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Sustainable crossovers

Submitted by Education on Mon, 22/10/2012 - 00:00

As it becomes a louder and louder buzz word, sustainability has begun to permeate many aspects of our lives. Our understanding of sustainability now goes well beyond switching off lights and recycling (although these, of course, are vital components); it ranges from how we work and where we choose to go on holiday to who we buy our weekly shop from. This is really exciting because we all become stakeholders in sustainability and therefore the possibilities for conversations, crossovers and collaborations are almost endless and are taking place under many guises. The wonderful Happy Museum provides an example of an innovative project which explores the connections between wellbeing, sustainability and culture. 

At Bow Arts, sustainability’s ability to connect is demonstrated by the fact that our Green Team comprises of staff from different departments. Each of us has a slightly varied stake but common goal in pushing this work forwards. As part of my involvement in this initiative, I’ve begun investigating commonalities and crossovers between three areas of interest; art, education and sustainability. I present to you a few findings in the earliest of stages about how arts education and sustainability in education are linked:

  • There’s an obvious ideological case in terms of facilitating positive changes, with children at the heart of this vision. At Bow Arts we aim to improve children’s life chances through working closely with artists, teachers and learners to deliver programmes that meet the community’s needs. Sustainability education initiatives, such as the Sustainable Schools Alliance, are concerned with engaging children and young people with sustainability to contribute to their wellbeing as well as prepare them for life in the twenty first century.
  • Art and sustainability education work frequently supports learning outside the classroom. It is often project-based, where learners work together and take on specific roles in an applied learning environment to complete a task collaboratively, such as a piece of animation or an event promoting sustainable habits. In these settings, learners use or acquire key skills in communication and teamwork as such projects require, discussion co-operation and collaboration.
  • Bow Arts take the children’s immediate context as a starting point and this often provides opportunities to draw on their lives and experiences within projects as a means to ensure they are engaging and relevant, for example, by exploring the local area around them. This is a key trait of sustainability in education where learners work to make positive changes in their schools and local communities. Examples of this include growing their own vegetables or encouraging behavioural change in peers and staff.

So where can sustainability, art and education meet in practice at Bow Arts? We’ve developed aSustainability Package for primary schools which includes two projects that incorporate some of the links between these areas:

  • As part of the Campaigns Project children work with an artist to create an art intervention to raise awareness of a sustainability issue and encourage the school community to think a little differently or take action.
  • Within the Environmental Art Project, an artist enables children to engage with and develop their understanding of the natural wold around them through facilitating careful observation and creative responses.  

As my research is in early stages, I’d love to learn about more examples of how these areas inform and inspire each other; in the spirit of sharing and collaboration, suggestions and comments are most welcome.

Lydia Ashman, Education Officer,