Woods and Water with Holne Chase School
Yesterday I led my first Green Town Group session with Holne Chase Primary School at Howe Park Wood. Howe Park Wood is a pocket of ancient woodland, bordered on four sides by roads and houses. The woods are the site of my work with two of the four schools, together with Campbell Park.
With a forecast for heavy rain all day, my plan for the day changed shape several times. We wanted to be outside as much as possible, this residency is all about using art to engage with the outdoors, but at the same time we didn’t want this Year 1 class to be so cold and wet that we put them off.
Luckily there were enough gaps in the rain to be able to spend a good chunk of both morning and afternoon exploring the woodland and making artwork in response.
As at Campbell Park we drew on the in-depth knowledge of Ranger Nicky from The Parks Trust, whilst using art-making to notice and record. This time instead of making large-scale group maps the children were given sketchbooks, ink pads for printing, tape and envelopes for collecting and sticking, and pencils for drawing. In the end though it was the mud that was asking to be touched and listened to as we squelched and stomped, and printed with our hands and feet.
The flooded ditches, swampy paths and dripping trees added a wild edge to the woods that wasn’t there when I visited before. It’s a managed woodland with bark-chipped paths, a visitor centre/cafe and is a wonderful resource for the local community, but it felt right that the rain had taken back a little control over the environment for our visit. Children ran, paddled, splashed, jumped over temporary rapids and waterfalls and squeezed mud between their fingers and the page.
In the afternoon took some time indoors to dry off and asked the question ‘What Can Art Be?’ then looked at the work of artists who make their work outdoors, with the children choosing their favourite pieces to reflect on and to inspire their own work.
Finally, we returned to the woods, in the rain, to gather materials and assemble temporary artworks in groups until the coach came. I’ll be meeting with this class at the woods again in May, and in between the sketchbooks will return with the children to school to support their continuing investigations.