is the biggest object in the museum?
How far can you see through this telescope?
Do you have to be a scientist to work here?

During their time at the museum the children used digital cameras to take photographs of fascinating and unusual objects on display which appealed to them. They later used the images as inspiration for their own artwork during the term. 

Back at the weekly art club, the children each chose an object which had inspired them. They discovered more about their chosen object by researching it online, then made drawings. They also researched artists which might have made work using this subject.  Next, children began to construct 2D or 3D responses using a variety of media including chicken wire, modelling clay, wood, metal wire, and papier mâché.

Responses included:

- a model of an anatomical theatre made from wood, inspired by stories about the anatomical demonstrations which took place in the Museum’s old basement gallery
- a version of the Museum’s lodestone which takes the form of a jellyfish instead of a crown
- a fully functioning camera obscura
- a prosthetic hand inspired by armour and the brass prosthetic hand in the basement of museum. 

Prosthetic hand inspired by Museum of The History of Science

In December, we held a final presentation of the objects and outcomes created by the children. Their artwork was displayed on the large oak table in the basement gallery of the museum. Parents, carers, family members and other visitors enjoyed seeing them and hearing the children explain how and why they were made. The children also held a sharing assembly at school to describe the project and their work to other children at SS Mary and John CE Primary School.

Display of the children's creations at Museum of The History of Science
The sheer technique in their finished final pieces was astonishing. They used a variety of techniques in their model making which was really impressive to see. By placing their work in the museum, their creations really did stand out and the display looked wonderful.

During the presentation event, I had handed out a sheet which I designed to encourage feedback for the students. Adults and children were asked to fill in a short sentence next to the children’s art work about what they liked about it. This gave the children a great sense of achievement and it also proved that they had shared their work when it came to the assessments for the certificate. 

Comments included:

3D astrolabe
‘What an inspired piece. Scholars in the past worked very hard to achieve this- and you just did it!’

Mechanical Hand
Excellent glove- reminds me of a suit of armour, it really looks like metal.
‘Wonderful! Scary! Does it work? I wonder who wore a hand like this?  Looks really good’.

It was really useful to be able to put my Arts Award training into practise again and being able to look closely at all of their work was a very special privilege.
I was amazed by the student’s responses and the standard of work produced all from being inspired by the collections at the museum. This is sometimes a very tricky collection to make connections with as often the objects are puzzling and complex but they overcame this so easily and ran with their ideas confidently. 

Students were able to explain their ideas coherently and enthusiastically. One parent had commented on how brilliantly they could convey the science behind their chosen object and the language they had used was very advanced for their age. Literacy and language was quiet an unexpected outcome of the project!

Parent at the presentation event

Parents were obviously very happy with the project from their feedback:
‘This has been a fantastic project, the combination of using scientific artefacts as a starting point the approaching the museum in an art/ creative way was really nice. The children really got to know their objects by re- creating them. They have ownership of them and a relationship with them. They have all responded in completely different ways. Making it yourself in 3D was great- in school you don’t get to do so much 3D work. Being able to do it as a long term project with input from adults was really good.’

The plan now is to find a space for them in the museum to go on display in their own mini exhibition to show case all their hard work and I will look forward to coordinating this.

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