Building Experiences

Building Our Future…
... As if People and the Earth Matter

A Report

Adrian Wills: Building Experiences
Ben Akpokavi: Independent Evaluator : DEA (DEEPER)


East meets West nationally, on matters to do with North and South, globally.

Over 400 young people, aged 6-17, from 13 schools and colleges took part in an experimental project which combined architecture and art as a means to explore development education issues.

Six schools from Tower Hamlets, 4 schools and a college in Cirencester, together with 2 national specialist colleges worked on the project over a period of 6 months.

Their work was brought together on one day, in the form of a giant tetrahedron carrying a selection of 156 pieces of art. Two artists and an architect were engaged to work with The Trust's Director to implement the project.

The project was designed and implemented with the support of : One World Week, The Voices From The South Project and The Society of Black Architects.

An independent assessor through the DEA - DEEPER scheme, was engaged to evaluate the project.

The project was the result of a bid to The Department for International Development - DFID Mini Grant programme. It was also supported financially by the One World Week 2000 - Voices from The South programme and the Robert Tollemache Foundation through Oxfam.

This Report is a summary of the project and includes the main findings from the DEA evaluation.

We hope that by sharing the how and the what, others may find support and ideas to complement their practice with development education.

Building Our Futures - Background

A weekend in Wales, as part of the One World Week 2000 initiative, provided the stimulus for an application to the DFID Mini Grant programme. The project's design evolved on the journey home from a most stimulating weekend reinforced by the integration of the Voices from The South programme.

The design of the Building Our Futures project allowed Building Experiences to combine elements of its core activities and mission, with agendas of other organisations to develop new opportunities in creative, inspiring and non-threatening ways. The intention is to always find ways to make new opportunities accessible to an ever-increasing range of participants. The project's design was also able to draw upon potent symbolism and metaphor as a means of deepening understanding. This was achieved through the use of the Giant Tetrahedron Workshop. The project was also able to draw upon schools and colleges with whom working relationships had already been established.

Partnerships - Southern & Global Perspectives

The term 'Southern' is used to describe groups and individuals in civil society with origins from developing countries. The Building Our Futures Project drew upon visions and perspectives with southern origins to enrich its process of design and delivery through the Voices from the South Project.

By linking with this project, Building Experiences worked with a Southern Mentor, as one of 8 local One World Week groups in different parts of the country. This relationship was a key element in the project's design and for working towards achieving its objectives. One of the prime messages of the project was that of working together for the common purposes of a more just and sustainable future. Building partnerships that reflect this intent, the medium being the message, helps to make these messages more accessible and more likely to happen.

One World Week was established in 1978 as a development education programme, bringing local people together to act and raise awareness of global issues. It has an annual, national programme of activities. In 1999 over 6000 people took part, reaching millions around the world. In 2000, the Building Our Futures Project, became part of its activities on the theme… As if People and The Earth Matter.

The Society of Black Architects - SOBA - through the participation of Arts Council Fellow at the RIBA, Chris Nasah, as a member of the project Team, was a further partner in the project. SOBA's mission is to create a platform that will foster the articulation of the needs of architects from an ethnic minority background in education and practice, as they engage the wider public. One of its objectives is to offer positive role models to youth from the Black Diaspora who may wish to consider a career in architecture, design or the other building trades by participating in educational initiatives.

Project Design:

Curriculum Context

Each school was visited by Building Experiences who met with the Headteacher to gain support and commitment to the project. Subsequently, a curriculum context for the work in each school was identified and established, along with a member of staff who would take responsibility for the Project within the school/college.

Since the project was designed to bring together learners of different ages and backgrounds, curriculum contexts varied. They included, GNVQ Art courses, GCSE Art, Personal & Social Education, A -level Art, Art Week Activities and an Eco-Week Project. The project was always presented as an opportunity which any participating school / college could use as a means of achieving any current objectives, whether these were to do with the academic or pastoral curriculum, or indeed broader organisational goals related to whole-school objectives or staff development.

