Boundary Way Project are pleased to share two new films created by artist Hannah Ayre demonstrating simple and inspiring projects that explore nature. In the first of these she demonstrates the cyanotype or sun-print technique and in the second how to create mandalas with found materials.

The new resources have been put together as part of Boundary Way Project’s Virtual Artist Residency at Penn Fields School that took place in November and December last year.

The residency was created to support creative learning, encourage pupils to connect with nature and support wellbeing during a challenging year. Plans to host an onsite residency with Hannah in the Autumn were adapted as Wolverhampton moved into a local lockdown last Autumn and it was no longer possible for this to take place, though at this point schools remained open.

Nature never closes

However, building on an existing partnership with a school situated next to our site, we thought about how we could continue to encourage pupils to spend time in nature and work with an artist, despite restrictions. Social distancing rules meant it was no longer possible for pupils to visit the allotments even though they were next door, and external visitors were no longer possible in school. The school’s art lead Shelley Cooper was finding it difficult to continue with planned work towards Arts Awards accreditation for which the requirements are for pupils to interact with an artist.

Students exploring the allotment

Shelley had already started to circulate inspirational nature based creative activities to pupils, reminding them that, ‘nature never closes’ and everyone can access it through their local, park or greenspace, garden or window box. She brought found objects into the classroom to inspire a sense of wonder through creative play and exploration, pupils made plant potions and tried simple printmaking techniques. In previous visits to Boundary Way children had gained confidence through exploring an outdoor setting. They had investigated nature close-up using digital photography, crayon rubbing, painting and collage.


Breaking down barriers to inclusive learning

The residency used a blended learning approach with pre-recorded sessions and live discussion in the classroom via the interactive whiteboard. Hannah worked in partnership with the school and Boundary Way project to devise a series of nature-based art sessions to meet the needs of a key stage 3 group with severe learning difficulties and complex needs.

Children and staff were thrilled to visit Hannah’s Edinburgh studio virtually, enhanced by strategic camera angles and a range of techniques to make sure every pupil could engage with the work. Her delivery supported inclusion in the classroom. Teachers and teaching assistants as were able to support pupils individually and guide them through the activities. Following Hannah’s instructions and inspiration, the class could follow up the session by trying out the techniques in the school garden. Something which all of the pupils enjoyed.

The filming of creative processes step by step, made instructions clear and accessible. This was more efficient than a ‘real’ demonstration where children gather around a table. This really helped to supported pupils learning needs.

Staff and pupils also benefitted from Hannah’s interactions with the wider arts and education community. By showcasing pupils work via her Social Media profile and inviting feedback, which she then shared with the pupils, Hannah boosted the children’s confidence, they were ‘bursting with pride’ and eager to hear feedback at the beginning of each session.

The project supported teacher’s professional development, enabling them to work with an artist and learn new creative techniques and giving them resources to support future work.

Staff and children anticipated Hannah’s weekly appearances with excitement. They provided a great talking point and something to look forward to which helped to boost wellbeing.

The input of a professional artist enabled pupils to meet the requirements for Arts Awards as they were able to learn about and interact with a professional artist as well as try out new creative techniques. They also practised their skills by making films of themselves demonstrating their new skills to share with others.

The learning resources

Mandalas have long been a source of inspiration for the Boundary Way Project and have been a recurring theme in our artistic work and the inspiration for our project logo. The word Mandala usually refers to a circular pattern created from different shapes or symbols radiating from a central point and is often associated with spiritual significance and contemplation.

The cyanotypes printing process is way of creating an image without a camera. Instead it uses sunlight as a way of making beautiful images – in this case using natural materials. In both learning resources, Hannah talks us through the creative processes step-by-step with wonderful artistic results that anyone can achieve. We hope you enjoy using these resources in educational settings, online or in your homes. You can watch both films by clicking the links below:

Learning Resource: Creating Mandalas with Hannah Ayre

Learning Resource: Making Cyanotypes with Hannah Ayre

The project has been made possible with a funding award from the Cultural Recovery Fund for Heritage helping Boundary Way Project to reimagine its’ cultural programme. The work is also part of wider research to develop digital resources to support nature based creative learning.

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