Belonging in Belgrave

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About This Case Study:

Belonging In Belgrave

Mellor Community Primary School & The Spark Arts for Children

This project sought to help young people feel a closer connection to their community by exploring it, mapping it and reproducing and celebrating it through art. In doing so it produced some rich learning experiences in and out of the classroom, both practical and academic and both within and beyond the regular curriculum.

The project was based on the idea of mapping, in the practical and literal sense of recording geographical layout and land usage, but also through "cultural mapping" – profiling a community to reveal the diverse cultural assets it has.

To begin with, school staff asked children to map their own classroom. This introduced them to the notion of two-dimensional representation and to the symbols and codes of map-making. This included the idea of co-ordinates, a difficult concept for them but with clear cross-curricula links, especially for maths. Then, with the project artist, they started to look at the landmarks in the immediate vicinity of the school, creating a large sculptural collage in the school hall that helped them visualise the relative location of these places.

Later they would go out and investigate the area around Belgrave Road. Having scoped the area on Google maps, they were then able to explore on the ground, going into the many food shops and colourful sari emporiums and asking questions to the shopkeepers. They enquired about features such as the statue of Ghandi, the National Space Centre and the recently removed flyover. Their curiosity was piqued, they came up with their own questions and found their answers - they had ownership of the enquiry process.

Throughout the process geographical recording was made using different art forms that suited different learning styles. Drawings of buildings were made, banners created, movement explored, poetry written and recited and a film made. The involvement of an artist proved inspiring – she was able to introduce them to a range of new and exciting techniques, new ways of looking and gave them, often for the first time, a sense of what it means to be "an artist".

The children were excited to share that they had learnt. In evaluation sessions they expressed their increased understanding of the local area, and described learning how to use and how to draw a map, and how to work together in art projects.

For teachers, using the local area brought learning to life. They found children engaged well and showed strong concentration and focus. The project was inclusive, with the variety of art forms giving strong opportunities for all children to have a voice. The novelty of learning outside the classroom and the informal learning approach coming from the artist helped the children with motivation and application – supporting them to be more receptive to more traditional work in maths and literacy.

Creative Producer: Nettie Scriven