My initial reaction was, “That’s a lot, how am I going to do this?”
Fortunately, I was able to break the group down into three groups and I would work with each one for a two-hour stretch. Still, groups of forty make for a full classroom and a strategy needed to be designed that created creative and meaningful content that subsequently flowed into an interesting practical activity and concluded in an artwork that would be something the pupils were both surprised by and proud of. And on top of all that, with the groups being bilingual, and me teaching in English (the pupils second language) there was the added requirement for significant language input and output within the project activities.
My partner in crime for this project day was an ex-colleague who had suggested a direction that focuses on the choices and activities that keep fifteen-year-olds busy. School choices, future study choices, balancing those part time jobs with school work, family life and other hobbies and interests. It took a while to puzzle out the structure that was going to be needed, but eventually I landed on the idea of a sort of questionnaire to explore a number of these issues to generate potential ideas, and then allow a selection of these to become the pictorial elements that would form the content of pupils in visual artworks, each worked out in line drawings and ink washes. The reuse of text from the questionnaire was also considered a pictorial element in the design work. The only additional feature was the inclusion of a world map, symbolic of the world the pupils will soon enough be heading out into, and it was equally active as a motif that would tie all the pupils’ individual pieces into one large-scale “whole”.
Looking back at the end of the day, the amount of material that I had was just right, filling the sessions well, and visually some excellent detailed work was made, along with, of course, a few less ambitious ones!
The overall product at the end of the day was a 2.5-metre-wide collage of drawings has found a temporary home in the staffroom but will later be given a proper home in school building. A project to repeat? Yes, certainly, and only with the most minor of tweaking of the work process. A hard day’s work, but happy pupils and happy teachers. I couldn’t ask for more.