Pop Up Canal

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About This Case Study:

Ellesmere College & Attenborough Arts Centre

Ellesmere College opened in 2014 and caters to pupils between the ages of 7 - 19 with a wide range of educational difficulties from moderate to severe and complex needs.

This project saw the school's outdoor learning team join with three artists to use innovative digital media techniques to use the local Aylestone Canal for broad-based learning opportunities on site and in the classroom. The project also saw Riverside Rangers bring in their knowledge and expertise relating to the canal's history and environment.

Not all of Ellesmere's pupils are able to visit open water locations and so in what is believed to be a world first, this project used the Pop Up Play system to stream live footage captured by peers back to the classroom. This meant pupils of all ages and abilities were able to share in an immersive, multi-sensory experience of the canal.

The partners planned 20 sessions, delivered in five days of activity over a three-week period, involving some 80 young people from year 6 to year 11. The sessions linked to the Spring term curriculum themes of the elements, leisure, Aztec culture, journeys and canal culture and history. Hence the first day at the canal with pupils saw a focus on elements, collecting samples of natural materials and exploring the local flora including placing plants to create a pond. The following week looked at the idea of Aztec floating gardens and saw pupils plant up coir rolls to be placed on the water, learning in the process about control of erosion and creating habitats for wildlife .

Later sessions looked at canal usage from rowing to barges, exploring the history of both river and canalised stretches, and the background to features such as the Old Pack Horse Bridge and Aylestone Lock.

Throughout the sessions pupils on site were able to use technology such as iPhones to stream footage, hydrophones to record underwater audio samples and a GoPro camera to capture images from a boat trip. All this material could be fed into the Pop Up Play system for simultaneous use by the groups back in the classroom who could carry out parallel activity such as recreating a boat in the classroom, singing rowing songs and examining plants, artifacts of canal life and even otter poo.

Teacher feedback was very positive, reporting that puopils engaged well with the project and even pupils who are non-verbal found a way of expressing their enthusiasm. "They interacted really well as a group which is normally very difficult for them," said one.

Creative Producer: Marianne Pape

Lead Artists: Jayne Williams