Bedales Pre-prep pupils design and build new Willow sculpture for the School

Posted on 22nd September 2014

Children at Bedales Pre-prep, Dunannie have been enjoying a summer of learning and creativity in their new willow sculpture, which they designed and built in the Spring.

Inspired by a visit to Chichester Cathedral, during an event that featured a fascinating willow sculpture, Year 3 pupils asked if it would be possible to re-create a similar sculpture at school as part of their study of labyrinths. Their teachers, Catherine Claasen and Camilla Bell, contacted the creators of the sculpture, Mark and Rebecca Ford at Two Circles Design and they offered to help the pupils realise their ambition.

The pupils devised a design brief and then worked in groups to create designs that were short-listed by pupils in year 2. The pupils assessed designs according to a number of criteria, including such considerations as, how many people they wanted to accommodate in the structure, the orientation of the building and the shapes of the windows. The resulting design was a large sculpture with areas for play, reading and a central area with a sky-light in the ceiling for cloud watching. 

Mark and Rebecca Ford came to Dunannie to help the pupils plan how they were going to use Willow to re-create their designs and identify dimensions and quantities. All year groups at Dunannie were involved in the build, including Reception class who helped to dig the two foot trench to plant the willow. Other elements were added according to the pupils’ ideas, including a floor lined with circles of tree trunks. The project helped the pupils study the concept of tessellation and how shapes fit together without any gaps. They undertook workshops in willow weaving, including making bird-feeders and learnt about plant growth by putting willow strands in bottles of water and observing their root structure. 

The project presented so many learning opportunities and interesting facts about the 400 varieties of willow that exist and the particular variety, Salix Viminalis, which is good for weaving. 

All the willow was sourced locally and the pupils enjoyed working together across the age groups to create the structure that now graces the School’s orchard. The sketched designs featured in an Exhibition of art at Dunannie in the Bedales Gallery. 

Willow grows three metres per year on average and the pupils have been fascinated with how it has developed and flourished over the summer term. 

Commenting on the willow structure, Jo Webbern, Head of Bedales Pre-prep, said: “This really was a whole school effort driven by the ideas of the children and supported by the teachers and Two Circles Design. The children took ownership of the project and were incredibly proud when it was finished in the Spring and delighted when the sculpture grew green and fluffy in the Summer. They have been sketching it, writing poetry about it, learning the science behind plant and tree growth and enjoying their break-times playing, relaxing and reading in it. The sculpture is in many ways symbolic of our teaching approach at Dunannie, developing inquisitive and independent learners who appreciate the beautiful.”