Project Team and Teaching / Learning Package

Building Experiences created a Project Team by engaging a black architect and two artists who worked with The Trust's Director to devise and implement a teaching / learning 'package' for combining art and architecture as vehicles for development education. The Project Team used the DEA document, Principles & Practice for development education practitioners working with schools, as guidelines in formulating this 'package'.

Our teaching / learning package approach resulted in the design of two Workshops, one for building a structure and the other for engaging participants, through art.

The 'package' also included the production of individual, triangular, Design Diaries - to be used during Workshops to record and note information and ideas.

What we arrived at was designed to complement the One World Week Resource Pack which was distributed to each of the schools / colleges for their work with students. Each organisation was subsequently placed on the One World Week database to receive information in future years.

The Structures Workshop drew upon the construction a Giant Tetrahedron. This structure is composed of many equilateral triangles built from softwood dowel and connected by elastic bands. It's a simply built, yet inspiring and elegant structure and stands some 4mtr x 4mtrs x 4mtrs. It incorporates a process of learning about materials, sharing and valuing each others ideas, promoting lateral thinking, team work and finally applying what has been built in metaphorical terms - in this case to concepts behind the notion of One World. Each school was provided with its own Structures Kit to keep and to use and to revisit the ideas of the Workshop once we had left, and for subsequent years.

The great thing about the approach is that it can be carried out again and again with new groups. Any teacher can become the user of the approach. In this manner we felt that a sustainable contribution was being effected by the project. The Workshop was complemented by a number of visual stimulus, including the compelling video - Powers of 10.

The Art Workshop was designed to both explore, and promote the use of art as a medium for self and group expression related to the concept and themes of One World. The artists were chosen as a result of their different backgrounds and styles of work, as well as to act as role-models, being active artists. Their approach was to use their own work as a means of showing how through it they were making statements about our world. The Workshop included the use of different techniques and materials, along with methods of working. It thus built upon the notions of collaborative approaches that were part of the Structures Workshop.

The Art Workshop was designed as a stimulus for follow-up activity, to be carried out by each school / college once the project team had left. Each school / college was given a quantity of pre-cut, card, equilateral triangles, with sides some 45 cms long, on which to produce their final, artistic expressions. These card triangles had pre-punched holes to allow easy fixing with elastic bands to the Giant Tetrahedron. The Project Team worked in each of the 13 schools/colleges. A white artist from Cirencester worked in the Tower Hamlets' schools, and a black artist studying at London Guildhall University worked in the Specialist and Cirencester Colleges and schools.

All of the planning, developmental work and Workshops in schools and colleges was carried out during the period from April to July of 2000. Each of the colleges and schools committed to producing 13 pieces of art-work to cover a Giant Tetrahedron with 156 faces, which they would bring to one location on a date in November to celebrate the national One World Week. Most committed themselves to using the project as a stimulus to do something within their school / college related to the day as well as to contribute to the bigger event that was to take place in Cirencester.

Besides delivering the objectives of the immediate project related to the DFID criteria, the process of the project's design and delivery, adds value to the investment in the work, and hence aspects of sustainability are built in. Besides materials being left in each school in the form of Structures' kits and resources, staff who took part have been enabled to add this approach to their teaching skills for subsequent years. The practical working idea of adding work to such a structure is one which most teachers would not have come across.

Bringing it all together:

One World Week: November 1st: Cirencester.

  • The key ideas behind the project, those of:

  • bringing together our future adults from different geographical and cultural backgrounds

  • bringing together learners of different ages

  • bringing together young people with different physical abilities

  • of using art as a medium to explore and express ideas of development education

came to fruition as students, parents, teachers and a wide range of others made their way to Cirencester Kingshill School, which acted as host for bringing the project together. Whilst groups from the Tower Hamlets schools boarded their coach in Limehouse, those from The Lord Mayor Treloar and the Star Centre specialist Colleges made their ways from Hampshire and Cheltenham. The local Cirencester schools and College had a somewhat easier journey.

