Amgueddfa Blog: Learning

Since lockdown began, I have found myself spending more time than ever peering in to people’s windows. Not because I’m nosy (well, maybe just a little) but because our streets have become almost living galleries, with art popping up in windows everywhere – mostly rainbow art, as symbols of hope.

This got me thinking about the rainbows in the national art collection, like the Turner watercolour given to us by Gwendoline Davies in 1952 as part of the Davies sisters bequest; Thomas Hornor’s rushing waterfall rainbow; and this more melancholic painting in the manner of Constable of a rainbow cutting through dark clouds, with a solitary figure at a fence seemingly oblivious to the rainbow above.

Comfort on our doorsteps

The weather was a constant source of fascination to Constable. He was drawn to rainbows as a scientific spectacle, and also for their calming effects. He once said ‘nature… exhibits no feature more lovely nor any that awaken a more soothing reaction than the rainbow’. For Constable, the rainbow represented a glimmer of hope in tumultuous times – something that may resonate with many of us today, as we struggle to come to terms with traumatic world events.

Constable believed artists should paint views and subjects with deep personal connections – things that they know and love; things that have stirred their senses and emotions. He once said that ‘painting is but another word for feeling’. For some, this is key to understanding his art. Constable’s paintings are not meant to looked at – they are meant to be felt.

Much of his work was inspired by childhood memories of his native Suffolk. A Cottage in a Cornfield shows a humble cottage in the country, with what appears to be a little donkey and foal hiding in the shadows at the gate – a simple scene he saw every day on his way to school as a boy. He delighted in the smallest details – things that many of his contemporaries in the nineteenth century art would have overlooked. ‘The sound of water escaping from mill dams, willows, old rotten planks, slimy posts, and brickwork, I love such things’ he wrote. Nothing was too commonplace, too mundane to be in his paintings. He saw beauty in things that at the time were not considered worthy to be the subject for art. He teaches us to find beauty in the everyday, and comfort on our doorsteps.

Today lockdown has stripped many of us right back to basics, and we are being encouraged to seek comfort and value the everyday more than ever before. We would love to see the things that are helping you get through these difficult times. You can share your #ObjectsofComfort with @AmgueddfaCymru on Twitter, or follow to see the items in our collections that have brought comfort to different people through the ages. 

Learning from Constable’s rainbows

Six years ago I had the privilege of being part of the Aspire partnership project which saw Constable’s incredible six-footer  painting Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows 1831 (Tate) displayed at National Museum Cardiff, after it was saved for the nation in 2013. 

The painting shows Salisbury Cathedral under a storm-heavy sky, a flash of lightning striking its roof. When he began paiting it in 1831, Constable was caught up in his own personal storm. His wife Maria had died from tuberculosis, leaving Constable to raise their seven children alone. He was also plagued by anxiety about political and religious changes raging around him. The painting is seen as an expression of the deep anxieties Constable felt at this time - anxieties, which were nonetheless mixed with a glimmer of hope for the future, symbolised by the faint rainbow. It is no coincidence that the rainbow ends at Leadenhall, the home of his friend and patron John Fisher who supported him through his darkest days.

Alongside the display we co-ordinated a series of learning activities, working with different visitor groups to create artworks and poems inspired by this painting. Over 6000 people took part in the programme, and I loved seeing the creative responses like these amazing pop-up rainbow landscapes made in family workshops. The animated light projections made by school groups working with artist Anne-Mie Melis , and CPD workshops for teachers led by poet clare e. potter were also real highlights.

Hope and broken hearts

What struck me during this project is that people of all ages responded so openly to the painting, and how it sometimes opened up dialogues about complex emotional states like grief, loss, hope and happiness.

One young pupil, Charles, asked ‘why does the dog look up for hope but the horses look down with their broken hearts?’; another, after learning that it took Constable four years to complete this painting, wondered ‘can you be that sad for that long? cos for every day you have a different feeling.’ I think about these questions even six years later: how emotions are never seperate - they intermingle and change so easily - and how our emotional states are never static, but are in a constant state of flux, which can sometimes make them difficult to deal with because they seem impossible to control.

This, I think, is why we need art and creativity more than ever. Not because I think art will solve the issues we are facing today - but perhaps it has a role in helping us to ask the right questions, and in teaching us how to feel our way through, together.

