Learning goals: Gaining a basic understanding of concepts like recycling and sustainability and how these can be approached through art
Activities: Brainstorming school-related art projects; mini-garden project
The kids were split into groups and asked to discuss projects they could do if they were assigned to decorate the school. Ideas ranged from murals to mini-gardens, with plants put in plastic bottles. They wanted to beautify the canteen area that groups of people spend time at, which has a large wall space. They then used peer voting to choose four projects.
We also went about installing a mini-garden. We cut the recycled water bottles and had them paint over the bottles in bright colours. We took them downstairs and filled the bottles with soil and seeds, followed by installing them alongside a small existing garden area.
Insights/surprises: We went around the school to talk about places they like or want to improve. The ‘ramshackle shed’ (mentioned in a previous post) that they gather at is really the assembly hall! Also, the cafeteria is a tiny place – they don’t have a place to sit and eat, so they have to eat in class. There is no library. They really love the garden, and wish they had space for a cricket ground.
That being said, it’s hard for them to get away from the usual way of thinking, so many ideas for interventions include “playground” and “rose garden”. We tried to inspire creativity through images, like one that showed a carom board drawn on a table in a way that inexpensively brightens up furniture and encourages community.
When everything came together, it was incredible how the dry brown background of the school became transformed by these simple, brightly-coloured bottles. It made us realize how much potential there is for using simple ideas like this to make a striking visual change.
Workshop feedback: The kids really enjoyed creating their own plant holders, and seeing how plants grow with sustained care.
Continuing challenges: The kids were afraid that the “rowdy class” of 8th graders would sabotage their projects (recently, they destroyed a small school garden with a banana tree), so we had to install the project near the teachers’ office. Sustaining this project was also a challenge, as the kids had to nurture their creations with regular watering, etc (which they didn’t always do), while (despite our precautions) older kids who weren’t participants damaged or destroyed some of the projects.