Making Memories is about young children being given vital opportunities to use their hands, bodies, imaginations and intellect to investigate, enjoy and learn from the outdoors.
Research shows that today's children have less opportunity to freely explore their local outdoor environment, with negative consequences for physical and mental health, and knowledge of/respect for the natural environment.
This project will enable children and staff to learn from working with an experienced, professional artist, specialised in using art to enable learning in the outdoors. It will see art being used to engage young children in a multi-sensory exploration of a local garden, a community space set up to foster a fascination for the natural world.
Making Memories will also share its learning with the local community via an exhibition at Salisbury Arts Centre, which will feature artwork made by everyone involved in the project, from the children and James to staff and families. We aim to inform and inspire other settings with our work, and show the benefit of art and outdoor learning for all ages. We will also share our learning via the Early Years and Arts press to further champion creative outdoor learning in the Early Years.
James Aldridge, Visual Artist and Creative Learning Consultant, is based in Wiltshire. James's work focuses on people using art as a way of learning about their local environment, with additional benefits for health and wellbeing. James has spent 20 years working with children, carrying out research into the benefit of creative, hands-on activities for learning, and the development of social and emotional skills.
First Steps Nursery in Salisbury is known for its creative approach to childcare and learning, and its belief in the need to place a child's needs and interests at the heart of all they do. First Steps has collaborated with James in the past to further enrich the experinces of children, and develop the knowledge and skills of staff.
First Steps approached James this year with an idea for a new project, one which would celebrate the Nursery's 25th Year whilst further developing the outdoors as a focus for creative activities.
Together James and First Steps believe that access to the outdoors is vital in the EarlyYears, and that a creative, child-centred approach can provide benefits for children's cognitive, physical and emotional development.
The Secret Garden Salisbury is a hidden jewel tucked away on Mill Rd between the Station and watermeadows, describing itself as '...a community garden project, with a wildlife, arts & education twist. ..Our main aim is to bring the magic & restorative power of nature to the community through gentle gardening and encouraging wildlife. ' Placed within walking distance of First Steps, the Garden is the perfect venue for children to come and learn about heritage and wildlife, in a playful, magical way.
Making Memories will see James visit and make artwork in response to the Garden, before supporting children, staff and parents to do the same. The project will focus on enabling each child to identify their own interests and to investigate them through making. James will offer professional development for the staff team, and an opportunity for parents to join in too. Visits to the Garden will inform the content of further sessions at the Nursery for younger children and babies.
The journey that the children, staff and families take with James through this project will be shared, as mentioned above, at an exhibition at Salisbury Arts Centre this Summer. The exhibition will focus on the relationship between the outdoors and childhood memory, and will offer an opportunity for exhibition visitors to share their own memories of times spent playing and learning outside.
Together with money contributed by First Steps, funding raised through Crowdfunder will pay for all children to take part in exciting and engaging arts activities with James. It will pay for James to visit the Garden, and carry out research, making new work to inspire the children, it will contribute to the costs of staff and parental involvement, as well as materials costs. All money received will go to this specific project.
You can follow our progress via James's blog - www.jamesaldridge-artist.co.uk/blog and keep in touch via the Facebook and Twitter accounts of the project partners - just search for #MakeMemoryWilts, sharing with us your own experiences and memories.
NB. Please note that the Making Memories exhibition and associated launch event at Salisbury Art Centre will be free of charge and open to all, not only those who have donated to this appeal. Apologies if including this information within the 'Rewards' section has caused any confusion!