Artist and teacher Cather­ine McCart­ney-Smith finds her pupils are in­spired by na­ture

Buckinghamshire Advertiser - - COMMUNITY -

I’M al­ways amazed by what chil­dren can see that we grown-ups don’t; es­pe­cially when it comes to look­ing at na­ture.

This spring I’ve been work­ing with chil­dren from Iv­inghoe and Pit­stone on an out­door in­stal­la­tion that’s cur­rently ex­hib­ited at Col­lege Lake na­ture re­serve, one of the Berks, Bucks & Oxon Wildlife Trust’s beau­ti­ful places for na­ture.

The Col­lege Lake Artists are in res­i­dence at Col­lege Lake as part of Bucks Open Stu­dios, and the chil­dren’s work is dis­played out­doors un­til June 26 among the trees and shrubs that in­spired them.

The in­stal­la­tion fea­tures logs and un­fired clay that the chil­dren have formed into ex­tra­or­di­nary shapes and char­ac­ter­ful faces.

It was fas­ci­nat­ing to work with young peo­ple whose cu­rios­ity and imag­i­na­tions know no bound­aries. They have a youth­ful abil­ity to look at na­ture with fresh eyes and minds, to see ex­tra­or­di­nary im­ages amongst nat­u­ral forms.

I guided them through the cre­ative process by en­cour­ag­ing them to draw on their in­ter­ests and imag­i­na­tion so they could ex­per­i­ment and de­velop their ideas, and their col­lab­o­ra­tive in­stal­la­tion is all their own work.

The im­per­ma­nence of the art­work will en­cour­age peo­ple vis­it­ing Col­lege Lake to use their imag­i­na­tions to see lines and shapes that they may not have no­ticed be­fore on their walks through na­ture.

This phe­nom­e­non is known as parei­do­lia, which is when the mind per­ceives a fa­mil­iar pat­tern of some­thing where none ac­tu­ally ex­ists. We’ve all ex­pe­ri­enced that sensation when look­ing for shapes in sand on the beach or gaz­ing at cloud for­ma­tions and see­ing an­i­mals, faces and other ob­jects.

The chil­dren all at­tend Brook­mead pri­mary school, and Kather­ine Dou­glas, the head­teacher, is de­lighted to be in­volved with this ex­cit­ing com­mu­nity project that’s giv­ing the chil­dren such rich learn­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties. She is look­ing for­ward to cel­e­brat­ing the chil­dren’s achieve­ments with the wider com­mu­nity at the Brook­mead School Ex­hi­bi­tion from June 23 to 25.

The teach­ing and learn­ing with this group of chil­dren re­flects Brook­mead’s mis­sion state­ment, nur­tur­ing the in­di­vid­u­al­ity of th­ese pupils to de­velop their cu­rios­ity, con­fi­dence, self-es­teem, in­de­pen­dence, re­silience and prob­lem-solv­ing skills.

I am very ex­cited to be work­ing on this project and hope it will en­able the chil­dren to de­velop con­fi­dence, and their en­thu­si­asm for the vis­ual arts will stay with them through­out their lives.

This is the first time the Vis­ual Im­ages Group of Bucks Open Studio artists has in­cluded the works of a pri­mary school, and the project has been ex­cit­ing and re­ward­ing. As well as pro­duc­ing some won­der­ful art­work, the chil­dren have ben­e­fited enor­mously from ex­plor­ing na­ture and be­ing part of the team of artists at Col­lege Lake.

If you would like to know more about in­volv­ing your lo­cal schools in Bucks Open Stu­dios, please con­tact Cather­ine at info@ artist­cather­ine.co.uk.

PIC­TURES: CATHER­INE MCCART­NEY-SMITH AND WENDY TOBITT

Youth­ful abil­ity: Will colour­ful cornfield flow­ers at Col­lege Lake in­spire your in­ner artist?. Be­low, Clay faces cre­ated by Brook­mead school­child­ren ex­hib­ited at Col­lege Lake

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