We are very fortunate to have been chosen to take part in the pilot for an exciting project, Little Woodland Heights, described as ‘an interactive work for children exploring the world of forest canopy ecology and the function of music as translative epistemology’.
The project itself was developed in association with the Arts Council of Ireland, the Ark Cultural Centre for Children and the California Academy of Sciences, and took the form of an ‘immersive learning environment’ spanning cross-disciplinary topic areas in the Sciences and Arts. It involved aspects of ecology and botany, and also music composition, performance and literacy, sound art, visual art and creative thinking. There was a very clear collaborative element to the work and the pupils’ thoughts and ideas were central to the final piece.
The eight-session programme was comprised of six development sessions and one forest research field trip, concluding with a final performance. The field trip to Massey Woods took place over a full day and was one of the highlights of the programme. Many of the children were fascinated by the fact that trees and plants can communicate with each other through an underground network, which they delighted in calling the ‘wood wide web’. Through the experience of looking and practising the art of listening, the wood itself provided the inspiration for the final music and art pieces.
The final performance of the programme drew together all that the children had learned and experienced into a special composition, created and performed by themselves with woodland ‘instruments’, sticks and logs, and with human voice. The final piece was approximately 30-40 minutes in duration and was performed in front of an audience in the Ark, and again for a school audience in our own grounds. The school performance included a tree planting ceremony in which the children planted their chosen tree while their performance was taking place. A plaque was then placed in the ground beside their newly planted tree.
A full score pack of the Little Woodlands Heights Project has been sent to the school. The acknowledgements in the score pack pay great tribute to the children of third class, their teachers and the school for facilitating the pilot version of the project, ‘and for being such a shining example of the education system working to its true potential.’
We certainly feel that the children of third class have been part of a very special experience.