During the Easter break, St John’s paid its first visit to Wick Court Farm on the banks of the River Severn in Gloucestershire, which is owned and run by the charity ‘Farms for City Children’. The aim of the trip was to trial a five-day programme of arts activities within the context of a working farm, which might be used as a model to enable other schools to operate a similar residential week as part of their own arts curriculum.
Each day of the trip was structured around the daily activities of the farm, with hour-long farming activities taking place before breakfast and supper. The children helped to check, herd and feed the animals, make compost for the vegetable garden and collect eggs, whilst learning in a hands-on fashion about the science and culture of farming. They also visited the neighbouring Abclift and Oldbury Farms. At Abclift, they saw how organic eggs are produced and helped to collect and sort the eggs ready for packing and transportation to supermarkets. At Oldbury, they saw and helped with the workings of a hi-tech dairy farm, complete with robotic milkers.
The children also engaged in three separate planned arts activities. Firstly, having observed and sketched animals around the farmyard, they created their own sculptures, using a variety of materials, including items collected on the farm and during a walk in the local countryside. They were free to come back and add to their sculptures during free time over the remainder of the trip, some achieving completion and others choosing to save the finishing touches for their art lessons this term.
On the next day, they went ‘word gathering’ around the farm, collecting material for poetry. They continued to develop their poems over the course of a full day and will revisit and shape them further now that they have returned to school, tapping into their memories of their experiences to help bring them to life for the reader.
The final project undertaken by the children was an architectural design challenge, using gingerbread to construct one of the buildings at Wick Court Farm. This involved making their own dough in pairs, closely following a recipe which would ensure a solid building material. They then planned their structure in two dimensions, creating templates from which to cut the gingerbread dough before baking. After baking, the structures were assembled with a ‘cement’ of royal icing and, finally, they were decorated with sweets purchased from our pop-up ‘builder’s yard’.
Mr Ashley Smith, Head of Poetry, commented “On the final morning, we were fortunate enough to see a four-star Severn Bore event, an awe-inspiring testament to the majesty of nature, which rounded off a glorious few days of outdoor learning in a truly magical setting. The children benefited hugely from the opportunity to escape from the hectic pace of city life and absorb themselves in their artistic interests, away from the distractions of modern life. We hope that our experience will serve to inspire other schools and we intend to share the structure of our activity week so that children less fortunate than those at St John’s can enjoy a similarly rich learning experience.”