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Becoming a Cartoonist

Learning Contexts

Students' art works and books on display.

Students' art works and books on display.

Visual Arts: drawing, painting and sculpture


David Henshaw


Te Awamutu Intermediate

Duration of Project

10 weeks

Students Involved

180 students, Years 7-8


A student working on a story.

A student working on a story.

This project was a celebration of the school's 50th jubilee year. A variety of different visual art activities were integrated into the learning programmes for each class. The type of art varied according to the experience and interests of the students and teachers. Contexts included cartoons, water-colours, picture books, landscapes, acrylic on canvas, koru designs and papier maché sculptures. Most of the staff and many students were involved and the project culminated in visits to local kindergartens and an exhibition.

The students worked alongside artist David Henshaw who shared his knowledge, artistic techniques and passion for the visual arts. The students were able to observe how David created pieces of art and, as a consequence, were able to improve their ability to visualise, plan and execute art processes in creating their own work. David gave his advice freely and gave the students the confidence to experiment in their own art making. The organisation of the school made it easy for him to slot into their programme, and he received excellent support and guidance from the supervising teacher, Sue German.

David enjoyed his interaction with both staff and students. He was impressed with the dedication of the staff and the enthusiasm of the students. He witnessed an improvement in confidence amongst the students, as a well as a burgeoning passion for the visual arts. He saw a developing ability to use artistic techniques in a range of media, and most importantly, pride in what they had accomplished. The resource funding of the project enabled the school to invest in a range of art materials that were used during the project.

As this was the school's 50th jubilee year, the staff wanted to hold a special event. An art exhibition was mounted with exhibits from each class that David had worked with. A wine and cheese evening was held to open the exhibition and also to open the school's 'Grandparents' Day'.

The art exhibition was open for 'Grandparents Day'

The models and sculptures on display.

The models and sculptures on display.

Students who had created picture books presented them at local kindergartens. Students got a great thrill out of seeing their work so well presented. A photo-story with music enhanced the presentation, and a number of staff also exhibited their work alongside the students. The local newspaper, Te Awamutu Courier, did a feature article on the artist David Henshaw and reported on the exhibition. Because many students and most of the staff were involved, there was a great sense of collegiality and school-wide ownership of the project. The teachers gained valuable professional development in visual arts techniques, particularly the use of water-colours and drawing cartoons.


Student art work based on koru shapes.

Student art work based on koru shapes.

The processes varied for each class but included: viewing and discussing artists' work and processes; brainstoming ideas; and developing ideas alongside learning intentions and success criteria. Students selected media and processes and learned the techniques they needed to use to create their final works. Throughout the project students were involved in sharing and reviewing their learning. The final exhibition prompted self and peer reflection through the process of selecting works to be exhibited.

The project covered two learning cycles, each cycle being eleven sessions of 1 ½ hours each. Five classes were involved in each cycle and each class had different projects including picture books, political cartoons, water-colours, koru patterns, landscapes, and da Vinci inspired models and sculptures.

The second cycle included such projects as tapa patterns, pencil sketching, acrylic on canvas, water colour landscapes and picture books. The project concluded with an exhibition.

Student learning

Student tapa design.

Student tapa design.

Interacting with and working alongside a living artist who was prepared to share his knowledge, artistic techniques and passion for visual art developed their communication skills and interest in visual arts. The resulting relationship between the students and David enabled him to further motivate students to reach their potential. Students were able to see how he created pieces of art and how they could improve their ability to visualise, plan and execute art processes to create their own art works. As a result students gained in confidence.

I learned many techniques related to water colours. Mr Henshaw always told us "let the paint do the work".


They developed the ability to use artistic techniques in a range of media. By creating art works to a high standard and displaying them in an exhibition for the community, students gained a sense of pride in what they had accomplished.

We were able to develop our learning intentions and success criteria.


Curriculum links

The New Zealand Curriculum principles, values, and key competencies were embraced in the following ways:

  • By assisting to devise learning intentions and success criteria students were encouraged to reflect on their own learning processes and to learn how to learn .
  • With the additional tutoring in techniques students were able to have aim high when creating artworks to achieve their potential.
  • Students also devloped their critical, creative and reflective thinking skills , apparent through ongoing conferencing about their work.
  • Participating and contributing while relating to others were skills utilised by the students in the course of planning and opening the exhibition.

Indirectly, all of the strands of the Visual Arts Curriculum were explored. However, the main strength and intention of this project was about Developing practical knowledge (PK strand). The students also formed a close working relationship with the artist, which encouraged them to communicate extensively about the artist's work and their own work in progress (Communicating and interpreting, CI, strand).

Related learning

The picture books that students created were presented to local kindergartens. This allowed the English Curriculum to be integrated into the project through written language, oral language, viewing and presenting.

Impact on school community

The school community gained from the project by observing David at work and by being able to see the results of the art produced. The project raised the profile of visual arts within the school and wider community. It became a talking point for interviews with students and their parents enrolling in the school.


Staff members gained valuable professional development through learning artistic techniques, in particular the use of water-colours and cartoons. They also became more informed about the correct use of resources to achieve the desired results in terms of the learning intentions and success criteria. Staff noted how valuable it was having an artist in the programme as they were able to interact with David to improve their knowledge of visual arts and enhance the quality of the art produced by students.

David enjoyed the interaction with staff and students. He was impressed with the dedication of staff and the enthusiasm of students. David was astounded at the demanding role which teachers have and found that realising this was a valuable experience for him. He spoke very favourably of his positive experiences with the school, its teachers and management:

Working with students at this age was an enjoyable challenge. It made me more aware of the valuable role that teachers have regarding the motivation and learning of students this age.

(David Henshaw, artist)

Curriculum links

The New Zealand 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

In order for projects involving artists working in schools to be successful, the staff involved and the artist need to be clear the roles of their respective roles in the classroom setting. Artists are there because of the unique experience they bring to the students, not as qualified teachers, therefore their role in the classroom needs to reflect this and be well supported by the classroom teacher. In this way, a collaborative and mutually respectful professional learning environment thrives for all involved as schools open the door to hands-on experiences with experts in specific arts fields.

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