During March, three groups of children from primary schools in central Edinburgh visited the SOC headquarters as part of a project called Fledglings.
Fledglings was led by Edinburgh Printmakers and was part of a UK wide initiative, The Wild Escape, to engage thousands of school children with the natural world through art, using the UK’s Museums & Galleries collections. Thanks to funding received from Museums Galleries Scotland, Edinburgh Printmakers used its collection to engage children with printmaking and the wonderful world of birds. The Wild Escape was inspired by the new BBC documentary Wild Isles featuring David Attenborough, to encourage conversations with young people about the Climate Crisis.
Edinburgh Printmakers (EP) worked with three primary schools in central Edinburgh from January to April 2023: Sciennes, Tollcross and Dalry primary schools. EP visited each school, and each group of children attended printmaking workshops at EP, learning techniques such as dry-point etching, using EP’s collection of prints for inspiration and creating their own prints.
As part of the project, Edinburgh Printmakers partnered with the SOC to facilitate a field trip for each of the schools, as an opportunity to observe birds in the field but also to attend an art exhibition taking place at SOC by a printmaker specialising in depicting wildlife, Lisa Hooper.
The first trip was with Sciennes Primary School. After a 50-minute coach trip to Aberlady Bay Local Nature Reserve, the children were very excited to put their binoculars to use and look out for birds in their natural habitat. It was a bit of a grey day, but the tide was out and that meant that we could see a good variety of wading birds such as Curlew, Ringed Plover, Redshank, Eider, and Shelduck. Everyone sat on the grass verge of the quiet Kilspindie Golf Club access road and started sketching.
The second trip was with Tollcross Primary School. There was no rain again and the excitement levels were high as we arrived at Waterston House. After splitting into two groups, one group went inside to look at the amazing Lisa Hooper exhibition on show and do some inspired sketching, as well as check out the used bird nests that the SOC Librarian had organised, and the other group went on a short walk to the bay to do some bird spotting. While at the reserve, the wind had picked up so everyone had to clutch their sketchbooks tight. We saw a Curlew very close, able to admire its iconic long bill. Lots of Eiders were also bobbing on the waves.
The final field trip was with Dalry Primary School and, once again, we were fortunate with the weather. Being a smaller group, we were all able to head down together to the bay. This time, the tide was quite far in, but we still saw lots of Shelduck and Ringed Plover, as well as Blue Tits in the trees at the edge of the golf course. The group headed back to Waterston House to have our packed lunches in the beautiful forecourt. The children really enjoyed looking through the telescope that was set up in the library so they could get a close-up view of birds such as Chaffinch and Coal Tit on the bird feeder at the edge of the pond.
All the children had a fantastic experience at the Club’s headquarters and it truly made a big impact on them. It was inspiring for the budding printmakers to see Lisa’s depictions of the bird species that they had just spotted out in the bay.
The Fledgings project culminated in a public event held at Edinburgh Printmakers on Earth Day (22 April), which included an exhibition of the prints made by the children as well as activities for visitors.
The project had a big impact on the schools and the children taking part and led to more conversations about climate change at school, but also resulted in an increased interest in birds and art from the children, and their families. Edinburgh Printmakers is grateful to SOC staff and volunteers for their warm welcome and for passing on important, inspiring knowledge during the visits.
Namhara Byron Low
Photos © Edinburgh Printmakers