Victorians with P5/6 at West Park School

A case study by Emma Leigh MacKay who was part of the 2018 Collaborate//Educate cohort along with class teacher Miss Murray

I am a visual artist specialising in painting and printmaking, graduating from Gray’s School of Art in 2012. In the years since, alongside continuing my own practice I have ran family fun creative workshops during school holidays. By taking part in Collaborate//Educate I hoped to translate my creative skills to the school curriculum and learn how to provide workshops in an educational setting.

Through Collaborate//Educate I was paired with Miss Murray, a P5/6 teacher from West Park School. She told me about her class and how excited they were to have a specialist visitor in class to learn from. Miss Murray was interested in linking the session with an upcoming Victorian project and to work in 3D. I had the idea of making clay bust “self-portraits” with the pupils imagining themselves as Victorian characters. The learning intention was for the children to explore the differences in appearances (clothing, hairstyles etc) between then and now and to learn about typical professions of the era. By imagining themselves as Victorians the intention was that they would immersivity think about what life would have been like then. It would also show them a new skill in the form of creating something in 3D. We discussed how best to achieve this, what we could successfully manage within the time and what each of us would be responsible for during the session.

A week before the session I went to meet Miss Murray at the school to finalise plans. This gave me a chance to see the room we’d be working in and familiarise myself with the materials we’d be using. We also visited the school’s costume cupboard and looked out Victorian style clothing for the children to dress up as their imagined character.

 To begin the session Miss Murray started a discussion about well-known Victorians and their professions. The class talked about what they would have liked to have done in the Victorian era. They dressed up in Victorian clothing and took a “selfie” as their chosen persona. The pupils had fun with this and really took on their characters!

 I then did a demonstration with the clay. I showed them how to handle it and join it to make a basic head shape. The pupils got to work while I went around helping and chatting to them individually. Miss Murray printed the selfies as a reference image to make their clay portraits from. After morning break, I did another short demonstration on how to attach shapes as facial features and how to use the clay tools to make interesting textures. The class continued working while Miss Murray and I went around helping anyone who required it. I chose to do it this way rather than to have them follow a step by step process to avoid ending up with a class of identical sculptures. It also allowed them to get creative and do a bit of problem solving on their own.

 Throughout the session the pupils were engaged and excited. For a lot of them, this was a brand new experience as their first time using clay. Although some found it more challenging than others, they all put in their best effort and created something to be proud of. A principal teacher visited the classroom during the session and said it was the most creative lesson she’d seen in a long time. Miss Murray told me her pupils previous experience of art had mostly been drawing and painting so this gave her more confidence in incorporating 3D artwork into lessons. She also had plans to continue to use the sculptures they made during story writing sessions.

 Personally, I found the experience very useful. I gained confidence in presenting to a class, the classroom certainly isn’t as daunting as it was before! It was great being able to work closely with a teacher and get an understanding of how to plan a lesson.

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