Cycles and Patterns in Nature

February 8, 2024

PROJECT TITLE: Cycles and Patterns in Nature

School Name: Willetton Primary School

Teacher’s Name: Jessica Moreschini

Year Group: 4

Number of students: 30

Creative’s Name: Petros Vouris

Creative Practice: Sound Artist

About our project: Cycles and Patterns in Nature

For a few years, the Willetton Primary School grounds had a pond filled with non-native plants, and a broken pump and filter. For our Year 4 Science Understanding project for Creative Schools, we decided to with fix this problem, create a natural pond, and in the process learn about the importance of pond ecosystems.

About our school:

Willetton Primary is a high-achieving school. The student and parent community reflects a diverse cultural background with students from 38 different nationalities speaking 48 languages other than English.

What happened:

Under the guidance of teacher Jessica Moreschini and sound artist Petros Vouris, 30 Year 4 students discovered how to apply all sorts of creative skills to the processes involved with creating a natural pond. The aim was to integrate an awareness of Indigenous perspectives on cycles, land and culture; to understand the effect on the environment of various natural cycles; and to observe, document and reflect.  

Drawing on Petros’ expertise, we looked at how field recordings capture elements of nature creating an appreciation for our environments through active listening. We discussed what sounds we should start to hear when the pond is habituated by native insects, frogs and birds and how these sounds would also change with the seasons. As well as using field recordings, we took close-up textural photos of surrounding stones and trees. Using the Decibel score reader application we explored how to edit and abstract these elements to create a long graphic musical score that scrolled through the Six Noongar seasons and was inspired by nature’s patterns. A musician could then read and perform this score using sounds already recorded by students on their iPads.

Creative Schools is interesting. We don’t normally do things like this. Like in music, we usually play instruments, but in Creative Schools we are doing soundscapes and mixing art, music and technology.
- Student
In other lessons we do stuff indoors. In Creative Schools we explore. We are not in the classroom sitting on the mat.
- Student

At the end of the project, we unveiled our restored pond to the rest of the school, the community and family members. Our showcase featured a discussion from the students and teacher Jessica, and Petros performed the students' ‘Six Seasons’ graphic score with musician Suzanne Kosowitz. We displayed the photos, drawings and other creative forms of documentation the students made during our time together.

How did we use the Five Creative Habits of Learning?

We often began the class with a mindfulness exercise that also connected the students to their environment. By sitting down in a circle together outside we closed our eyes and listened to the sounds of birds, the wind and insects and when we opened our eyes, we represented the sounds and the movement of the sounds by using a map in which we would draw the trajectory of the sounds around us while also representing the sounds based on their shape and sound rather than the formal representation of its source.

Our project enabled us to focus on collaboration, imagination and inquisitiveness. We also experienced how it was important for an artist to apply discipline and persistence to their work.

I’m now better at listening, especially when I’m in nature. And I’m interpreting sounds.
- Student

What we discovered:

During 16 sessions students’ ideas of art were challenged and from that they broadened their understanding of creativity. A visual representation of sound was a great way to bridge visual art practice with sound while creating a connection to nature and the cycles of the Six Noongar Seasons. They appreciated how creativity could be applied to many other areas in life, and with this new understanding, even documenting ecosystems could be regarded as an artform.

The students also learned that sensory engagement could empower our understanding of both art and nature and like the seasons of the year bring us full circle while creating a healthy mindful practices and environments.

The kids discovered the power of proactivity. A letter they wrote got the attention and support of Bunnings, and we held a Busy Bee-day. This was a great way to bring the community together, connecting and empowering the motivation of the students and the interest of the parents.

There was a big community turn out for the showcase with many stakeholders visiting on the day. The talks were very moving, and you could see the project boosted the kids’ self-confidence in being able to take on and achieve a large-scale project through being proactive, writing letters to businesses and community, and seeing how a little effort with the help of self-discipline could create such a big outcome.

The name matches what Creative Schools does, it is creative. The Creative Schools teacher is very nice. He shows us different types of learning. It’s all the learning combined together.
- Student
Petros has shown us different interesting sound art recordings and new ways of turning nature into music. It’s different because there is no mistakes. You can’t go wrong when we are doing Petros’ sessions, you can’t mess it up. You can just continue. I like it. Today I made a mistake and I used it to make it better. I thought it’s not a mistake. I’ll just add to it and make it better.
- Student

Impact on the Teacher/Creative team

Initially it was overwhelming when we first started thinking about the project. But it’s ticking so many curriculum subjects: science, music, persuasive writing (writing to the community to get help with the pond) and even maths concepts. It is an epic project. Petros has been great and he is so generous with his time. The students have really appreciated this different approach to learning, including going outside to learn. In the sound mapping that we did, they were concerned they would get it wrong. But it has been great to see them move past this worry of getting things wrong. It has opened up a new thought process and way of doing things.
- Teacher
This age group of kids are really open to creativity and learning new creative ways of doing things. They are really academic students, so they question ‘am I doing it right or wrong?’ It has been good to see them responding with excitement to this project. Some of them are getting braver from week to week. The interpretations have gone from literal to more expressive.
- Creative Practitioner

Main Curriculum Focus: Science Understanding

Biology & Ecology: how to maintain a pond ecosystem, why they are important, the native animals that will be attracted. How water cycles in nature work from transportation to precipitation and how water is kept habitable with the balance of water purifying plants and frogs.

Cross Curriculum Priorities and General Capabilities:

• Literacy: Persuasive Writing

• Numeracy: Division (Music) & units of measurement.

• Sustainability: Maintaining Natural Pond Ecosystems

• Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Histories & Culture: Noongar Six Seasons and Story Time (Seven Sisters and Rainbow Serpent)

• Technologies Processes & Production Skills:

o investigating editing and processing of sound

o designing the pond, key mapping skills, drawing the Sun’s direction during the seasons and planning accordingly

o producing & implementing field recordings, photo documentation of ideas and editing sounds in GarageBand on their iPads

o evaluating: looking at how the layers of an ecosystem can be designed to function as part of the natural pond environment, taking into consideration the type of plants that are selected e.g. first layer – ground cover and water plants, second shrub, third small trees and final being canopy trees. How to use water plants to purify and maintain clean water cycle, choosing native plants for habitat and food for native insects and animals.

o collaborating & managing working together to write a letter to Bunnings for sponsorship of plants and pond materials (it worked!) and creating flyers for our family Busy Bee for pond restoration.

• Media Arts

o exploration & experimentation with the codes & conventions of media – then being able to experiment, breaking conventions, being OK with mistakes and the concept of abstraction – mixing ideas,

o mixing mediums and breaking away from formalism. Active listening, sound art and observing nature for patterns/rhythms and textures.

o learning about sound as an art form and as a mindful activity, and how this can be entwined in our observations and interactions with nature.

o technical camera shots (close up) documenting patterns in nature for visual music score ideas.  

o environmental artists such as Andy Goldsworthy, Karin van der Molen etc.