Combining Forces to Create Something Special

Combining Forces to Create Something Special

On Monday 2nd May, parents and children from Harewood Playcentre met with staff and students from Harewood School – to gaze upon a wall. 

And to celebrate the culmination of a collaborative project which saw a group of talented Year 4-6 students create murals to reinvigorate the space and to reflect the special relationship that the School and Playcentre enjoy.

As Deputy Principal, Julie Argyle, explains, they share more than simply a border. ‘We share families, as well as a commitment to getting involved in our community’.

Gaye Shearer, the Lead Coordinator at the Playcentre, explains that they have ‘a monthly Discovery Day where the kids go over for an hour with the New Entrants. The school returns the visit, with groups of children coming across to read to the little ones. They can come any day, any time.’

For a long time, the students and staff have looked across to the Playcentre and been greeted with a plain white wall. A wall which failed to reflect this dynamic relationship, and which belied the vitality and creativity inside the Playcentre building.

Harewood School has an Art Enhancement Class – geared towards engaging and extending those students with a particular interest and ability in art. With talent close at hand, Gaye went along to speak with the students about the Playcentre’s vision to reinvigorate this space.

‘We wanted the panels to capture our “New Zealandness”’, explains Gaye. ‘A panel representing Maori myths and legends, another depicting our forests and birdlife, and a third capturing the Southern Alps and Canterbury Plains. We wanted them to reflect “us”.’ 

At Playcentre, play is driven by the interests, indeed the impulses of the children, and this is supported by parents. Particular dispositions are nurtured, and curiosities indulged. With this creative project, the brief was clear and the approach a methodical one; however the creative agency that the school children enjoyed, combined with their passion and focus is very much in keeping with Playcentre values.

More than simply painting panels, the process involved many steps and learning opportunities: from researching artist models, to sourcing paint from Mitre 10, Dulux and Resene, to introducing the finished panels to their peers and to the Playcentre community. As Julie Argyle says, ‘the students involved benefitted from the opportunity in so many ways’.

This was truly a collaborative project. Andy Williams, a builder and Playcentre dad supplied three 1.5x3.5m panels; Sue Greenwood, an art teacher from Breens Intermediate, came on board to add the finishing touches; and the caretaker at Harewood School applied a polyurethane layer to ensure their longevity.

At the opening the whole school turned out – every park in the school’s car park occupied by school children looking over to the bright panels. As for the Playcentre kids, ‘they were very attentive’, says Gaye. ‘We have a lot of siblings over the fence and our little ones could see their big brothers and sisters. It was very exciting.’

The students involved spoke with confidence and pride in their achievement. ‘We hope you like them. We definitely do as we get to look out on them. It’s been a great project’, said Rachel.

Harewood School’s Principal, Julie Greenwood, spoke of the way the project has reinforced the connection between the School and Playcentre. ‘We have been delighted to work with the Playcentre to design and create some murals that depict themes important to them.’

Gaye shares this enthusiasm. The wall looks vibrant and attractive, and captures our ideas beautifully. We love that it connects us with the School.’

From the Southern Alps a braided river opens out onto the Canterbury Plains; a forest offers shelter for the tui and piwakawaka; Maui endeavours to slow the sun so that more work, and indeed play, can occur. The triadic arrangement captures the cultural heritage and values that are important to families on both sides of the fence.

And at the opening, the autumn sun played its part, illuminating the wall for all to appreciate. ‘It looks spectacular’, says Gaye. 

By Kate Barber

Pictured: The Year 4-6 students involved in the Art Enhancement project share their masterpieces with Harewood Playcentre kids and families.

Combining Forces to Create Something Special

Posted: Friday 6 May 2016