Creating collaborative artworks provides students with an opportunity to come together, share ideas and learn from one another. It develops self-confidence, empathy, acceptance, accountability and the pursuit of a shared goal.
Teaching Year 6 Art classes is shared by two Art teachers. Collaborating on curriculum design and decision making is an integral part of the teaching role and is then modelled for the students who are also encouraged to work collaboratively with one another. This collaborative approach, coupled with the positive learning outcomes for students, make the planning of Year 6 artwork appealing and invaluable.
In the upper Junior School, students are approaching a time in their lives when they may test boundaries, possibly compare themselves to their peers and question their own identities. Creating collaborative artworks provides students with an opportunity to come together, share ideas and learn from one another. It develops self-confidence, empathy, acceptance, accountability and the pursuit of a shared goal.
To commemorate the centenary of the Anzac landing at Gallipoli, Year 6 students completed a collaborative textiles unit in their Art classes. All students were required to research the origins of the Flanders Poppy as a symbol, and to make a range of felt or knitted poppies which would be sewn together to make a commemorative wreath.
Individually, students explored and practised a range of decorative stitches, refining their fine motor skills and developing their own aesthetic and self-expression. Red felt petals were cut out, embroidered and beaded to create unique and individual representations of the Flanders poppy.
Collaborative aspects of the task included whole class discussions sharing new techniques and skills learnt and implementing design modification processes for their poppies. Learning how to collaborate cohesively whilst maintaining individuality was a key understanding for the students. They developed not only a deeper understanding of how their classmates thought and worked, but also an appreciation of the advantages of working in a group.
When engaging in whole class research and discussions, the students learnt about the symbolism of the poppy and findings were shared regarding the significance of the Flanders poppy. The personalisation of the impact and significance of the events of the First World War on future generations was explored and students were asked to share their own family experiences, linking them to the topic.
After exploring the universal symbol of the poppy and wreath, we then concentrated on Fromelles and the lost battalion that was recently found and reinterred. To gain some resonance, and strengthen understandings of our task, I shared my own family connection to the Battle of Fromelles.
Some students and their parents attended the Fromelles Service held at the ‘Cobbers’ statue near the corner of St Kilda Rd and Domain Rd, Melbourne. Following a moving recount of the Battle of Fromelles, delivered by Australia’s Governor-General, His Excellency the Honourable Sir Peter Cosgrove AK MC (Retd), guests were invited to lay their wreaths. St Catherine’s School students laid the poppy wreath at the base of the statue.
Attending the ceremony and laying their wreath allowed participating students the opportunity to fully immerse themselves in the whole textiles task and experience firsthand the symbolic meaning of the poppy. Witnessing the girls respond to the sombre atmosphere, service and people present, with such confidence, empathy and respect, was both moving and heartening.
Ordinarily, student artwork is exhibited in the confines of the Junior School. For the students involved, the sharing of their artwork with the wider community, many of whom were important Australians, was a new and exciting experience. To receive positive feedback about something you have thoughtfully designed and created is a rewarding experience for an artist of any age.
The experience of collaboratively designing, creating and sharing an artwork was both powerful and rewarding for the students. There were multiple connections made at both an intellectual and emotional level. The creative expression of a collaborative group, working together purposefully, enabled the students to achieve a highly personal and meaningful artistic outcome.