Over the years The Project Group has formed strong links with educational establishments. We have been working for several years with Oswestry Education Centre and in the school year, 2010 - 2011, because of the success of the partnership, this was extended to include working with all the Shrophire Education Centres across the whole of Shropshire. We have held a number of workshops for local primary schools, in particular the 'waste can be beautiful' project, and have developed links with a local secondary school pupils for extra curricular activities as part of their extended schools programme. We are also in discussion with other organisations to formulate a programme of workshops for college students as part of their diploma.
The Project Group ran a series of recycling workshops for pupils at Our Lady and St Oswald's Catholic Primary School in Oswestry, in the Spring 2011. The workshops, titled 'Waste can be beautiful', introduced the children to ideas of what can be made out of every day waste.
Each workshop included teachers, parents and Project Group members, working together with the children to make a range of items for school, themselves and to sell.
The studio workshop themes were:
- making rubber bags from tyre inner tubes, hand sewn together and decorated with balloon fabric and leather
- making and decorating storage containers and baskets from plastic drums (previously used for cooking oil or home brewing)
- making glass dishes from smashed coloured-glass bottles, and hanging window decorations from recycled glass
One workshop was held at the school to make:
- an igloo shaped shelter to provide a shaded area for use as an outdoors classroom space large enough for 20 children, made from waste water pipes made into hoops (provided by Severn Trent), and using a number of recycled materials for decoration:weaving with balloon material and polystring discarded by the fishing industry and washed up on the beach; bottle corks and tin can lids; plastic bottles; fused plastic bags
The overall project included a theatrical element and a day with the Shropshire Wildlife Trust. All the pupils were involved and the results shared in a special school assembly.
The most significant developmentover the years has been the increasing partnership with Oswestry Education Centre.
In Autumn 2007, The Project Group applied for funding from Oswestry Borough Council's Crime Reduction Partnership, to run three 2 day workshops with young people from the local pupil referral unit. This was a project with an entrepreneurial aim, teaching the pupils how to design and make retail items from silk, felt and glass. The highlight of the training programme was a joint Christmas sale at our studio where the products made during the training sessions (and finished in many hours outside the sessions) were sold. The day was very successful and represented a great end to the project.
This led to the head of the Education Service commissioning The Project Group to put together an arts programme for the Oswestry Education Centre students, covering workshop sessions in a wide variety of materials, every second Wednesday during term time. Some sessions were geared towards the design and creation of a finished article, others were purely experimental, getting to know new materials and processes.
These workshops represented a great opportunity for two marginalised groups to meet and work together in an environment that's free of stigma.
The partnership with Oswestry Education Centre is ongoing and has been extended to include the other Education Centres across Shropshire..
Following an evaluation of the 2009-2010 sessions with the students, and based on some of the ideas they suggested, we started a new programme of work with the young peopl for 2010-2011. Looking at the Art GCSE themes, we developed the students work using materials not available at school and expanded their portfolios. They worked, for example, with recyc led materials, glass, wood carving, and textile printing. Two external artists, a printer and woodcarver, worked with the students to further develop their skills.
Nothing is not a Book:
This project was ambitious. The students were asked to imagine, then make, a book that isn't a book, using a tin box as the 'cover' for the book. To set the scene, the group were first shown a video, made when Project Group members worked with an artist on this theme. At first it was difficult for the students to understand the concept, but by the second session their ideas and creative work progressed and developed. For example, one student took a nursery rhyme as her starting point, Mary Mary quite contrary, and when the box was opened, as a book, inside was the garden growing. Another student used machinery parts, an old folder clip to hold the 'pages' of his book together inside the tin, and used washers and a bike chain to lock the box closed.
The staff commented that they thought after the first session, the students were not going to 'get it', but by the end of the second session, they were amazed at the work produced.
Unfortunately this productive partnership has had to be put on hold for the foreseeable future.
In spring 2010, The Project Group was approached by Lakeland School, Ellesmere, to run workshops as part of the Extended School programme of after school activities. The initial proposal was to run a 6 week course for students in years 8 - 11.
A group of 12 students and a member of staff attended the course on working with glass; an introduction to glass fusing and kiln forming. The success of the workshops resulted in a second group being offered the same course in the summer term.
This partnership continued into the next school year. In the autumn term the workshops introduced printing techniques with two sessions on dry point printing with an external artist, Amy Sterly, and four screen printing sessions.