 

In 2013 Constable’s Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows 1831 was secured for the British public through the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Manton Foundation, the Art Fund (with a contribution from the Wolfson Foundation) and Tate Members. The acquisition was part of Aspire, a five year partnership between Amgueddfa Cymru, Colchester and Ipswich Museum Service, The Salisbiry Museum, National Galleries of Scotland and Tate Britain, sponsored by the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Art Fund.

To secure the painting, a unique partnership initiative was formed between five public collections: Tate Britain, Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales, Colchester and Ipswich Museums, Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum and the National Galleries of Scotland. This initiative, named Aspire, was a five-year project supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Art Fund enabling the work to be viewed in partner venues across the UK. National Museum Cardiff was the first venue to display the work. 

Produce and flower gardens were a mainstay of Miner's homes. An important place where food was grown, where pidgeons, chickens and often a pig was also kept. Sharon Ford is Learning and Participation Manager at Big Pit National Coal Museum. She wrote this article for our blog, in celebration of the health and wellbeing benefits of gardening - particularly during this lockdown. Its full of gardening joy and helpful hints and tips, and Sharon had more than a little help from a fellow keen gardener - her son, Iwan.

‘We may think we are nurturing our garden, but of course it's our garden that is really nurturing us’   

Jenny Uglow

I’ve never been so grateful to have a garden as I do at the moment, because it offers a space to inhabit beyond the four walls of the house. The fact that the weather has been so consistently good has enabled us to make the most of being outdoors when not working, to get out of each other’s way when we need a bit of solitary time, and of course catch up on all the garden tasks which are usually shoe horned into evenings and weekends. Having something to plan and focus on has been really helpful in taking our minds away from the current global crisis and the fact that we are away from friends and family. Even our energetic 8 year old son Iwan has been more engaged with the outdoors so far this year, planning which vegetables he wants to harvest and eat in a few months time, and the fresh air and activity tires him out at the end of the day. This is important as he is missing his usual swimming, gymnastics and rugby sessions.

The benefits of gardening on physical and mental health are well-researched and widely known, and it can help with a range of physical conditions such as high blood pressure and anxiety, as well as helping those with more defined mental health problems.

Not everyone is as lucky as we are to have a garden at home and an allotment just across the road, but keeping pots or planters of vegetables in small spaces can also help reduce stress and boost self-esteem. Tending for house plants has also been proven to give a sense of purpose, and can be a good place to start for those with no previous experience of gardening.

Anyway, I asked Iwan of he wanted to share his top tips for growing and tending, as he’s a seasoned gardener with four years experience now. He also wanted to share his tips for keeping chickens, just in case anyone is thinking of getting chickens to keep them happy! By the way, the therapeutic benefits of chicken keeping are also well documented!

My name is Iwan Ford. I am 8 years old and live in Blaenavon. During the lockdown, I spend all my time at home with Mam and Dad. It is ok but I miss my friends and cousins. We are very lucky because we have two gardens and two chickens. My chickens are called Barbara and Millie. I had another chicken who was called Penny, but she died a few weeks ago because she was poorly. We buried her in the garden.

Someone gave Millie to us when they heard Barbara was on her own. She is a Silkie, and is very funny and clumsy. She has big feet and walks on and into everything. Sometimes she kicks the food over and sometimes she walks over Barbara. She is very friendly and follows me around the garden. Silkies have blue ears and furry feathers. Barbara is a small bantam and has very beautiful feathers. She had orange feathers around her neck. She lays very small eggs but they are yummy and have very yellow yolks. You can tell they are happy chickens.

I do some gardening to help Mam and Dad because we have an allotment as well as our house garden. I like planting, watering and picking the vegetables and fruit when they grow. I have my own vegetable patch and have planted my French beans, pumpkin, marrow and kidney bean seeds already. Seeds need good soil with compost mixed in, sunshine and water. You have to remember to water a lot or they will not grow.

