More than 300 children perform at Wild Hampshire

28 Mar 2024
Children performing play in animal masks

Hampshire Primary School pupils have been turning their new-found knowledge about nature into music and dance performances as part of a pioneering project run by the University of Winchester in partnership with The Grange Festival Learning.

‘Wild Hampshire’ came to a climax this week when more than 350 children from 10 schools performed their nature-inspired presentations at The Grange at Northington on Wednesday (27 March).

The youngsters sang and danced with energy and enthusiasm about the threats facing the county’s countryside, focusing on four key Hampshire habitats – woodland, grassland, chalk streams and coasts.

Music, lyrics and choreography were all the work of the children themselves.

Children waving paper flowers

The project has its roots in research led by Paul Sowden, Professor of Psychology,

Paul, along with Dr’s Marnie Seymour, Frances Warren, and Judy Waite from the University, are engaged in a three-year project, funded by Arts Council England and the Freelands Foundation, working with 16 schools to create one of eight national “Creativity Collaboratives”.

The University team is collecting evidence on the impact and value of teaching for creativity for children, schools and their communities.

Wild Hampshire – the biggest project run by the Creativity Collaborative - provided a valuable opportunity for the schools and children involved to create an original piece of work underpinned by the creativity framework they had helped develop.

Each participating school was assigned a habitat to learn about with the aid of visiting nature experts. Then, with the help of dance and music coaches, the children wrote and created their own performances highlighting the challenges their habitat faces in the 21st century.

Line up of five people,  four women and one man, outside large stately home

Some of creative team behind  Wild Hampshire (from left)  Susan Hamilton, Director of Learning, Grange Festival, Frances Warren, University of Winchester, Paul Sowden, Dr Marnie Seymour, University of Winchester and Nicola Wells, University of Winchester Academy Trust

Paul Sowden said Wild Hampshire is a perfect example of creativity and knowledge working hand in hand.

“This really is in-depth learning. The children are developing knowledge about a subject, in this case local wildlife habitats, which they can then turn into a creative project,” he said.

It was not only the pupils who were sent on a creative learning curve – teachers also took part in professional development sessions with musicians.

Susan Hamilton, Director of Learning at the Grange, said the Creativity Collaborative programme dovetailed with previous work her organisation had done with schools including one project in which youngsters were challenged to create an opera from scratch in five days.

“As well as creativity, projects like these teach children so many life skills like teamwork, collaboration and decision making,” said Susan.

She added that Wild Hampshire was inspired by David Attenborough’s recent series about Britain’s wildlife, Wild Isles.

The schools taking part and their habitats:


Chalk Streams



Photos by Musselwhitephotos

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