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Stone Sculpting and Jewellery Making

Learning Contexts

Visual Arts; Sculpture


Tim Turner

Tools in use to make pendants



Arohanui Special School

Duration of Project

9 weeks

Students Involved

53 students, ages 7 - 21


Arohanui is a school for students with special learning needs located in Te Atatu, a suburb of West Auckland. For this project students were introduced to sculpture in stone and wax media, culminating in a pendant made of bronze. The use of a highly personal and engaging approach to the project helped to provide the motivation for students to use and improve their manual dexterity, including fine motor control.

The Artists in Schools project was a huge success for students from this school. The opportunity to experience a whole new area and style of learning was seen as beneficial for both students and staff. The participation of the students was the major triumph with students only assisted when they asked for the help.

All that they achieved during the project has been their own doing, physically, mentally and spiritually.

(Tim Turner, artist)

The work that students created represents more than simply a stone sculpture or a bronze pendant. They created a higher visualisation of self and self-worth through the development of their personal emblems. Students broadened their perspective of what constitutes 'ability' and gained an understanding that they can be true 'artists' in every aspect of the title. Students wear their pendants proudly around their neck on a cord, carrying with them the very validation they created with a little encouragement.

Today I thought about the terms 'naïve' and 'outsider art' a lot, and have come to realise, that, the naïvety is in the eyes of those who view the works of the 'naïve' or 'outsider' labelled artist. If you were to see first-hand, as I have done, where and how the inspiration for the work comes from, the dedication to process, the finesse and determination to create just what they visualised prior to creating, one would for sure have to check themselves before calling it naïve.

(Tim Turner)


Tim worked with classes of three to ten students at a time. Visual aids were used to introduce the project, techniques and options which was found to be extremely beneficial for students and the teacher. The visual aids provided the opportunity for pupils to make more decisions for themselves, and for teachers to help students experience the feeling of freedom to choose from the options presented.

Inlay on sandstone


To begin with students worked with the stone sculpting. The tools were bigger and stronger and provided a good introduction, preparing students for the jewellery processes that require more 'finesse' and dexterity with materials. The students' first attempts with tools went extremely well and showed that they were willing to persevere to gain more control over the tools.

Angel by Pippa


To begin their own work students initially worked with pencil and paper to create a design concept. They then moved on to the mediums that were being used, either sandstone or jeweller's wax. Work was then done to re-create the design using the new medium with the variety of tools at hand.

Through stone sculpting, the students experienced many processes including the inlaying of jade into sandstone. Once they moved into the realms of jewellery, their small creative wonders in wax were then cast into bronze. This needed fine attention to detail to achieve the high standard of finish achieved in the last weeks as they sanded, filed and polished their works of art. The finished product for all students was a pendant or Christmas tree decoration of high polished lustre and extremely personal and unique in character.

Student learning

Such is it in these classes that I often wonder who is the teacher and who is the pupil?

(Tim Turner)

Students learned a number of practical skills such as holding a variety of different sized implements, carving, cutting sanding and polishing. In addition one of the most valuable aspects of the project was all of the skills developed related to values and key competencies. The project required students to persevere and show determination in the pursuit of personal excellence. It also required them to demonstrate a level of critical awareness about knowing when to ask for help and when they should strive to complete tasks themselves. The result of their efforts was a marked increase in their confidence and willingness to undertake new and challenging tasks.

Using visual models


Manual Dexterity


Curriculum links

Students, supported by the IEP process (individual education programme), were able to use this project to demonstrate their progress in understanding sequential instructions and the physical skills required to carry out the tasks. Projects like this allow teachers to 'use assessment approaches that better help them to identify, broaden and deepen their understanding of what the students can do as the basis for developing the student's teaching and learning programmes'.

All four strands of the Visual Arts Curriculum were integrated: Understanding the Arts in Context, Developing Ideas, Developing Practical Knowledge, and Communicating and Interpreting. The emphasis was on the development of students' ideas and practical skills at a level in line with each student's IEP.

Related Learning

Through experiencing success in projects like these students are encouraged to be confident, actively involved, life-long learners, reflecting the New Zealand Curriculum Vision statement.

They were encouraged to aim for the best possible result while persevering in the face of challenges meeting the New Zealand Curriculum Values . To do this they needed to think critically and creatively.

In addressing the Key Competencies of the New Zealand Curriculum , they developed an awareness of managing self by participating and exploring their ability to be self-reliant.

Throughout the project, teachers assessed student learning and aspects of individual development using narrative assessment for students with special learning needs.

Impact on school community

Positive outcomes from this project were considered to be enormous. Families, friends, peers at school and the greater community said that there could only be benefits from a mind becoming more fertile. Students may have begun the project tentatively and doubted their ability to make a pendant, but the resulting confidence and the aspiration to do better, in a range of diverse settings, could only contribute to a better community to live in.


I am left humbled by the whole experience and can only live in hope that the near future brings funding to let this style of open teaching be available to those who so clearly benefit from it.

(Tim Turner)

Where to next

An ongoing programme of similar projects would benefit students and result in a more advanced stage of learning. The skills touched on during the project were brief and further learning in this area would enable a finer understanding of tool use, dexterity and enable students to create a higher standard of finish.

I have been so moved by this project as to undergo a fundraising scheme of my own to generate enough money to place myself for at least one term of this year (2010) back in Arohanui School. I am positive that the school and students alike will welcome this with open arms.

(Tim Turner)

The artist was offered the use of a very successful art gallery to exhibit works from the students, not only providing an opportunity to exhibit their work, but also providing an opportunity to generate some funding for the programme to continue.

Useful links

Historic pendants/Amulets

Contemporary Artists

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