'Fun With Glass'
Children use glass to make artworks in school
Children at St. Mary's National School in Enniskeane have been working with two specialists, learning all about creatively working with glass. Artist Marie Brett and craftsperson Gana Roberts, both from West Cork, have collaborated with the school on an 'artist in school project'.
This artist in school project is part of a pilot scheme called 'Fun with Glass' supported by Cork County Council's Arts Office and The West Cork Education Centre. It is the only project of its kind in the country and is breaking new ground of introducing glass into the classroom as a creative medium for children and teachers to work with.
At St. Mary's National School, the project has involved Marie and Gana working with 20 children, the school's 2007/2008 5th class with class teacher Colette Walsh and art teacher Susan Fehily. Children have learnt and developed skills in Fused Glass work including glass cutting and design work as well as Metalwork Inclusions involving the manipulation of copper, brass and aluminium wire and sheet metals which are 'sandwiched' between layers of glass.
Developing ideas inspired by the schools involvement in the Green School Project, a theme of plants of healing was developed with children exploring folklore and legends associated with local plant-life. The project was entitled "Tree of Life" and the resulting artworks made by the children are to be displayed within the school's entrance hall together with a photographic display illustrating the project's process and the children in action creating their pieces of glass and metalwork. A tree planting programme at the school will be linked as an on-going connection.
Marie and Gana have project managed this new and unusual project and have been delighted with teacher and children's response. They said, "the response has been brilliant, we're delighted! It's been a great opportunity to develop such a new way of working in schools and we're very grateful for all the support from teachers, the West Cork Education Centre and Cork County Council. It's breaking new ground to be using both glass and metal creatively in schools. It's a curriculum linked project and we've received great support from all the staff at St. Mary's - it's a great place to work! We'd like to thank everyone who has helped make this project such a success and hope it'll go from strength to strength. Well done to the children - they worked really hard and their artwork is brilliant".
It's also unusual for an artist and a craftsperson to be working in partnership. Their team work is a great success, each bringing different skills to the table. Gana is an experienced craftsperson specialising in fused glass work, selling her pieces in a gallery in Cork City, having trained in the USA. Marie is an artist with metal sculptures in public collections throughout Ireland and overseas, as a trained teacher she's sought after to project manage and deliver programmes in educational and healthcare settings. Both have experience of working in a classroom setting, but neither had used glass with children before.
St. Mary's National School have hosted Gana and Marie for six weeks and they are no stranger to arts projects in the school. When you walk through the doors you are greeted with children's creativity all over the walls. They have a specialist art teacher Susan Fehily who works regularly with the children as well as other visiting artists in their dedicated art cabin space. School Principal Gerard O'Mahony was instrumental in enabling this glass and metal project to go ahead in the school and has been ensuring all aspects run smoothly.
Two portable glass kilns were brought to school by Gana and Marie, on loan from the West Cork Education Centre and some of the smaller pieces of children's work was fired during class-time whilst they were able to experience the kiln's process - and heat! The portable kilns are a resource available to schools on loan from the West Cork Education Centre. Aspects of three of the visual art curriculum strands have been included : drawing, paint and colour and construction. There have also been various cross-curricular links such as maths, English, SPHE and science.
We must not forget the real stars of this amazing project are the children themselves of 5th class who took part and so generously gave their energy, enthusiasm, dedication and focussed hard work to the projects; they were a pleasure to work with. Also to their parents who called in during the project and offered their interest, support and enthusiasm.
Plans are afoot looking at ways to further develop the future of 'Fun with Glass'. The project started with seven teachers from the West Cork region taking part in a training programme led by craftsperson Gana Roberts working with artist Marie Brett. Training was based in Gana's studio with access to specialist tools and equipment. Over a period of several weeks, the national school teachers explored the use of fused glass and metalwork as a creative medium and advised as to its suitability in the classroom. Each week a different technique was explored and its suitability for school settings and use by children of varying ages was considered and discussed. At the end of this training phase, a document was drafted outlining the group's findings with clear guidelines and recommendations as to the use of glass and metal techniques with children of various ages in National School settings.
The West Cork Education Centre then hosted an information session for teachers who were interested in the possibility of hosting an artist in school project. This was presented by Marie and Gana who shared examples of previous projects they had undertaken and sources of possible funding.
Using the findings of the training programme, several teachers devised artist in school projects and made grant applications. Two schools were successful in gaining funding for a project with Gana and Marie. St. Mary's National School in Enniskeane was one of the two successful schools. The school devised a part-time, six week, fused glass and metalwork project working in partnership with Gana and Marie. Cork County Council granted financial support as did the school through their parent's association committees and other fundraising initiatives.
Artist in School Project - Peter & The Wolf
Visual artist Marie Brett was invited by Gerard O'Mahony Principal of St. Mary's National School to visit the school and work with a group of 5th class children on an artist in school project during the Autumn term of 2010.
Awarded a grant by Cork County Council Library and Arts Service, the project saw Marie Brett work with a total of 15 children over a period of 5 days. The story of Peter & The Wolf written by Sergei Prokofiev was the inspiration for the project.
In 1936 Sergei Prokofiev was commissioned by the Central Children's Theatre in Moscow, USSR, to write a new musical symphony for children. Each character in the story has a particular instrument. Bird - Flute, Duck - Oboe, Cat - Clarinet, Grandfather - Bassoon, Wold - Horn, Hunders - Woodwind, Peter - String. Bona of music group U2 reinterpreted the story with Gavin Friday and his two children making an illustrated book/CD in aid of the Irish Hospice Foundation.
This book is one of the project outcomes, documenting the children's sketches about Prokofiev's story. A series of large mixed media canvases capturing key moments in the story were also made and are on display within the school.
Many thanks are extended to the contributing children -
Abbie Crowley, Helena O'Donovan
Charlotte Fehily, Alison O'Driscoll
Patrick Galvin, Dan O'Grady
Marie Hanchin, Oisín O'Leary
Rebecca Hennigan, Aoife O'Mahony
Gerrarda Murray, Simon O'Mahony
Julie O'Brien, Rachel O'Neill
Supported by St. Mary's N.S. and Cork County Council Library & Arts Service