Public art: hands-on
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Not just looking!
Dee Banks School in Chester and Schule an der Kleiststraße in Oldenburg have been partners since 1997, with an initial link established through two Comenius projects and their relationship further cemented with the help of UK-German Connection's Challenge Fund. Their latest collaboration aimed to further strengthen their ties by first discovering and experiencing public art, and then allowing the students to get creative together.
For any school, organisation is key to make a joint project of this scale a success but probably even more so for schools focussing on special needs education. Dee Banks and Kleiststraße worked very closely together to ensure that everything went smoothly. For example, both trips took place over the course of a short week – flying out on Monday and returning on Friday afternoon – to ensure that students would not be away for too long. Further, they relied on each other's recommendations and experiences to choose accommodation that provided appropriate facilities for the group, such as plenty of space and communal areas. And finally, one of Dee Banks' teachers spoke fluent German, which really helped to simplify matters on the ground.
Let's get busy …
Before the trip, both groups were set the task of photographing public art, the results of which they emailed to each other with explanations. This allowed the students to get to know another a little better, explore their foreign language skills and form an opinion on what they liked and also, what they did not – which set the scene for their joint creative work. A workshop led by a local artist provided a structured framework once the group got together.
"Seeing their children take part in a residential school visit abroad extended the parents' expectations of what they could achieve."
Not only were the created artworks something to be proud of, teachers and parents were also impressed with all the other tangible achievements. To name but a few: the students shared worksheets to reflect on their public art visits which helped to break down both their inhibitions as well as the language barrier, they concentrated during the art workshops and focussed fully on the creative task at hand, and most of all, they travelled abroad together which gave them a real sense of independence. As one student reflected: "Going to Oldenburg was a very good experience for me".
The next steps
The project was documented with digital cameras, which gave students the opportunity to use new technology and also resulted in plenty of material for a photobook. The album was then used to bring the collaboration to life for other students as well as parents and teachers, and was further supported by a PowerPoint presentation also made by the group. Both schools feel the project helped to provide the pupils with valuable new experience and are planning to work together again in the near future.