With lockdown fresh in our minds and a renewed appreciation for the great outdoors, we invited artists Juneau Projects to Milton Keynes to help bring awareness to our picturesque location through activities and conversations exploring the relationship between people, society and the natural world. Our mission was to reconnect our local communities with their green spaces and the nature within them at a time when the benefits of being outdoors were proving to be an essential part of our day.
By September 2020, Juneau Projects had undertaken a huge amount of research hosting numerous public workshops and events, both online and in person to introduce the idea of exchange between the park and home, which was central to the Great Linford Ecology Project – the premise of making things for the park as well as taking part in activities at the park and taking home the results. This area of research concluded in there being a desire for future activities in the park, with the possibility of these activities responding to an art trail.
Online and in-person workshops became springboards for further research and collaboration, developing ideas for the art trail and associated activities, by asking people what they would like to see and do in Great Linford Manor Park. Ideas were developed into test pieces taking shape as a series of flags and interventions in the park, made in collaboration with young people from YMCA and accompanied by a printed activity book designed as a tool for exploring the environment, with opportunities for remote participation; something we were seeing a greater need for.
Flags and activities prompted passers-by, and those visiting our website, to take a moment to engage with nature around them and share their experience with us. School groups were taken on outings to the flags in the parkland with clipboards and activity sheets to collect valuable feedback.
The Birdscapes below were curated by Juneau Projects in collaboration with young people from Giffard Park Primary School and Great Linford Primary.
Questions we asked ourselves at the end of the test period:
– Did we see more people visiting the park?
– Were people beginning to think differently about their local green spaces or engage with them in a new way?
– How will these insights shape the project going forward?
Through conversations with park users, we learned people were curious about the ‘what and why’ surrounding the flags, however it was clear there was a barrier to participation in the associated activities, largely from adults feeling like the work wasn’t for them.
Younger people were happy to participate in activities, creating new and exciting artworks of their own. Through feedback from teachers, we found there was a synergy between the national curriculum and activities, providing an opportunity for the project to further support children's learning about nature and science through art and play.
To bring more residents, in particular those aged 16 and over, into the project we worked in partnership with The Great Linford Community Hub to host a day of collage making with Juneau Projects. Designs were made by drawing, paper cutting and collaging natural materials to make posters celebrating our green spaces and the unique features of Great Linford Manor Park. These designs were then used by the artists to create small wooden laser-cut pieces for the trail and to illustrate the activity sheets.
We invited 12 residents from Great Linford and the surrounding areas to take part in a ‘Making Clay Pieces for the Park’ workshop with Juneau Projects. Starting the day with a 30min walk exploring Great Linford Manor Park, followed by a hands-on ceramic making and decorating workshop with the Arts Centre’s lead ceramicists Alondene Phillips and Andrew Macdermott. The pieces made were inspired by the nature and wildlife found in the park and transformed into clay pieces decorated in coloured slips before being fired to ensure their durability. Once glazed and ready to withstand the elements, the ceramic shapes were mounted onto wooden discs and perched in the trees of Great Linford Manor Park.
It was integral for this project, and all projects supported by MKAC, that local people have a say in what happens in the place they live. By including residents in the making of the art trail we aimed to connect, empower and upskill participants while nurturing a co-ownership in the park.
Teachers from local primary schools and nursery groups were invited to a development day with Juneau Projects to discuss and create suitable activities for young people, which would complement the national curriculum subjects in nature and science.
From these discussions and testing of ideas, a school resource pack was designed containing several activities focusing on habitat, nature spotting and identification, art making and foraging, focusing on bringing awareness to the unique features of Great Linford Manor Park through play, observation, documentation, independent and group learning.
Here’s what some of the teachers had to say about the resource pack:
Yes completely, they match many of the Science National Curriculum objectives – lifecycles, habitats, local environment, and animals. They also incorporate Geography objectives such as comparing immediate environment to another local one.
We also love the practical and creative nature of all of the activities within the booklet as this matches our Forest Schools sessions at school.
As a KS1 teacher they are very clear as the adult would be leading the activities anyway. The images are really useful to demonstrate this to the children too.
We have many children with additional learning needs and others who also benefit from a kinaesthetic learning style. This pack means that all of our children can enjoy a visit/trip whilst still working on the NC – but in a fun and exciting way. It is so much better to be outside at the moment. Also to be able to take the children to an area local to their homes is lovely, it is a familiar place to some and an introduction to others. Sharing our activities on the school platforms will also inspire our families to visit and interact with the park themselves.
The fact that the pack is so closely linked with the NC also means we don’t have to worry about ‘missed learning time’ which can sometimes put off teachers from booking activities like this. We know however that we’re still covering everything whilst giving the pupils nice experiences.
Anything linked to nature, environment and habitat. Not only as a science objective but to help children develop an attachment and respect to their own local area and the ecosystem within it.
With the support of Great Linford Primary School, Giffard Park Primary School and Wood End First School, Juneau Projects has created a series of activities to help school groups explore and enjoy Great Linford Manor Park.
Milton Keynes Arts Centre has printed version of the activity packs. These can be reserved for school groups of up to 35 by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling us on 01908 608108.
Reserved activity packs each come in a bag with a selection of art materials for children’s use plus a badge to give each child on completing the trail.
Email us to receive a specially designed Teacher's guide to delivering these Activities – basically like a cheat sheet!