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Insects and Bugs

Learning Contexts

The finished mural by Dairy Flat School students

The finished mural by Dairy Flat School students

Visual Arts: sculpture, painting and design; Science; Mathematics; English; Social Sciences; ICT

Artist

Anna Evans - Profile on Arts Online

School

Dairy Flat School

Duration of Project

10 weeks

Students Involved

Whole school

There are many dimensions to art and art practice. Art's importance to our whole culture is vital and therefore it makes complete sense that art is valued and cultivated further in schools.

(Anna Evans - artist)
Images from the class projects in progress

Background

The students of Dairy Flat School were studying insects and mini-beasts as the focus theme in the same term that the Artists in Schools project was to take place. To make the project a success across the whole curriculum, (including literacy and numeracy, culture and heritage), artist Anna Evans devised visual arts projects that integrated other learning areas while also allowing the students to engage in the key competencies such as thinking, participating and contributing, managing self and others while building their visual literacy skills.

Anna worked across the whole school, with all of the eight classes through years 1 to 7. All students had six to seven sessions devoted to the project over the ten week period. Each teacher discussed with Anna the possible projects specific to the needs and abilities of their class. The final outcome of work completed in the classrooms was celebrated at the School Arts Week. This festival of the arts was a week of electives (run by people from the community and teachers) that the children chose to attend. This included ceramics, costume making, kapa haka and much more.

In addition a group of gifted and talented students met weekly with Anna to create a mural for the school and, at the end of the project, a work by a student was selected to be a permanent art work on display at the school.

Process

Class activities

Lucy paints her praying mantis

Lucy paints her praying mantis

An example of a class activity was a painted insect collage inspired by the illustrator Eric Carle. View more information on the stages of the project at Dairy Flat School. Here, the whole school project process is detailed and includes information that was distributed to all teachers prior to the project commencing, photos of the projects, demonstrations of techniques such as PDF guides for making scientific bug illustrations, 3D bug sculptures and masks. Educational links used with the students to assist with research about insects were also included. Anna Evans created her own comprehensive website which included documentation about her own practice and her previous Artists in Schools experience in 2008.

Arts Week electives

To celebrate the arts, the school annually invites members of the community and the teachers to create wonderful art projects that capture and invigorate the children's imaginations. During this project there were many activities planned at Dairy Flat School.

Mural

Anna and a group of twenty-three students identified as being gifted or talented in art developed ideas and painted a mural for the school. It was based on the Māori myth The Tree That Could Not Be Cut Down (illustrated by Robert Jahnke). These sessions were held for two hours every Friday afternoon for ten weeks.

The best student illustration (selected by the students) was painted onto board and put up in a focal position in the school.

Throughout the process Anna made extensive use of the internet and Photoshop to make step-by-step guides for drawing procedures which the children could view as hardcopies but also access over the internet through "E Room's" (Dairy Flats IT based class). The Google site created by Anna was linked to Dairy Flat School's 'E-Room' and allows secure access to facilitate shared learning. Students could view the site but access to outside users was limited for internet safety issues.

Student learning

Students working on a mural panel

Students working on a mural panel

Students benefited by having the opportunity to observe and learn from an expert. Students with talent in art felt valued and were able to contribute to their community doing something they love.

Students were able to use high quality materials and tools that are not usually available through the school's supplies. In conjunction with the knowledge gained from the artist, this resulted in the production of high quality visual art.

Anna worked closely with all of the students and the teachers spoke about the improved level of student achievement in this area. The range of knowledge, skills and opportunities offered by having an artist in the school enriched students' learning. Every student had a positive learning experience with an expert in the field of visual arts and gained new knowledge and skills as well as completing a piece of work that they value and feel proud of. Teachers were able to observe and participate as learners. Because the students were actively and positively participating, their experiences and their learning will be transferable to future experiences when these skills and process can be successfully adapted.

From left: Samara applies her colours light to dark; student drawing for the mural; Prisma water colour drawing

Curriculum links

All four strands of the visual arts curriculum were addressed: Understanding the arts in context, by examining the genre of book illustration; Developing ideas, using artist models as an influence and producing a range of drawing ideas before deciding on the final outcome; Developing practical knowledge, by making bugs using a combination of tools, materials and techniques such as wire, pliers, screw drivers, hot glue guns, tin-foil, newspaper, masking tape, cellulose paste; Communicating and interpreting, through discussion of ideas together and with the teacher, and through decision-making for the exhibition of their work for the Arts Week.

