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Pupils have gone underground

Over 100 pupils from eight primary schools in the Tees Valley have taken part in a creative project to explore quarries local to them with the help of professional artists and local wildlife and history specialists.

Tees Valley Arts were awarded £25,000 from Natural England through Defra’s Aggregates Levy Sustainability Fund to run a project titled ‘Going Underground’ where pupils were given the opportunity to learn all about a local quarry, how it was formed, what stone was used where and why, and about any wildlife living there – all through creative art forms.

Pupils from Clavering and Throston Primaries in Hartlepool, The Links, Preston, Oakdene and Frederick Nattrass Primaries in Stockton-on-Tees, Roseberry Community Primary in Great Ayton and Galley Hill Primary in Guisborough were teamed up with four different local artists in a project that ran from early October 2009 and finished in March 2010. The artists (Bidi Iredale, Adrian Moule, Jo Colley and Kev Howard) used drama, printing, sculpture, creative writing and photography to enthuse the pupils and deliver learning in subjects such as biodiversity, geography, science and local history. One pupil from Clavering Primary School in Hartlepool commented that “art makes science unboring.”

The artists also had the help of members of Tees Valley Wildlife Trust, Tees Archaeology and geological experts to provide specialist information and knowledge.

Forming the basis of this enjoyable and innovative approach to learning, a class from each school visited their local quarry site to have a hands-on experience of the quarry. This project saw the first site visit by primary school pupils to Hart quarry, the active quarry at Hart owned by Sherburn Stone Company Ltd., and trips to the decommissioned and abandoned quarries of Cliff Rigg quarry near Great Ayton, Quarry Wood in Preston Park and Gravel Hole in Norton.

Joe Dunne, Tees Valley Arts’ Heritage and Environment Officer explained, “Through using the arts in this way, this project provided an exciting and innovative means of interpreting unusual sites (quarries!) as a source of national curriculum learning.”

Peter is office co-ordinator at Tees Valley Arts. He has worked for over a decade as a freelance small business consultant @nealandco. You can follow him personally @pneal.