Project: Sensory Mapping
Participants: 28 Year 5 children
Partnering with: Batley Parish CE JI&N
Artist: Lucy Bergman
We will be using a variety of creative methods to capture and map Change in the area around Warwick Road School. We are going to record sounds, sights, smells and textures in both residential, urban areas and green spaces around the Batley Carr neighbourhood, by walking and using video cameras, sketchbooks and digital cameras to record the interesting things we can hear, smell, see and touch. In school we have a collection of old school log-books. We are thinking of copying the style of these old books to log current sounds smells, sights -traffic, coke cans, fresh cut grass, shattered glass – and create a map of the current state of the area.
Session 1 – 29th January
Today we looked at large scale maps of the streets around Warwick Road School. We marked on the maps where the children’s houses are and we talked about which routes they generally use to get around their area. It was interesting how fascinating the children found the maps and how much debate and conversation they sparked as the children tried to suss out where things were in relation to familiar landmarks.
After looking at maps we headed outside armed with video cameras and notebooks. The class split up into smaller groups and the children explored different areas around their school focussing on their sense of touch, hearing and smell rather than just sight. The children were able to record themselves ‘sensing’ the various aspects of the streetscape with a particular focus on smaller details they might usually miss. The children’s films and notes made a collective sensory map of the streets. The children took on their tasks with gusto and really enjoyed themselves as well as being able to negotiate and focus. Lucy – artist
“The children have had a brilliant time today, this is exactly the kind of thing they need” – Mr Hughes, class teacher
Session 2 – 12th February
After exploring the urban/residential areas around school during the first session, today we all walked up to Hyrstlands Park, a local green space where many of the children spend their leisure time. Before leaving school we watched a showreel of the films shot during the first session. This was a good opportunity to see which bits had worked as well as take note of mistakes ie not talking while recording speech, keeping a steady hand whilst filming, framing shots etc.
It was good for the children to just get stuck in this time as they all knew how to use the video cameras so when we arrived at the park we split up into groups and started finding interesting sights, sounds, smells and textures to capture on film. The children also had small re-sealable bags in which they collected unusual and interesting objects found around the park such as leaves, stones, bottle caps, sweet wrappers and various other odd objects.
“This sort of activity is so useful for the children’s vocabulary and literacy. It gets them talking and if they can talk about things then they start to want to write about them” – class teacher
“I wish we could have more lessons outside. It’s like working but playing at the same time”
Session 3 – 19th March
Our day began with taking stock of all the images, film and objects we have collected so far and talking about how the work will be put together and displayed for the final exhibition in June.
Because we are trying to create a ’logbook’ as well as a film, the children were given four photographs each, images that depict certain views, objects and environmental details captured during our walks around the streets and Hyrstlands Park. The children wrote a sentence for each of their images, not purely a descriptive line but a ’musing’ on what could have happened before or after the picture, or a narrative linked to or inspired by the picture ie For the photo of the red post box, one child thought about the letters inside and wondered where they might be going to.
These images and sentences will be fixed into the blank logbook.
We finally got a chance to look at the old school log books dating back to 1881. It was fascinating reading some of the entries and interesting for the children to hear about the differences and similarities of school life over a hundred years before they were born.
We also spent time looking through the found objects collected in the park and arranging them into interesting patterns so that we can scan them in and display the prints.
There was a lot going on today but the children did a great job of staying focussed and getting through all the different tasks. Lucy – artist
“It’s good looking through the photos, it helps to remind me of all the different things we’ve done so far…it’s a lot of things!”
“I found it difficult to think of what to write at first but then I wanted to just keep on going”
A final word from the staff:
“From the very beginning of the project, our children were enthralled. Their visit to Cartwright Hall was a really special day for them and they really enjoyed meeting and working with the children from Batley Parish. The art was the star, though. I believe we may have a new generation of pop-art fans in our boys, who loved the Roy Lichtenstein picture. The children were already familiar with some of David Hockney’s work but they’d never actually seen it, apart from in books and on computer screens. To actually see the sketches and canvasses that the artist worked on himself was a really thought provoking experience. Seeing the work up close really made them wonder: ‘Could I do this?’, and set the scene wonderfully for their own work. The Sophie Ryder exhibition was something they really enjoyed – when they drew closer and realised that what appeared to be gigantic line drawings were actually wire sculptures, you could see the sense of wonderment on each face. They’re still talking about it, months later.
That sense of excitement was already there, when Lucy Bergman, the artist who was to work with us, first came to visit the children and started to discuss with them the plans for our project. In the weeks that followed, the children came to see the area they’d grown up with a completely fresh perspective. Things we’d normally walk past every day as trees, lampposts, reflections, rusting cars and old tyres became art. It was a great opportunity for the children to talk about their own experiences of their environment and to record their thoughts, feelings and memories. It gave the class a real sense of togetherness, too, which they’d previously lacked but which has stayed with them. Lucy’s enthusiasm for the project and her obvious enjoyment at working with our children has been an enormous boost for their self-esteem. We can’t wait to see the exhibition!”
and the students…
“I liked working with the other children from Batley Parish. My favourite picture was the Roy Lichtenstein one!”
“I liked using the cameras and the part where we interviewed each other”
“Hyrstlands Park was the best day. We took lots of photos and talked about all the things we saw”
“Working with Lucy has been really good. We had lots of fun doing this project”
“It was good recording all the sounds in the area. I liked using the computers to work on our pictures, too”