Students from Cirencester College have produced a video on the project as a part of their A-level media Course and for us to use as a means of promoting and developing the project's approach.

The project had good press coverage in the local press both in Tower Hamlets and the Cotswolds. There was also coverage on national radio.

This Report contains photographs of the work that resulted from the project and which was put on display for the day. Needless to say it represents only a part of what each school worked on and produced.

Adrian Wills, Building Experiences

Project Team: Chris Nasah, Architect : Jheni Arboine, Artist : Alex Lord, Artist : Adrian Wills

Summary Evaluation Report : Ben Akpokavi - freelance Trainer / Consultant and member of the DEA / DEEPER Team of consultants.

The Process

As part of the Project Design, Building Experiences worked with an independent assessor, identified through the Development Education Association's DEEPER service, to design an evaluation process.

This consisted of :

  • a pre- and post-test survey carried out with students in a cross-section of the schools taking part

  • observing workshops at schools

  • reviewing student Design Diaries

  • administering post evaluation forms

  • telephone conversations with some of the teachers from participating schools

  • writing of Draft Report

  • feedback / response from Project Team

  • meeting and discussion of lessons learned

  • Final Report

Summary Findings: Building Our Futures

The main objectives of this evaluation are to identify:

1. if appropriate methods and tools were used in this project

2. if learning had taken place

3. if there are things that could be repeated or done differently in future projects

4. if the expected outputs outlined in the proposal were achieved

5. if the DFID criteria were met

1. The organisation and management of the project was professionally done. The co-ordination and communication between the Project Team leader and the partners (architect and artists) was flawless and very fluid allowing for dialogue and self reflection. Although some teachers would have preferred for more information at the outset of the project, they were impressed by the openness and professionalism of the project staff particularly the Team leader. In their own words "he was easy to reach and very willing to offer support when called upon". The workshops had a perfect mix of appropriate tools (Video, lecture, demonstration and practical work) which maintained participants' interest. Allowing time in-between sections for participants to record their reactions was an effective way to check learning. Providing the schools the required materials was encouraging especially for schools with small budgets.

2. By the end of the project the participants (students) had learned a lot. A few examples are given here.(See full evaluation report). From the outset of the project majority (86%) of students were of the opinion that to survive in the world we have to ensure that everyone gets a fair share. They feared Earth's supply of Fuel- (Oil, coal, gas, petrol.), Trees/woods and water will run out. They were also concerned about global warming, the ozone layer and pollution. But encouraging enough more that half felt they could do something and were prepared to do something about the earth's future. During the workshop participants realised that the sticks showed that "people were "the same in one world", whilst the elastic band represented the bond between countries and the world's finite resources. They recognised the analogy and so we should "not be greedy and not waste resources because they won't be here forever and every body needs a bit of each resource."

3. The learning outcomes expected at the end of the project were met satisfactorily. Although at the start of the project half of the students (53%) thought that everybody was important in a group another half (21%) of the remaining thought that nobody was important while the remaining (17%) thought the leader was most important. (9% other responses). This confusion was later cleared by the end of the project when the students concluded that..."Each individual matters and can influence the group situation". "I've learned that it is better to work as a team rather than an individual because you get done faster and also you learn from other people in your group."

These additional two quotes sum up the working and learning that took place:

"Sticks / bands = resources, which we really run out this morning. Communication is a vital aspect of working together, about understanding each other about helping each other as much as we can. Interdependent. Sharing our resources. And at the end of the day we should appreciate what we have achieved together = we are all equal."
Fahim Uddin Ioa

The project achieved the output of global citizenship building as is illustrated in one of the students own words.

"Working together we get more ideas. We also save time and energy by working together. We are interdependent. We shared our resources. Equality - sharing - Achievement"
Amirul Islam

This is very noteworthy, as the pre-project survey revealed that students were of the opinion that other countries depended on us more than we did on them. The fact that the Trust's director worked with a black architect/development consultant and a black artist was also critical in portraying positive images and the need to respect the differences between peoples, whilst articulating the common strands.

