Mount Hawthorn Primary School is an inner-city school located 10 minutes north of the Perth CBD. Dating back more than 100 years, the school community is culturally diverse and has strong partnerships within the City of Vincent and beyond.
Award-winning author/illustrators Briony Stewart and James Foley worked collaboratively with the whole Year 4 student cohort and five teachers on the school’s My Place AiR project. The aim of the project was to create a varied collection of illustrated stories about their real or imagined lives within their community.
“The project is a celebration of creativity, storytelling, reading and connecting to places of childhood significance.” School website
This AiR project had five key components: Excursion; Illustration; Writing; Website; Exhibition. To start, all students visited The Literature Centre in Fremantle where they were shown exhibits specifically designed to demonstrate the process of, and considerations that go into the production of illustrated books. Following this, the language and concepts taught at the Centre were embedded by the artists into the school workshops.
Students were introduced to illustration as an art form specifically used for communicating emotions and narrative. Body language was taught via collage, this enabled students to manipulate the characters until the right pose was achieved.
“At the start of the project students felt that drawing people ‘was hard’ but they came to realise that realism was not the key motivation of illustration. They were shown that, movement, body language and expression were (sic) the key things to a good character no matter what the style.” Acquittal
The writing component presented students with opportunities to discover ways to create story ideas, start stories, follow a narrative arc and arrive at an ending. Students were asked to write stories set in one of eight locations in Mount Hawthorn: the school, their home, Scarborough Beach Road, Braithwaite Park, Menzies Park, The Mezz shopping complex, Oxford Street and the greater City of Vincent. A map of the suburb showing these locations was created and became the start of the first page of the website. All stories and illustrations created during the project were uploaded to the website and made available for the public to access.
In addition, the artists created a series of writing activity worksheets which were used by the students during the project. These worksheets have continued to be used by teachers and students at the school.
“Dear Briony and James, I have really enjoyed that you were able to teach me some wonderful things, like how to structure my stories better, how to come up with amazing ideas. I am also very glad that you taught me how to do very clever expressions, now I use them all the time. I’m a lot more confident about writing now and you’ve given me more confidence to leap out and try something new.” Student, Acquittal
“At the start of the project students told us that they found art to be easier, and hence more enjoyable than writing. For this reason we tried to include illustration as a teaching tool in the writing process, often showing them the ‘image’ that words were creating in the mind of a reader, and how words were powerful enough to change that image, or make it more detailed and exciting.” Acquittal
An exhibition of student work was launched by the Mayor of the City of Vincent, Mr John Carey, at a whole school assembly held on Wednesday, 22 October 2014. All students draft and final artwork was on display along with iPads connected to the online story and illustration collection.
“The project gave us the opportunity to work closely with our target audience over an extended period, enabling us to gain a better understanding of what the stories they like to read and illustrations they like to see. It will help both of us to create illustrated stories that better meet our audience’s interests.” Joint artists’ statement, Acquittal
Since the completion of the project, the artists have worked with the City of Vincent to produce eight large vinyl street stickers depicting each of the eight story locations. Embedded QR codes on the stickers enable pedestrians to read and view the My Place stories and illustrations created by the students of Mount Hawthorn Primary for that location.
“This program was an absolute success with outstanding student engagement and learning outcomes. The involvement of the wider community with the professional learning sessions, exhibition, opening and website really added value and supported student understanding of excellence and how to attain that. The student’s self-esteem rose over the course of the project and this was the case for all students regardless of attainment.” Acquittal
Visit the AiR project archive to read more about projects completed in 2014.
Mount Hawthorn Primary SchoolPrincipal at the time of AiR project delivery: Mr Dale MackeseyTel: (08) 9242 3677School profile available at http://www.det.wa.edu.au/schoolsonline/home.doAiR project - school website