University of Cambridge Museums

Projects, events and news from the University of Cambridge Museums

The Arts Award in Schools Project

Last summer the University of Cambridge Museums were awarded a contract by My Cambridge, the Local Cultural Education Partnership for Cambridge, to deliver a collaborative Arts Award project with 4 city schools. The project tests ways of supporting schools to embed the Arts Award in their planning of the formal curricula, develop teacher confidence in using Arts Award and increase take-up in the region.

Working towards an Arts Award is about going on a journey to discover and explore the arts, with an emphasis on young people taking the lead in their own cultural development. The Arts Award is available at five levels, and is a recognised qualification on the Regulated Qualifications Framework (RQF). At Gold level it is also recognised on the UCAS Tariff. To achieve their Arts Award at any level, young people create a portfolio to keep a record of their creative journey.

Over the winter term we’ve been busy journeying with two primary schools and two secondary schools, helping teachers to embed the Arts Award in the curriculum. It’s been a huge collaborative effort between the University of Cambridge Museums and St Luke’s Primary School, Shirley Primary School, North Cambridge Academy, and The Netherhall School.

At St Luke’s primary school we’ve been working with Willow Class (Year 1) and Maple Class (Year 5). Willow class’s journey started with a trip to the Fitzwilliam Museum to look at children in paintings across the collection, and the museum provided the children with pro formas for their Arts Award portfolios. The team from the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology then visited the children in school and taught them about art made by children in the past. The students held pieces of pots that were over 2,000 years old, and in some they could see the tiny fingerprints of the children who’d made them. The students then got the opportunity to make their own clay pinch pots with Rachel Dormor, a Kettle’s Yard ceramicist who had herself been a student at the school.

Maple Class have been using the Arts Award to support their development and understanding of shape, symmetry and pattern. Their journey started with a trip to the Fitzwilliam Museum to look at patterns in Islamic Art. “I enjoyed the stuff from Iraq (my country),” said one student. He went on to create a beautiful engraving plate and print in the studio at the museum.

The team from Kettle’s Yard went into the school to introduce the students to the Kettle’s Yard collection, and in particular the work of Ben Nicholson. The students created relief prints inspired by his work that they then used as covers for their Arts Award portfolios.

In a culmination of everything they’d learnt about pattern through the project, the students then worked with Rachel Dormor to create their own clay tiles. The students loved experimenting using different objects such as pine cones, shells and toothbrushes to make patterns in the clay, and learnt how to use coloured slips to decorate the tiles.

Over in Chesterton, the whole of Year 6 at Shirley Primary School have also been working hard towards their Explore Arts Award. As part of their topic Out of Africa, the students at Shirley have focused their Arts Award on bugs. Their journey started with visits from Learning staff from the Fitzwilliam Museum and Kettle’s Yard, who introduced the students to bugs and botany in the galleries’ collections and led practical workshops on these themes.

The students then went on a trip to the Botanic Garden, where they learnt about plant and bug adaptation in the greenhouse and made their own bugs from natural materials in the education rooms. Back at school, the students used what they’d learnt to create their own imaginary bugs from plasticine. Kettle’s Yard then arranged for professional animator Lizzy Hobbs to visit the students in school to bring their bugs to life. Lizzy taught the students about different types of animation and helped them to create their own stop-frame animation. You can watch it here.

Many students from Shirley Primary School progress to North Cambridge Academy (NCA), and we have been working with the secondary school to help them embed the teaching of the next level of the Arts Award – Bronze – in their Year 7 art curriculum. Using ‘colour’ as the theme for their project, the students have been treated to sessions on whiteness and colour in classical archaeology by the Museum of Classical Archaeology, and on the science of colour by the Whipple Museum of the History of Science. The students went on a trip to see Colour: The Art and Science of Illuminated Manuscripts at the Fitzwilliam Museum, and shared their reviews of the exhibition with University of Cambridge Museum staff. They also visited Kettle’s Yard’s Open House print workshop event, and were excited when their trip made the local paper.

Over at The Netherhall School, a cohort of 150 year 9 students have also been working towards their Bronze Arts Award. The project kicked off with an assembly delivered by the Fitzwilliam Museum and Kettle’s Yard to introduce the students to the theme of ‘identity’. Every student then visited either the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology or the Fitzwilliam Museum to explore this theme in the museums’ collections. Back at school, Kettle’s Yard artists Kaitlin Ferguson and Georgie Manly delivered a series of workshops to help the students further unpack the theme: Kaitlin’s sessions focused on ideas of memory and landscape, while Georgie helped the students to customise their school uniforms and form ‘tribes’ based on their choices. “I think Arts Award is great,” commented the teacher, “it’s completely opened us up to a new way of working.”

Between now and Easter the assessments of each of the students’ portfolios will be moderated by Trinity College London, and we are busy planning celebration events in which the students will receive their Arts Award certificates.

The project so far has taught us valuable lessons about the way the University of Cambridge Museums can develop its Arts Award offer to schools; about how best to support teachers in delivering the Award and structuring Arts Award projects collaboratively so that museums and galleries become integrated into the teaching of the curriculum.

For further information please contact Ellen Nowak, Arts Award Project Manager.

Ellen Novak, Arts Award Project Manager, University of Cambridge Museums

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