World of Small - Portishead Primary School

In July Local Journeys delivered another World of Small project with Portishead Primary School at Avon Wildlife’s Portbury Wharf Nature Reserve. This time thankfully the sun shone and the same team who had braved the winter weather the previous November with Crockerne Pill Junior School in cool and very wet conditions, needed sun-block instead of wellies!

Suitably prepared, Rob Harvey, naturalist, Michael Loader, storyteller, Peter Milner, artist and Liz Milner, photographer spent two exciting and very warm days with 60 year 5 pupils.

World of Small is a broad, cross-curricula project that aims to find different ways to engage young people with their local landscapes but also involve them in some nature detective work that draws upon a range of skills and techniques to uncover an astonishing miniature world living and breathing on all our doorsteps.

Water and seed dispersal were themes Local Journeys had been asked to incorporate in the project so investigations around the reserve, assisted by Avon Wildlife staff, included the collection of different seed heads as well as pond-dipping and the creation of 15cm tall clay creatures who would personify the children in their imagined smaller state (they became know as avatars) and who would temporarily inhabit the the reserve. The children were able to use one of the reserve’s bird hides as a breeze-cooled studio for making their creatures and we were permitted access to explore a normally closed flowery lakeside meadow and copses where they could place their figures.

An additional strand of the project was for the children to decide whether their clay avatars would join the ‘Stay’ group or the ‘Leave’ group; the first would remain on the shores of the lake and make shelters and find food – or try farming. If however, they felt there were too many risks (and this area is one that has been reclaimed from salt-marsh and could be re-flooded by the sea) they would join the Leave group who would move on to other territories by creating water vessels, and forage and fish to survive. The children chose locations for their clay figures according to their groups then photographed their environment from a small creature’s perspective.

Exploration of these themes continued the following day in school with technology sessions based on the creation of shelters, rafts, tools and boats; drama workshops about staying or leaving; clay printing from more created creatures this time two dimensional, and studying, through the digital microscope, some of the items that had been collected, both from the natural history perspective – many different types of seeds were found - but also assessing their potential for use by their avatars as small-scale furniture, micro tools, or food.

At the end of the day everyone had a chance to show their own work and see what others had done – miniature museum of the natural objects collected, a slideshow of microscope images and photographs of the previous day, a gallery of clay prints, a display of technology, and finally performances of the plays in the school’s shady garden shelter.

You can see further details about this project on our blog and the Crockerne Pill World of Small project can be found here.

There are more photographs on our flickr pages too, here and here.