West Norfolk’s young eco warriors spread hope

West Norfolk’s young eco warriors spread hope
Students used the international signal flags alphabet to add messages into their artwork. Photo credit: Ian Burt

Young artists from West Norfolk joined others from across the country – and as far afield as East Africa – in a collaborative project designed to highlight the importance of environmental issues and the protection of rivers.

Year 3 classes from all seven primary schools within the West Norfolk Academies Trust contributed to The River of Hope art project, which was coordinated by Norfolk and Norwich Festival, and culminated in a colourful ‘Showcase’ display at one of the schools.

Children elsewhere became involved via the Thames Festival Trust, while pupils in France and Ethiopia also participated.

“The theme of this year’s project was ‘River of Hope’,” explained Rebecca Lopez, Year 3 teacher and Art Lead at West Lynn Primary, which was one of the participating WNAT schools, along with Clenchwarton Primary, Gaywood Primary, Heacham Infant, Heacham Junior, Snettisham Primary, and Walpole Cross Keys Primary.

“The focus of the project was encouraging pupils to connect with their local environment, and develop pupil understanding of environmental issues and how we can positively promote protection of our rivers.”

WEB River of Hope 2 Pupils from Year 3 learnt about environmental issues. Photo credit: Ian Burt

Artist Alison Atkins spearheaded the initiative, working with Year 3 teachers and pupils across the Trust primaries.

“The project was an opportunity to work with commissioned artist Alison Atkins, who initially led a fantastic training session at Norfolk and Norwich Festival Centre in Norwich for teachers, before running sessions in schools with some of the WNAT Year 3 classes,” continued Mrs Lopez.

“The classes, including mine, that were not able to have Ali visit in person, were supported through Zoom meetings, where we had the opportunity to ask questions and share our projects so far.

“In the initial training session, Ali introduced us to a variety of multi-media techniques we could use to help pupils explore the theme, and encouraged us to follow the pupils’ ideas.

“To establish a common theme, we were all given circle templates to present the artwork and asked to include a ‘hidden message’ using the international signal flags alphabet.”

The children drew inspiration for their artwork from a visit to River Nar, where Tim Fisher, Volunteer and Engagement Officer from Norfolk Rivers Trust, taught the budding environmentalists about the river.

“We learnt about the River Nar, habitat and species it supports, pollution affecting the river, and examined and classified river invertebrates,” added Mrs Lopez. “The children found this fascinating, and this inspired the direction of our project at West Lynn Primary School.

“Once we compiled into the final circle design, pupils were so excited to see the final product, and shared that they felt very proud.”

Designs from all seven WNAT primaries were displayed together in a River of Hope Showcase at West Lynn, where other classes, parents and carers had the opportunity to admire and enjoy the children’s work.

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