Related learning

The intention was to use this project as a means to integrate learning areas through the Visual Arts including:

Science Living world: The children across the whole school learned a great deal about insects, their environments and related ecosystems. Older children were required to invent their own insect. This required a lot of research of existing insects and drawing designs after which they wrote creatively about their imaginary insects, including the environment they live in, the food they eat, their role in the ecosystem.

Mathematics Geometry and measurement: Students had begun to learn about symmetry, covering this in tandem through studying insects and their body parts as well as creating their own which was a wonderful 'real-life' example. Learning how to enlarge insect drawings to scale, measure wire for construction and ratios of compounds such as cellulose paste/water were all practical ways of learning mathematical skills.

English Making meaning of ideas or information received and creating meaning: Students working on the mural project read a Māori legend called The Tree That Could Not Be Cut Down and discussed the ideas, meanings and imagery in the text and how they could best depict the myth in a single image. They discussed the role of the insects within the narrative and how to represent them pictorially.

Social Sciences Place and Environment, how people perceive and interact with the environment: Students researching towards the mural project examined how Māori culture viewed insects and birds as guardians of Tane's forest and therefore guardians of nature itself.

Effective pedagogy using Information and Communication Technology (ICT): The relevance of new learning was enhanced in this project by the internet, an invaluable tool for research about insects (especially YouTube and Google). Step-by-step videos were also uploaded to YouTube so the younger children (years 0 - 3) could see a walk-through guide to the project and could physically see the artwork happen via video allowing opportunities to learn despite their limited reading and comprehension experience. Shared learning was facilitated and students were able to make connections to prior learning through the website created by the artist, all linked to the school via the internet. Inquiry-based learning was encouraged through assisting students to begin their research by providing links to relevant sites.

Impact on school community

Parents were excited about this wonderful opportunity for their children and the school environment was enhanced by the high quality work completed. The mural is in a prominent position in the school grounds.

Our tangata whenua is valued.

(Debbie Marshall - Principal)

This comment was referring to the school community and their involvement and contribution in the Arts Week as well as their interest, thoughts and support for their students learning through the Artists in Schools project.

Comments

I found the experience to be one of the most important and positive experiences of my life. I learned a great deal from the teachers...,the children and I learned a great deal about myself. It has been invaluable to my career as a freelance artist and art tutor.

(Anna Evans)

I learned how to successfully integrate curriculum topics like culture/heritage, numeracy, literacy, science with visual art to combine and create with children, not just amazing pieces of art, but active learning experiences.

(Anna Evans)

I learned an incredible amount about Māori culture and art, especially myths, legends and local history and discovered new tools for teaching directly from working alongside teachers...

(Anna Evans)

I benefited from the project because it enhanced the teaching and learning in our school particularly in the area of the arts.

(Debbie Marshall, teacher)

Curriculum links

The NZ Curriculum states as its vision for young people that they are confident, connected, actively involved and lifelong learners. Realising this vision was an integral part of this project as all the children involved were actively involved in music making and had multiple opportunities to relate to adults and their peers in an innovative and creative way. The experience set high standards for the children of what they could achieve with dedication and life-long learning.

The values in the NZ Curriculum found real expression in this collaboration with Julian and Strike. The students aimed for excellence in their performance, were introduced to a diverse range of cultures through song and developed a strong sense of community while working together towards a common goal.

In developing the key competencies the students related to others as they listened, kept open to new ideas and shared their thoughts. They developed skills of co-operation and tolerance, managing their own behaviour and setting high standards for their own contribution.

All four strands of the Music - Sound Arts Curriculum were encompassed through the learning. Students learned to: Understand Music - Sound Arts in Context; Develop Practical Knowledge as they learned to sing and play instrument; Develop Ideas as the worked to create their own music; and Communicate and Interpret music of a range of cultures for performances.

Where to next

With the students' permission, the school will frame and permanently display some of the students' work produced during the Artists in Schools project. The mural will be a lasting legacy of the project. The skills gained by the teachers as a result of working with Anna Evans will be used in future art projects and the value of visual arts, as part of the curriculum, is now recognised as very important at Dairy Flat School. The Arts week will continue as part of the annual events programme at the school.

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