I like to link as many areas of the curriculum, where possible, to the over arching topic and Art and D.T. is a great area to do this. I knew I wanted to create a statement piece of art (to generate a talking point around the issue of plastic pollution) and was inspired by the upsetting imagery of sea creatures swimming among the plastic.
Session One: We began by looking at how plastic is recycled and used by artists to create statements or to simply generate ethical art. I saw a wonderful sketchbook lesson done by the fabulous Gomersal Primary School art blog: http://gomersalprimaryschoolart.blogspot.co.uk/?m=1 It involved researching plastic art with questioning and independent exploration. It was so lovely I decided to directly copy it to start the topic. Many thanks to Gomersal Primary School. I loved how each child tackled it in their own unique interpretation and I listened in to some fantastic conversations discussing which features they liked and why they felt they were effective.
Session two was a glorious free art exercise, where the children could just let their imaginations run wild. I showed them a slide show I had created highlighting the issues of plastic pollution and told them they will be recycling plastic waste to give it a new life. It was wonderful to just see them busily collect materials to free create and reminded me of my days in EYFS, where I would observe the children accessing a variety of materials independently to just build and explore.
Session Three: In the next lesson we recapped previous learning and I explained to the children that we would be sewing our own sea creature. The children immediately went into panic mode. and I quickly discovered only 4 children in the class had ever sewn before. I had already countered this by planning in a session to develop their sewing skills on scrap material. I taught them the running stitch, back stitch and blanket stitch so they could decide which one they wanted to use in their final designs. To ensure the lesson ran as smoothly as possible, I created each child a sewing pack with their needle already threaded and knotted ready to use. They really enjoyed it and although they found it a challenge, relished the opportunity to try a new skill.
I ran a weaving exercise alongside to create a background home for their sewn creatures. I attached various threads of plastic and nylon ribbon to a chicken wire frame and just left them to create. They really enjoyed the exercise and the fact it was a collaborative class project created a buzz and sense of belonging with the children.
The actual designs produced by the children varied greatly, although the majestic sea turtle did prove to be extremely popular. They generated a design criteria (e.g. strong, small stitches spaces closely together) and also generated step by step instructions for the design process.
This was the final creation session and had various stages to it. The first part involved making a template for their designs, pinning it to fabric and cutting out. I actually broke this session up and carried out this part the day before so everything was set up and ready to sew in the main creation session. To ensure the session was a stress free as possible, I again used their sewing packs and threaded their needles and did the first two stitches for them. I find preparation is the key to managing whole class sewing projects.
The children amazed me with how they tackled the sewing in the final session. Children who had struggled in the practice sessions remembered what they did wrong (like forgetting to hold onto the needle when they pulled it through the material) and all worked extremely hard. I know sewing can sound daunting but the satisfaction and pride on the faces of the children makes it all worth while.
The final element to the project is for the children to evaluate their worked based on their design criteria.