Make a splash

4th April 2003 at 01:00
Charlotte Bowen watches children design their own fountain

Pupils at William Barcroft Junior School, Cleethorpes, created their own indoor pond and fountain in a project to learn about the properties of materials. The idea for the Year 3 class was suggested to headteacher Liam Doran by garden designer Christina Fell.

"I purposely created a design that was sustainable and would allow for continuity of the curriculum," Christina said. "It would also allow the children to be good investigators of science through art and design.

"A table-top landscape, using a range of materials and with the added interest of a small water pump, soon allows the connection to be made between the indoors and the outdoors."

Making the water feature was more than sufficient to meet most Qualification and Curriculum Authority science learning outcomes in 3B ("helping plants grow well)", 3C ("characteristics of materials"), and 3D ("rocks and soils"), as well as some in 4B ("habitats").

The children also met targets in literacy (speaking and listening, diary-writing and chronological report-writing), art and design (creating observational drawings) and design technology (measuring, marking and applying finishing techniques).

The pupils used 18 natural and man-made materials, ranging from chicken wire, hessian and plaster to rocks and soils, bark and rubber.

In Christina's first two-hour session, children discussed materials before sharing ideas on what the finished feature should look like and drawing their own plans, some of which were very ambitious.

In the second session, they began making the chicken-wire framework. In the third session, they mixed plaster and added the first layer of hessian.

Three further sessions allowed them to take turns in adding more plaster.

The children also recorded their work in diaries.

While the plaster dried, they potted plants and conducted experiments to investigate the difference between soil and compost.

During the seventh session, they decided on the colours to paint their water feature before covering it with volcanic shades. Rocks and stones were then glued on and the children used a magnifying glass to identify different characteristics of the rocks.

In the final session, pupils measured the amount of water needed before the pump was attached and their design switched on.

Christina said: "One of my aims was to show that in the fun of using natural materials and incorporating science through art and design, children could learn. Hands-on experience helps them remember scientific information. Creating a water feature allowed them to have an insight into our most precious materials, rocks and soils."

Class teacher Angela Phoenix said: "The children have learnt an awful lot.

For example they looked at lots of different materials they wouldn't normally examine and they retained so much more than when I taught the same topic to other Year 3s."

Liam Doran said: "Getting outside people in like this is absolutely crucial. Children have a jigsaw of knowledge in their minds. We need to give them the pieces as well as the box so they can join the different pieces together. It's all about connecting to reality."

But what did the children themselves think they got out of it? "I didn't know you really needed to plan a design," admits seven-year-old Ella McGregor. "I didn't know I could make such a good thing as this."

Christina Fell's school projects Tel: 01472 314247

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