Starting Out at Vernham Dean

This morning was the first Ash Tree Stream session at Vernham Dean Gillum’s Primary School at Vernham Dean, a village about 9 miles north of Andover.

The content of this first session was similar to that at Harrow Way last week. I want to offer the schools the same general starting point and then the freedom to take the project off in different directions as time goes on. The main differences with this first session were that Vernham Dean is a very rural school, unlike Andover-based Harrow Way, and that I was working with Year 3 and 4 children today, whereas at Harrow Way the students were a fair bit older, being in Year 8.

It was a beautifully bright and frosty morning today, with the low sun shining up the valley as we explored out in the school grounds. We used a range of ways to support the children to record what they noticed about the Ash Trees that grow there, and a number of other tree species too. Becky wasn’t able to join us this time, so Jacob, an ATU volunteer and qualified teacher came along to support the session.

In each of these introductory sessions, we are asking the children what they’d like to do next. Session 2 with each school will be a full day, spent getting out into the surrounding area, finding, recording and interacting with the Ash Trees and other features or species that we find there.

At Harrow Way some students suggested focusing on footprints, identifying animals by their tracks and maybe casting some. They also were keen to take photographs and to make artwork from fallen branches and other found materials.

Today at Vernham Dean the group talked about mapping, and finding ways to share the location of local ash trees with others, creating leaflets or tree labels, and recording the trees with different kinds of drawing.

The second session at each school will take place in February or March, so there is some time in between now and then for schools to take the themes and explore how they connect with existing and planned topics. We have also asked children to take their sketchbooks home to respond to and record the Ash Trees near to where they live.

In the meantime I have two more sessions to run this week, with Andover Church of England Primary School on Wednesday, and Appleshaw St Peter’s School on Thursday, with the final introductory session at Portway Junior school next week, on Wednesday 11th.

I’m also developing my own artwork, in response to time spent with both trees and children, and will share some of that as things evolve.

Published by James Aldridge

Visual Artist and Consultant, working and playing with people and places. Based in Wiltshire, UK

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