Community Trails Success Shows Lasting Impact of Cross-Curricular Community Projects in Schools.
Over a 2 year period, Beaford Arts in North Devon worked with eight primary schools and six artists to explore how creative learning can be embedded into different rural settings through a programme combining arts, heritage, environment and community engagement.
Using the photographs from the Beaford Archive as a starting point, Community Trails invited students to become explorers, historians and environmentalists, asking them to walk around their local area and note what had changed and what had remained the same. Workshops with Devon Wildlife Trust encouraged them to learn about their local landscape and, through sessions with resident professional artists, the children created their own map of their local community marking out areas of significance to them and creating bespoke pieces of artwork to accompany the trails.
Each trail was uniquely presented and artworks were wide-ranging and responsive to the children’s interests: In Hatherleigh, the children created a giant cob horse with artist Alain Pezard; in South Molton, 3D sculptures were made in partnership with Devon Library’s Fab Lab; and in Appledore, the students made a series of films about their local history. All of these schools used the project as part of their Artsmark development.
‘An excellent opportunity to develop art skills as well as learn about the local area through Beaford’s knowledge and resources.’
Teacher, South Molton
One of the key pieces of feedback received from the teachers was that, by embedding creative learning across subject areas through a single project, they were able to provide sustained creativity as opposed to costly ‘standalone’ arts activity, which led to higher quality outcomes. Through the variety of themes explored and through working across a number of different artistic mediums, the project developed skills in geography, history, literacy, science, RE, art, craft, design and technology and PSHE.
‘I’ll be honest, our class don’t normally get on very well with each other but we have worked together as a team all week to achieve this and it is brilliant.’
The project has had lasting impact on both the students and the wider community. In Woolacombe the project’s themes inspired a group of students to start a plastic free campaign “Save the Waves” which has grown into community-wide beach cleans. In South Molton, the local Museum were so excited by the project and the photos the trails showcased, that they invited the school and Beaford to create a display for their temporary exhibition space, improving links between the Museum and the school and introducing the children’s work to a whole new section of the community. Over 500 people came along to the public launch of the trails and the maps – all available on https://beaford.org/community-trails/ – are continuing to be downloaded and used.
Beaford is creating a detailed and inspiring toolkit to equip other primary schools to develop their own trails. These toolkits will be trialled in other north Devon Primary schools and will then be available to download. For more information and to view the maps and videos created by the children, visit beaford.org.
Community Trails has been kindly supported by National Lottery players through the Heritage Lottery Foundation and the Paul Hamlyn Foundation.