This morning was Becky and my first session of the project with Andover Church of England Primary School, a town centre school with whom Andover Trees United has worked a number of times before, carrying out tree planting and other activities. For Ash Tree Stream we are working with Class 3 and their teacher Charlotte Down.
Although there are no Ash Trees on the school site, we gave the children a chance to use their sketchbooks to explore and record the trees they do have, in a range of different ways. In our next session in March, which will be a full day, we will walk together through the town, following the River Anton towards Rooksbury Mill, to find and record the Ash Trees that grow along its banks.
Today Becky gave the children an introduction to how Ash Die Back Disease affects the health of Ash Trees. We explained to the children that we wanted to give them a chance to celebrate the Ash Tree, and to notice them and the ecosystems that they support, while they are still here. We also explained the particular significance that the Ash Tree has to Andover, through the origin of the town’s name, and its links with the local river.
The children made use of the resources on offer to take rubbings of leaves, logs, a wooden fence and other features, discussing the patterns and textures as they did so. We explored ways of combining the different media together to record our sensory experiences, observed the way that the frosty ice crystals highlight leaf veins and other structures, and compared the shapes and sizes of different leaf prints.
One boy used rubbings of different found materials to create ‘a woodland scene’, whilst another created a thickly layered and textured page out of the resources on offer. As with sessions at the two previous schools, we stressed the importance of being playful and experimental, of there not being a right or wrong way to explore and record.
“Think of the whole field as being your art…” – A boy sharing his work with a classmate
In the time between now and our next session in March, the children will continue to work with Charlotte, using their sketchbooks to link all their learning together. They will also take their books home to share with family and record experiences of Ash Trees near to where they live.
As they do so, we will keep in touch with school, to follow where their journey takes them, and plan consecutive sessions that build on their ideas and interests. To kick start this shared planning, we finished this morning’s session by gathering together a list of ideas that the children would like to contribute to session 2, and the equipment that they think we will need.
There’s always a lot of work involved in setting up a project, but it is all made worthwhile for me when I kneel beside a child on a school field, and experience their sense of wonder as they notice the beauty of a fallen leaf, or the movement of a fast escaping worm.
“I never thought it would be this much fun… I really want to do another rubbing!”