Recreation Road Infant School

This was an ambitious two-day workshop, working with 90 pupils in three classes at this innovative infant school on the outskirts of Norwich. An important priority for the school was creating an exhibition which the pupils organised themselves. Following the model of The Mantel of the Expert, pupils took on curatorial and guiding roles similar to the roles of people at the Sainsbury Centre. The Culture of the Countryside work that they showed reflected a cross-curricular approach to the project, including writing, diagrams and lots of art work.  

On the first day, the children were split into two groups, both working on 'our environment, trees in the environment, patterns and natural forms'.  The day began with looking at objects the children had brought in from home or that they chose from the Culture of the Countryside basket. Further activities included responding to colourful and patterned objects from Papua New Guinea, storytelling, and going outside to forage for natural materials, which led to artwork in the afternoon.

In the interim between the first day and our follow-up visit, all three classes developed clear ideas about what they were interested in, so that three strong themes emerged which formed the template for the second day. This began with a general assembly, which refreshed our memories about Papua New Guinean culture, and identified food/farming, boats/water, and masks/faces as the three areas we would be studying closely for our second day. Beginning with collaging from magazines, the children then examined more objects from the Sainsbury Centre's collection of objects from Papua new Guinea - this time organised in each classroom according to the three identified themes. The artwork was organised around three different processes: panel-painting to focus on East Anglian food and farming systems, claywork in connection with Broads-related boats and water, and mixed-media mask-making to look at our culture in terms of faces and make-up.

The final event was a whole school exhibition of work, sited in three different classrooms. The exhibition was very well attended, with visitors very excited about the work the pupils had done, and  pupils both showing visitors around and inviting them to fill out evaluation sheets.