How can we make a piece of Artwork that has a powerful environmental message?
This is the question students at Welling School have been grappling with as part of their contribution to the British Council’s Rivers of the World project. The wider project, now in its ninth year, seeks to link together international classrooms in shared creative activities by exploring a common theme: the River. This year Welling School has been paired with YAYA art school in New Orleans, a city devastated in 2005 when a storm surge generated by Hurricane Katrina flooded eighty percent of the city. The aim was for each school to create an artwork panel to both celebrate relationships with the river in localities, and also consider the global issues affecting river cities.
To prepare for this endeavour a group of Year Nine students from Welling visited the Thames Path at Woolwich to experience the workings of the river; its history, its routines and future prospects, recording their visual observations in sketchbooks . The River Thames is relatively close to the school site but in many ways is still as exotic and mysterious as the Mississippi river of the partner school 4,624 miles away in New Orleans .
This trip triggered many conversations and on the minibus ride home the students discussed their own distant relationship with the river and their eagerness to discover more about the Thames. Sensing connections to prior learning they researched the Geography and Science curriculum to further embed their developing practice with meaning and substance.
Back in the classroom students worked together with artists Pia Goddard and Helen Ireland over two days to create a piece of art that collaged together all their ideas in visual form .
For the Welling panel, Helen and Pia worked with students to consider the issue of waste disposal along the Thames. Inspired by the yellow box barges that regularly float out to the estuary, they researched the work of companies who sort, recycle, generate electricity and improve the environment with green projects along the Thames valley using the materials that Londoners throw out every day. Students played their part in an international community of thinking, and value the positive contributions they can make to the wider world.
The panel created by Welling students, Pia Goddard and Helen Ireland was exhibited alongside work from 24 secondary schools in London, on the Southbank and has now made it back to Welling on display in the in the Art Staircase.