CAST provides an ambitious programme of creative learning for primary schools, with the generous support of the Garcia Family Foundation. The programme is led by artist educator Lucy Grant. If your school would like to participate in future sessions please get in touch.
In June 2019 a successful pilot programme of ‘Art Lab’ sessions explored the life of The (Surprisingly) Adventurous Rhododendron from the perspective of Victorian botanist Joseph Dalton Hooker, whose expeditions to the Himalayan regions of north India and Nepal led to the collection of rhododendron seeds that were later planted in many English gardens, including the great gardens of Cornwall.
Each school visit started in CAST’s learning studio, which was transformed into a ‘botanical art laboratory’ with displays of specimens and materials. Activities in the studio included making paper flowers and inventing their Latin names, following the system of classification developed by the Swedish botanist Carolus Linnaeus. The children also made their own slides and examined seeds and discussed how they are distributed by wind, animals and birds.
The school groups then moved into CAST’s black box projection space for a truly immersive experience involving film projections, the sounds of trumpeting elephants, monsoon rains and a growling tiger, excerpts from the journals of Joseph Dalton Hooker and a small explorer’s tent in which they were invited to shelter when the monsoon rains broke.
Back in the art laboratory each child was given their own small book in which to start a journal, with a quill pen and ink. They were invited to draw specimens and to write about their experiences. The children took their books away with them and were encouraged to continue observing, writing and drawing in their journals.
One of the teachers whose classes participated in the ‘Art Lab’ sessions offered the following feedback:
The old building has a palpable sense of solidity, history and quiet. The facilitators created an atmosphere of thoughtfulness, married with creative fun, which suited it perfectly. The use of the first ‘black box’ area, with its recessed lighting spotlighting various artefacts, created a striking sense of curiosity and contemplation, which caused the children to really stop and examine items in detail. In the main ‘black box’ space the immersive experience created a memorable sensory journey. In the studio the children were able to produce some really beautiful images, inspired by the thoughtfully set out and resourced room, as well as the tangible sense of all of those who had worked there before them. The inspiration provided by some of the journals and objects in the ‘black box’ experience was clear. The quiet time to really look at the plants before painting them provoked conversation about the intricate detail revealed by magnifying glasses, and the whole session promoted a personal artistic response to scientific facts and discovery.
My class had an absolutely fantastic morning. It is amazing to have a facility like this so close to our school – an incredible resource which I cannot wait to use again.