Public art: hands-on

Who: Dee Banks School, Chester, and Schule an der Kleiststraße, Oldenburg

Participants: 12 German and British pupils travelling

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 ties by first discovering and experiencing public art, and then allowing the students to get creative together.

The practicalities

For any school, organisation is the key to making a joint project of this scale a success but even more so for schools focusing 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. Furthermore, 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 with the smooth running of the project.

Let’s get busy …

Before the trip, both groups photographed public art in their local area, which they emailed to each other with explanations. This allowed the students to get to know each other while improving their foreign language skills. They were able to discuss and form opinions on the different types of art they liked and disliked and use these to set the scene for their joint creative work, prior to meeting each other.

Once both schools got together on the trip, they took part in a workshop led by a local artist, setting a structured framework and providing creative inspiration. Working together in bi-lingual groups, the students then shared worksheets to reflect on their public art visits and created their own artwork based on what they had seen and learnt about.

More than just art…

Not only was their artwork something to be proud of, but teachers and parents were also impressed with how much the students broke down their inhibitions, overcame the language barrier and engaged in the creative workshops. For the students, travelling abroad together gave them a real sense of independence and for the parents, seeing their children take part in a residential school visit abroad  exceeded their expectations of what their children could achieve.

Going to Oldenburg was a very good experience for me. (UK participant)

The next steps

The project was documented using digital cameras, which gave students the opportunity to use technology and provided plenty of material for a photobook, showing their memories from the project. Upon their return, students presented the album to other students, parents and teachers, alongside a Powerpoint presentation they had made as a group. Both schools feel the project helped to provide the pupils with valuable new experiences and are planning to work together again in the near future.