Oyster Reef Sculpture Collaboration with Tees Rivers Trust
Oyster Reef Sculpture Collaboration with Tees Rivers Trust

Oyster Reef Sculpture Collaboration with Tees Rivers Trust

Prep School pupils have been learning about the wonderful work carried out by the Tees Rivers Trust, as part of a sustainability-themed STEAM week. They took inspiration from the Native Oyster Reintroduction project to create a wonderful oyster reef sculpture which is on display at Preston Park Museum.

Tees Rivers Trust explained their project to reintroduce native oysters to the Tees, and pupils enjoyed a workshop in school where they had the opportunity to measure oysters, test water quality and identify some oyster co-habitants who also depend on good water quality.

Pupils learned that over fishing and reduced water quality has caused wild Native Oyster populations to drop to 5% of their historical range over the last 100 years. The Tees Rivers Trust are working on increasing larvae production and settlement areas for the Native Oysters. To increase larvae they are placing adult oysters suspended in cages (oyster nurseries) around the estuary. These will produce a massive number of larvae every summer. Then, staff at the Trust will deploy a shell and gravel mix (known as cultch) to provide a suitable substrate for the larvae to settle.

Excited by such incredible conservation efforts, pupils set to task to create their very own oyster reef in the Art Department. Pupils from Nursery to Year 6 used a variety of mediums to craft oysters, shells and rocks.

Nursery used tools and crank clay to sculpt rocks and a stunning cormorant. Reception assisted by closely observing shells, and painting plaster of paris modelled shells. Years 1 and 2 created concave representations of shell in clay, and then created the reverse, convex shell shape using plaster of paris. They thoroughly enjoyed observing the process involved and creating sculptures in this way.

Years 3 and 4 used crank clay to sculpt using a variety of tools. Once bisque fired, the children applied colour to their masterpieces and attached them to the reef. Year 5 used tin foil and mod roc to create their oysters, paying close attention to detail. They painted them using thick acrylic paint, and added texture by mixing sand and salt in the paint. They applied the paint with palette knives as well as brushes, and experimented with mixing the colours to create appropriate oyster shades. Year 6 repeated the process, by creating a wire frame on which they then applied the mod roc. They paid great attention to the circular ridges on the shells, and recreated them with impressive attention to detail.

Finally, our Art Community Club created some cheeky hermit crabs, who are the perfect finishing touch.

This has been a wonderful collaborative project, not just within school, but also within the local community. The pupils were so taken with the plight of the oysters and the importance of the health of our river, that they decided to donate money raised during STEAM week to the Tees Rivers Trust to support their work. Well done, everyone, for such a superb effort!

Mrs R Shepherd, Prep School Art Lead, and Jessica Jenyns, Visiting Artist.

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