Re-imaging Space at the Paper Garden

Two weeks ago we had the most amazing presentation from Kingsdale Secondary School students at Global Generation’s Paper Garden. Parents, teachers, some of the Global Generation team, friends and siblings were all there for the inspired students to show off their wonderful 3D cosmic creations.

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 The Flyer created, advertising the student’s presentation. The event and the sessions were framed as “Re-imagining Space”

The Flyer created, advertising the student’s presentation. The event and the sessions were framed as “Re-imagining Space”

The Kingsdale student’s art pieces were the accumulation of a 5 week course. Each session started with ‘Sitting Still’ in the Paper Yurt and then was followed by a presentation on different aspects of the Universe. These included different sizes that exist in the Cosmos; the idea that the Universe can be thought of as not just a place but also as a story and the notion that the Cosmos that we live in has characteristics, qualities or values. Some of these values are ‘interconnection’, ‘growth’, ‘mystery’, ‘creativity’, ‘nesting’ and ‘morphing.’ It was these themes and others, that the students explored with boundless enthusiasm, depth and creativity. It was particularly gratifying and inspiring for me to see that all these bright young people, really had absorbed and contemplated many of the Universe aspects that they had listened to over the previous weeks. This enabled them to create with vision, insight and inspiration.

They created their own interpretation and their own theory about the Cosmos. I’m impressed, I’m mesmerized about how they managed to absorb all the information that you gave them! They created a philosophical theory from that scientific knowledge.
— Lily Montero - Teacher, Kingsdale Secondary School

In the photograph below of Poppy’s wonderful creation of the Big Bang and from her narrative, it can be seen that she is really struck by the fact that we live in an interconnected Universe. Furthermore, this on a human level means that she doesn’t need to feel lonely, since as she says ‘everything is connected.’ 

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The sticks represent an explosion. And when an explosion happens everything seems to go outwards. But in this explosion, everything went inwards as well. This sounds a bit complicated, but this is what happened. It also represents connectivity. These green things are vines. Connecting all of the explosion pieces together. They’re connecting them in a way that might be hard to see. But it’s definitely there! With the glue gun bits, they represent that everything is connected – even if the connections are small or hard to see. But it makes me feel that I’m not alone because everything around me is connected in a way. Because we’re all made of the same stuff anyway.
— Poppy

I was particularly struck by the maturity and the depth of thinking of these young people, who were only 13 or 14 years old. Breaking many of the stereotypes of today’s juniors, they showed that they can grapple profoundly with big concepts and ideas, that many adults don’t even consider.  Have a look at the examples below (I unfortunately wasn’t able, through lack of room, to include everyone’s work) of Ella, Rosa, Matylda, Hannah, Maya and Elma’s wonderful creations and their own narratives of their work:

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Questions, questions, questions. Answers, answers, answers. Over the past few weeks we have been working on a sculpture that demonstrates the patience, the structure and size of the universe. We have used the values of a thing living inside another thing. We are presenting before you - a bird and a nest. Our nest represents the Universe. This is because a nest is a home to a bird and it is also a place where chicks are born. This is similar to the Universe, because it is the home to all manner of life. It is always expanding and creating new things. But what is the solar system? What are humans? Who are you? Who am I? What are we? We didn’t come here to litter. We didn’t come here to bomb. We didn’t come here to start war. So, what is the point of us? What is the point of the Universe?
— Ella and Rosa
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The Universe grows, just like a child grows. From a tiny speck a child grows and from a tiny speck the Universe grew. And it’s still growing, just like we are still growing. We all came from a womb once and I think we all came from the Universe once. So really, despite the fact that my piece is complex and the Universe is complex – it’s all quite simple! We’re all the same, although we seem different. We’re all made of the Universe!
— Hannah
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Our piece is inspired by combining nature and space. We think that re-imagining space is about showing how something that is small is usually linked to something that is much bigger. For example, we often think that seeds are small and insignificant things but given time and care they can grow into really big things, like trees. And the planets, when they are combined, can make something bigger like the solar system. Also, all the planets are made of different substances. So, everything is unique and all of life on Earth has a purpose.
— Elma and Maya
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The contrast that fascinates me is how something so small can end up being so big? Every seed came from a tree and every tree was once a tiny seed. Imagine a seed being planted, thrown into the ground and given water. Years pass, it grows bigger and bigger, surrounded by other trees. They are cut down, made into pulp, dyed, cut, bleached and stuck. They are painted and then they become a representation of what they once were.
— Matylda

Before the students showed their work to everyone who had gathered, they worked on their presentation skills. This involved everyone splitting up into groups of two or three and practicing speaking about their pieces. We all understood through discussion, that a good speech would be clear, audible, expressive and engage the audience. The speaking practice really paid off because when they finally came to the presentation they all shone and sparkled with their performance having that WOW factor!  Parents were blown away and exhilarated by their work. Below are some of the parents comments:

Thank you. It feels like a very generous thing you are doing here with the children.
— Hannah’s mother
Elma got really involved! She described how beautiful the place was; the sheer amount of materials, the variety and the freedom they have to use them. The freedom for creating things. And the Universe - she was really inspired by that. Then being left to use all the materials to create something. She found it very useful and very inspiring. She loved the idea of Macro Universe and Micro Universe, seeds and planets. All in all, she has enjoyed this very much!
— Elma's mother
This has been amazing! Rosa been really enthusiastic. She looks forward to coming and is really committed. It’s really inspired her.
— Rosa's mother

In the Paper Garden we are really fortunate to have a very large open working space. Furthermore, it is filled with lots of different reclaimed materials from paper, wood, polystyrene, ribbons, cardboard tubes, newspaper, crayons and all kinds of different paints. We also have a vast supply of different tools to use. From drills, glue-guns, saws, hammers and chisels. One of the themes or aspects that repeatedly came out from the students was that they enjoyed the freedom of the sessions. Freedom, in that they could roam around, choose whatever materials inspired them and then explore how to create with them themselves. This 3D exploratory work has been inspired by Global Generation’s 3D specialist, Siw Thomas. Siw, with 30 years of Art and Technology experience, as a secondary school teacher, has always had a passion for 3D work and feels that children can really benefit from it in so many ways. It could be argued that this way of working, in an exploratory and three-dimensional way reflects the unfolding story of the Universe itself.  

What was also great to hear, was how the student’s involvement in the project boosted their confidence and sense of self-esteem. Below is a photograph of Oliver and his wonderful representation of the Solar System. Underneath, you can read what Oliver’s mother felt were some of the benefits of the program.

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It’s been really successful! He’s come home and talked about it - lots. It’s given him this huge boost of confidence, going forwards. Not only has he experienced all the wonderful things you have done here but it has given him the sense of getting out into the world. To meet people, he doesn’t know and to go to places with confidence. So, it’s been more than the sum of its parts. It’s been a fantastic experience!
— Oliver's mother

Finally, I would like to thank everyone who has been involved in this project. To the teachers at Kingsdale – Lily, Tobias and Lucy. The Global Generation team who supported it in so many different ways. To the parents and families who came for the presentation. And of course, to the students themselves who brought so much creativity, enthusiasm and aspiration to the project. You have given me so much to feel inspired and thankful for and I can’t wait to see the next step of how of their work will develop and evolve in the future!