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Sensing Landscapes: Artists & children

Working with children during the Pathways Project, Rachel Wooller and Kyle Kirkpatrick reflect on their experience

Rachel Wooller

Reflections on the Shelter Building Project with Wilburton Primary School children




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 The brief was for the children to think about a climate change scenario in which Wilburton flooded and they were forced to evacuate to higher ground, making shelters from both natural resources and any scavenge-able materials they could find or rescue, to keep dry. 

The children chose locations on slopes, near a ditch so that water would be carried away, in a tree that had a natural hollow so they could keep out of the water. One group wound twine around two adjacent trees to create the horizontal structures they needed, before making seating backed in plastic and raised on old bottles to keep out of the water. Another made a wood log floor, whilst a third group made a hammock in the V between two trees. The children were remarkably able, binding materials together with string and tape and attempting to water proof their dens against future storms. The group became both domesticated -making themselves sofas and seating areas, doors and windows -and tribal: putting up signs marking out territory and arguing hotly over the rights to use the cardboard sofa. The children were asked to take their dens down on the final day which they found difficult. We decided that each group should leave a symbol or marker of their den behind, and some groups made little wooden "dream catchers" to capture the spirit of their visit to the woods. 

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A dream catcher

I went back recently to the spot where the dens were, and some of these symbols still remain there, in different states of decay, a tiny reminder of a temporary settlement. 

Rachel Wooller is a mixed media artist who works primarily in 3D. She is drawn to simple forms and ordinary materials in their harshest forms. Her practice focuses on issues of memory and the transcience of the material present. She has recently been working with found materials, old wood and rusted metals and wire and is making sculptures which explore their fragility and persistence. 

Rachel is a graduate of Norwich University of the Arts, where she completed an MA in Fine Art in 2013.


Kyle Kirkpatrick


Reflections on the archaeological dig and 3-day workshop at The Weatheralls Primary School, Soham


“YES, I’ve found another rock.”

“I like that one; I like its shape and colour.”

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Watching the children sift through the finds as they were dug from the trench was fascinating, their curiosity for the objects (mostly rocks) that were dug up was something that I can completely relate to.

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Throughout the dig, I kept thinking about how the children could relate to these inanimate objects, these things that a moment before were laying underfoot below a sheet of grass and layers of earth. I came to the conclusion that practical making and tactile engagement with materials would be central: clay, salt crystal growing; drawings and plaster casting. The objects and drawings that the children created during my time spent at Weatheralls, allowed them to begin to unlock and think about the histories of the objects that they had found, as well as think of possible futures.


When installing the exhibition that you see here, I had the opportunity to look back at a selection of the children’s drawings in detail. It was fascinating to see what the children thought the future may hold for Soham; a giant castle, or even a huge grocery store perhaps? These drawings that you can see are copies, the originals having been encased in plaster. They are small time capsules that are to be cracked open in 20 years’ time.

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Although what you see here, much like the objects that were uncovered, are only fragments of what was made and discussed, the time I spent at Weatheralls will, I hope, will live on in the minds of the children that I worked with.  


Kyle Kirkpatrick is an artist and educator working between Bedfordshire and Peckham, London. Kyle has a curious fascination for materials and inanimate objects (mostly rocks and mineral formations). This fascination compels him to make objects, or things, in an attempt to understand them. Often small and able to fit into the palm of a hand, these curious objects, or things, are made, ordered and staged on shelves or tables.