Iwan’s Top Tips:

Planting tips:

  • Fill the plant pots with compost. Put your seed in. Sometimes you half fill the pot with compost then the seed then more compost. Sometimes you fill the pot then make a hole with your finger and put the seed in. Make sure you water them, and they will grow in a few weeks. When they have grown big enough and no more frost is coming, you put the plants out into the ground.
  • If you haven’t got a garden you can grow potatoes in buckets or bags of compost if you cut the top. Tomatoes will grow like this as well.
  • Always write the names of what you are planting on tags or lolly sticks and put into the pots so you know which is which.

Chicken tips:

  • Silkie chickens don’t like to wander as they can’t fly, so if you only have a small garden silkies are the best.
  • Chicken poos are good for making compost. When this is ready you can dig it into the soil to make your plants come up big and strong.
  • Chickens love meal worms as a little treat. We give some to the chickens and put some out for the garden birds as well. ‘Beaky and Feather’ is the chickens favourite food and makes their feathers shine.

 

Dear Bulb Buddies,

I’d like to say a big thank you for all of your hard work on the Spring Bulbs for Schools Investigation. I’ve enjoyed this year’s project, especially all of the comments that you have shared with your data. Some of your comments are listed at the end of this Blog.

As schools closed early this year many of you will not have had a chance to enter your data to the website. I understand that some schools may have had a few weeks worth of data still to upload before this sudden change. I am also working from home as the Museum I work at closed in the same week as most schools. It’s a big change; and I have been thinking of you all at this time and hope that you are all Okay.

I will still be Blogging and Twitting about the project. In the coming weeks I will highlight different resources and activities that you can do at home. This week my suggestion is that you draw pictures of daffodil and crocus plants and learn how to label the different parts of the plants. If you have done this activity before, maybe you could choose a different plant to draw this time? I’ve already been sent some fantastic images from St Mungo Primary that you can see to the right of this Blog. If you can, email a photo of your picture to your teacher or share it over Twitter with @Professor_Plant .

There are resources on the Spring Bulbs for schools website that you can access from home. I’ve attached outlines of a daffodil and crocus that you can colour and label and ‘The Life of a Bulb’ origami booklet (and instructions) that you can colour and fold.

There are also lots of activities on the Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales website. You can choose between lots of different themes, from Romans and Celts to artists and dinosaurs! To find these visit the Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales learning page. You will see a list of the seven different Museum sites. Click on your chosen Museum, then scroll to the ‘Resources’ tab. You’ll find different resources there that link to the Museum you’ve selected.

Some schools were able to take their plants home with them. That wasn’t possible for everyone because schools closed suddenly. If you weren’t able to take your plants home with you, don’t worry, they will be fine.

Thank you again for all of your work on the project, and remember to watch this space for more blogs Bulb Buddies.

Professor Plant

Your comments

Comments about schools closing:

