Jennifer Scott, Schools Officer at Turner Contemporary, describes how local heritage has inspired a cross-curricular project along the Kent coast. 
This is the first year of a three-year Start programme at Turner Contemporary.  Over these three years, more than 1,000 children will be introduced to new art forms, inspired to create their own art and linked to the rich heritage of the place in which they live. To learn more about Start, click here

Gallery exhibitions always provide a rich starting point to base school topics on and are filled with exciting possibilities to encourage cross curricular learning.  The British Museum’s collection of Roman Samian Ware Pots, displayed in Turner Contemporary’s Clore Learning Studio from 8 October 2016 to 8 January 2017, presented for me the perfect stimulus for school engagement.

The vessels, known as Pudding Pans, were discovered along the coast of Herne Bay and Whitstable in the 1800’s and used by fishermen’s wives to cook puddings in (hence their name). Intrigued by the story and the connection to local history, I felt it was an incredible opportunity to engage with schools in the neighbouring areas to the gallery where the pots were found.

The funding received from Children & the Arts' Start programme, support from our regional bridge Artswork and free transport from Southeastern trains allowed us to do this on a large scale.  Using the Pudding Pans as our stimulus we worked with five schools within Kent’s Coastal Alliance and over four hundred of their pupils, the majority of whom had never visited the gallery before.

The dramatic tale of the Pudding Pans (filled with thwarted Roman voyages, shipwrecks and the thought of cake) instantly captured the imaginations of the Coastal Alliance head teachers when I put forward the idea of doing a school initiative based on the pots. 7 October became Pudding Pan Day in all the Coastal Alliance schools to introduce the story through different subjects such as history, geography, literacy, art and drama. A shipwreck filled with pottery appeared in the playground of Whitstable Junior School and Reculver Primary School staff starred in an original play on the topic, performed in a full school assembly.

Start allowed us to build on the schools engagement by bringing pupils over to the gallery to see the real life pots and get inspired by the story. These big days made the learning that takes place in the gallery really visible. In the process Turner Contemporary made valuable links with cultural partners such as The Powell Cotton Museum, the Seaside Museum, SEAS and the Kent Dance Network who all responded by devising inventive workshops to further explore the theme.

Our Navigators followed up the activity that took place in the gallery by going into the schools to deliver a clay workshop – with all pupils' work used as decoration for their own school’s Pudding Pan Pot that were thrown and fired at Clayspace Studios, a Community Interest Company in Margate.  These pots, and artwork produced in school were displayed in their own exhibition at the gallery and children celebrated by attending their own special private view

In a time when the arts are increasingly under threat in schools, it was fantastic to design and implement a project that is centred on arts and culture, but was used to engage children in all subjects across the curriculum in a creative way. I enjoyed the reaction of the pupils when they saw the Pudding Pans for the first time and hearing reports of children from Coastal Alliance Schools bringing their parents along to the gallery to see the exhibition. We also had surprising outcomes of the project, such as a real Pudding Pan being discovered by one of the students at a partner school. 

The dedication of the teachers along with the sharing of resources across the schools and the collaborative nature of the project has greatly contributed to its success.

With a further two years of Children & the Arts' Start programme, I’m excited to continue working in partnership between the schools and the gallery to embed arts education. I can’t wait to see where Start will take us next.

Jennifer Scott, Schools Officer, Turner Contemporary 

All photo credits Jason Pay