Culture

Crafting the Curriculum

A campaign has been launched to have craft and making skills taught as part of the Scottish school curriculum.

The campaign led by Craft Scotland and MAKE Learn, follows the recent publication of the ‘Craft and Making Education in Scotland Today’ report, which highlights the long-term value of teaching craft as part of the schools curriculum and was recently shared with Scottish Ministers and key policy makers for education and schools.

The MAKE Learn project is designed to strengthen Scotland’s craft sector, raise the profile of Scotland’s craft sector, and develop engagement with Scotland’s craft sector by a diverse audience and user group. It has been developed within the framework of MAKE, a manifesto for craft and a collective call for change, which sets out action points and recommendations that directly reflect the issues of makers living and working in Scotland.

MAKE Learn Report

It calls for a need to reintroduce teaching using tactile materials, alongside a focus on technology, and raising awareness of the benefits of craft teaching. These benefits include craft’s impact on improving mental health and wellbeing; protecting Scotland’s unique craft heritage; developing talented, skilled makers for the future; and contributing to the green economy.

The report, authored by Rosemary James-Beith, also advocates for better resources for teaching craft in classrooms and a national strategy for material skills development in schools – to ensure that we can sustain and grow Scotland’s workforce for an industry that currently contributes over £70 million to the Scottish economy.

Key findings in the report include:

●            Participation in craft is widespread, but it is not equal. Young adults aged 16-24 are least likely to participate in craft making, and those from less deprived areas are 50% more likely to have taken part in craft.

●            Craft and making in schools is not supported by national policy or coordinated resources. Over half of teachers (52% of those surveyed) felt that craft teaching was not a priority.

●            Craft is significantly under-resourced. 88% of teachers surveyed said that access to resources for materials and tools was a barrier to teaching craft in the classroom.

●            Craft and making education can help develop the capacities to respond to the climate emergency by introducing pupils to circular economy principles.

●            Scotland’s internationally renowned craft sector is widespread and growing, with an estimated 3.2 million consumers of craft.

●            Informal craft participation is growing in response to an increased appreciation for craft’s positive contribution to mental health and wellbeing.

In developing the activity in the pilot project, Eve Eunson Fair Isle architect and designer, said: 

“I hope that young people will be inspired by the story behind the basket making activity and that it creates an awareness of our culture, endangered crafts and traditional techniques.

“Basketry is a great lesson in patience and resourcefulness, showing that you can easily make items that are both beautiful and useful from ordinary materials – if you just use a little imagination and give things a try! Traditional crafts are not always difficult; they often just need a little time.

“We live in a faster-paced world than our ancestors, which isn’t always a good thing – practicing craft teaches us to slow down and take the time to create.”

Straw working was once a great skill in Orkney and numerous objects were made for the farmhouse.

There was great skill in the products that were made.

example of very fine straw work in Stromness Museum

The report was compiled from research charting craft and making education across Scotland, and from feedback on a Pilot Project for Schools delivered by Soizig Carey for MAKE Learn between April and June 2021. The Pilot Project went to over 400 children (aged 9-11 years) in primary 5–7 classes across six primary schools in Glasgow City and Argyll and Bute council regions; Rothesay Joint Campus, North Bute Primary School, St Andrew’s Primary School in Bute, St Benedict’s Primary School (Easterhouse), Royston Primary School (Royston), and Glendale Gaelic Primary School (Pollokshields) in Glasgow.

Irene Kernan director Craft Scotland, Catriona Duffy, and Lucy McEachan, founders MAKE, launch MAKE Learn #CraftEducationForAll campaign

The Schools’ Pilot Project, pitched at Broad General Education (BGE) level, was delivered using craft activity guides developed by three Scotland-based makers – ‘Care Not Consume’ by Deirdre Nelson (Glasgow), ‘Knotted Baskets’ by Eve Eunson (Shetland Isles) and ‘Material Impressions’ by Stefanie Ying Lin Cheong (Glasgow / Fife). Each activity explored teaching themes through craft and making: building creativity, skills development and learning, and meeting Curriculum for Excellence second level benchmarks in the Expressive Arts, Health and Wellbeing, Sciences and Technologies.

Architect and Designer-Maker Eve Eunson was born and raised on Fair Isle, Shetland, and studied Art and Architecture in Aberdeen. In 2018, with no previous woodworking experience and little knowledge of vernacular furniture she began an ambitious research project to trace, survey and recreate the traditional chairs of her native isle. Through the Fair Isle Chairs Project, the Heritage Crafts Association became aware of the precarious nature of the future of the Fair Isle Strawback Chair and listed the technique on their Red List of Critically Endangered Crafts. Inspired by Fair Isle strawback chairs, Eve’s ‘Knotted Baskets’ guide shows how to make your own basket using the same knotting and binding technique.

The full ‘Craft and Making Education in Scotland Today’ report, information on the Pilot Project for Schools, and accompanying activity guides are available from www.makemanifesto.com

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