YGG Tonyrefail: Diolch am y prosiect eleni. Thank you for the project this year. Stay safe and well in the coming weeks. Professor Plant: Diolch, I hope you will take part again next year.
Hudson Road Primary School: This is the last reading we are able to send. We have loved taking part in the Bulb project. Professor Plant: Thank you for sharing your data Bulb Buddies.
St Julian's Primary School: We all took our daffodil pots home today on our last day at school for a while. Thank you for letting us take part once again. Professor Plant: I’m glad you were able to take your plants home and hope you will take part again.
Gavinburn Primary School: Our school closed on the 20th March and only 3 flowers had appeared from our daffodils planted in the ground. Professor Plant: Thank you for the update Bulb Buddies, it’s helpful for us to know that plants hadn’t yet flowered.
Dalbeattie Primary School: School is now closed but we are trying to keep records best that we can although they may not be as accurate. Professor Plant: Thank you Bulb Buddies, great work.
Henllys CIW Primary: All the flowers opened except mine and a spare one . Everyone's opened over the same weekends too. There was another spare one that opened so I took that one home instead. Professor Plant: I’m sorry that your plant didn't flower but am glad that there was a spare one for you to take home. Thank you for all of your work on the project.
Arkholme Primary School: This is the last day we are in school before it closes. Some of the flowers were broken in the strong winds and will not flower. Our teacher is going to check the bulbs when he is in school. Professor Plant: I’m sorry to hear the wind damaged your plants. Thank you for taking the time to update me on your last day in school and for all of the work you’ve done for the project.
Arkholme Primary School: The mystery bulbs are just beginning to bud. The sunniest week so far this year. The crocus flowers have started to open out in the sunshine. This is the last day to look at the bulbs as school is closing for the virus. Professor Plant: Thank you for this final update and for checking on the plants for as long as you could. You paint a lovely picture of your school garden.
Stanford in the Vale Primary School: Hi, This will be my last time submitting the weather data! After 3 years on doing it has finally come to an end! It has been fairly cold this week with not much rain! We won't be submitting it next week because school is closed! Thank you for the last time! Riley. Professor Plant: Dear Riley, thank you so much for the work that you have done for the project over the years. I’ve enjoyed reading your regular up-dates and wish you all the best. Remember to keep following the Blog for links to resources and to the end of project report.
St. Robert's Catholic Primary: This is our last week of weather results as our school closes today. Professor Plant: Thank you for updating me Bulb Buddies, and thank you for all of the great work you’ve done.
Darran Park Primary: Our weather has been a bit dryer this week. Unfortunately our class attendance has dropped continuously throughout the week and these children have not been able to check their plants. We have done this as best we could. Thank you for enabling us to do this project, we do hope that we will be able to do this again. Professor Plant: Thank you for taking part in the project and for updating me. I’m glad you have enjoyed the project and hope that you will take part again.
Sanquhar Primary School: Bulb pots taken home by the children left in school. Professor Plant: Fantastic, thank you.
Ysgol Bro Pedr: Take care of yourselves! Professor Plant: Thank you, and you Bulb Buddies.
St Fergus' Primary School: Our flowers are not far away from opening, the tops are very yellow but no flowers yet. Our school is now closed due to the Corona virus. Professor Plant: Good observational skills and description Bulb Buddies. Thank you for updating me, it’s very helpful to know that some plants hadn’t flowered when schools closed.

Comments about plants:
Dalbeattie Primary School: Only green leaves- no flower formed - this is like several of our crocus bulbs. Professor Plant: I’m sorry to hear that not all of your plants flowered Bulb Buddies, this sometimes happens. I’m glad that the other bulbs flowered for you to enjoy.
St Fergus' Primary School: We have one crocus fully opened, a beautiful purple one, some more are just about to open. Professor Plant: Fantastic Bulb Buddies.
Carnbroe Primary School: 2020-03-05. The crocuses bloomed early March.We are still waiting on the other bulbs to flower. Professor Plant: Thank you for entering your data Bulb Buddies.
Sanquhar Primary School: We found our bulb bed had been burrowed into. We have replaced the bulbs. None of our bulbs in pots are showing anything yet. We have moved them to a sunnier position. Professor Plant: Thank you for the update Bulb Buddies. Do you have any ideas what might have been burrowing into your flower bed?!
Bryncoch CiW Primary School: I noticed a caterpillar on my daffodil. Professor Plant: Fantastic Bulb Buddies, do you know what type of caterpillar it was?

Llanedeyrn Primary School: I was shocked on how tall it had grown. Professor Plant: They do grow surprisingly tall!
Bursar Primary Academy: 3 of the planted crocus' never flowered. Numbers 1, 15 and 30. We believe this is because these were sheltered from sunlight and rainfall. The Crocus' opened between 24/02/2020 and 05/03/2020. The heights range from 31mm to 98mm. Professor Plant: Well done for thinking about why some plants might flower and others not. This can also be why some plants flower earlier than others.
Litchard Primary School: It shows the difference in temperature when we brought the crocus inside it opened within 10-15 minutes. Professor Plant: This is an interesting experiment to do, bringing one inside while the others are outside and comparing the flowering date.
Hudson Road Primary School: There were two flowers that had opened when I measured them they were both 90 mm tall. Professor Plant: Fantastic work Bulb Buddy!
Drummore Primary School: It is a small plant but its a step closer saving the world. Professor Plant: They are very small and delicate, but can teach us a lot about the natural world.  
Drummore Primary School: They take a long time to grow. Professor Plant: They do, and you’ve been very patient caring for it since October.

Comments about data input:
Our Lady of Peace Primary School: We are happy to send in data again. Professor Plant: Thank you for sharing your data Bulb Buddies.
Our Lady of Peace Primary School:  Sorry we missed out a few weeks and a couple of days. As we said we are super sorry. Professor Plant: That can’t be helped, thank you for letting me know and for inputting the data you can.
Saint Anthony's Primary School: It was really exiting to check the temperature and rainfall. Professor Plant: I’m glad you’ve enjoyed the project Bulb buddies, thank you for all the work you’ve done.

 

In June 2019 the opportunity arose to begin a partnership between the Learning Team at St Fagans and the Access Base at Cantonian High School, Cardiff. The Access Base offers a provision for children from the ages of 11 to 19 who have a statement of educational need for Autism. As a Learning Facilitator I have always found working with Autistic Spectrum Disorder groups rewarding, so I was excited to be asked to organise a programme of activities for the group. I was particularly looking forward to getting to know the group as the same learners would return each visit.

During June and July we met with the students and staff for 3 visits. These visits acted as taster sessions where we could all get to know each other a bit, and find out what sort of activities would be enjoyable and beneficial for the group. They included a guided tour of the site, making coil pots with air drying clay, and potting plants with our Gardening team. Following this, it was decided the students would visit fortnightly with activities based around a different project each term.

Our first project was based around the theme of craft, with Christmas in mind. We began by making baubles and woollen 'fairy lights' using the wet felting technique. This hands on, tactile activity proved popular as the students enjoyed coming up with different colour combinations! In the following visits the group made more baubles and designed and created their own sets of Christmas cards using stamps and ink. In our last meeting before Christmas, the students decorated plant pots before planting daffodil and crocus bulbs to take home and grow.

Following the Christmas break, the plan was for the group to help develop a resource for ASD visitors, allowing them to become familiar with the site before their first visit. Developing a resource like this is something I’ve been interested in for a long time. This has involved visiting the galleries and buildings at St Fagans, and taking part in workshops such as the Warrior Grave and Lambing. I have collected feedback to add to the future visitor resource - for example the need to be aware that there's an echo effect while walking through the Atrium, and low level lighting in the buildings.

Unfortunately, our time together working on this project was cut short by the current events. There are still many more buildings for us to visit together, and more workshops to take part in. We look forward to welcoming Cantonian Access Base back to the museum in the future.

Miss Aimee Phillips – Cantonian High School said “Having a partnership with the St Fagans Learning team has given our pupils some amazing opportunities to learn outside of the classroom. Multisensory, hands on learning is vital to our pupils who are on the Autistic Spectrum. When working with the learning team, our pupils have been able to develop and refine their social skills which is a key area of learning. Some of our most memorable moments at St Fagans over the past year include, working in the Italian Garden, learning how to be a miller, the warrior workshop and most recently, watching lambs being born on the farm. As a teacher I would highly recommend the Learning team and their resources to anyone wanting a unique learning experience.”

You can learn more about the St Fagans Learning programme on our website. 

We are pleased to announce that a new Google Expeditions tour for St Fagans has been launched. Working with Google Arts and Culture a virtual reality (VR) tour of the Rhyd-y-car terrace has been created. The VR tour is part of the exciting world of Google Expeditions.

What is Google Expeditions?
To take part in the tour you can download the Google Expeditions app for free to a tablet and phone from either Google Play or the App Store. Using Google Expeditions a teacher can lead the tour from their tablet as a guide whilst pupils are explorers on phones. The phones are placed in viewers which allows the explorers to view 360° panoramas and 3D images. The guide has access to the 360° panoramas annotated with details, points of interest, and questions that make the tour easy to integrate into the curriculum. To ensure you get the full experience check that your equipment meets the specification requirements.

Individuals can also explore on their own, and this is the first Google Expedition that includes audio description in Welsh.

What will the Rhyd-y-car tour show?
It is free to download and use the tour, which will give you the chance to virtually travel through time and explore the homes along the Rhyd-y-car terrace. The virtual tour gives you the chance to visit six homes along the terrace and explore how their rooms, furniture and objects changed from 1805 to 1985. Of course nothing can beat the real thing and the best way to experience the homes is by visiting St Fagans National Museum of History. For schools visits please contact us to book a time slot.

How to find the tour
To explore the Rhyd-y-Car VR tour, simply search for ‘St Fagans’ or ‘Rhyd-y-car’ in the Google Expeditions app and download the tour. Alternatively click here for a QR code which will take you straight to the tour in the Google Expeditions app.