  • The students have been empowered in a variety of ways. Their self-esteem and confidence has increased through their participation.

"The workshop was a good idea. It was good teamwork and I like the way the different parts of the work are working together, even though I am in a wheel chair I was still able to take part in the workshop."

"The students clearly enjoyed the session and should take a lot away with them, on working as a team, sharing , co-operating and developing a wider view of the world."

  • For the learning outcome of complementing the curriculum, this is what teachers had to say:

"It ties in with the personal and social development curriculum and is particularly relevant to our school in the light of recent connections we have made with a school in Kenya, as part of the Footsteps Project."

"The workshop went well and I felt that the work fits in with my 3D work"

"It fitted perfectly into the work being done in the school with regard to education for sustainable development and also the work of Eco- schools in terms of pupils' involvement , everyone doing their bit etc."


  • Pace: Although the pace of the practical activity was generally good, it could be faster or slower depending on the age and ability of the group.

  • Work Sheets: As the content was very prescribed because of the nature of the project, perhaps some of the issues could have been referred to teachers to follow up in the classes or linked further to the curriculum. A small information pack/work sheet could be produced highlighting some of the elements of the workshop that could be revisited in the various subject areas. Here are some examples of some possible linkages. - The video- powers of ten- (mathematics) - Sticks - wood- sources of wood- structure of wood etc.- (technical/science/environmental studies) - Elastic band- made out of - related to friction/ energy.- (science)

  • Handouts: During the building of the structure participants discovered how some of their actions have global similarities. The scramble for sticks was linked to war on the global level this could be supported with actual examples and reference material containing facts and figures from both north and south, which participants could use to support their diary notes. For example the scramble for sticks, could be linked to the scramble for Africa, and/or over-fishing).Here are some more examples of issues explored in the workshop that may require handouts, time, the power of giving, fast thinking, food chain, greed, war, waste and so on.

  • Process: The link between the Structures Workshop and the Art Workshop could be developed further. To 'smoothen the link' the Art Workshop, which normally starts after lunch, could begin right at the end of the morning session. Participants could spend five to ten minutes listing in their diaries at least 5 things they have learned from the workshop and encouraged to think about them at lunch. This list could be used in the Art Workshop as a starting point for the creative process, following the steps the artist described when showing his or her work.

  • Structure of the Art workshops: the Art Workshop could be better structured for a more balanced and clearer flow. The following framework should equip participants with enough direction to convert their sentences and ideas into pictures: Artist shows own work, explains style, and breakdowns the creative process step by step from concept to finished piece.


The project went a long way to raise awareness about development, interdependence, and global citizenship. It also changed attitudes about resources, co-operation and of self. The project was successful in meeting all its aims and the DFID criteria. If the few recommendations above are incorporated into the next phase, this project could become an even more powerful tool for the delivery of global education, not only here in the UK, but in Southern countries as well. Further added value is in the form of extending and developing networks of practitioners in the field of development education, as well as linking them with each other and national organisations such as One World Week, the Voices from the South Project and the Society of Black Architects. Opportunities for enabling this process of reaffirmation and introduction to new ways of embracing development education have been important in the project's success. Many aspects of the project's design can be developed and are transferable.

Ben Akpokavi, Global Impact

DEA Evaluator, Jan 2001

A selection of comments made by Staff at the conclusion of the Project:

"This project has boosted my students' self-confidence. The students were able to discuss their work and express their opinions with other students and teachers. The project gave then the opportunity to mix with other schools. When the artwork was completed and finally constructed at Cirencester, everyone there felt a sense of awe and achievement. The theme of One World is both relevant and important in today's society. As the population of the world seems to be increasingly growing, violence is increasing and the world's natural resources are dwindling, the public in all areas of England need to be aware of the concerns raised by the students participating in this Project."

Merridith Carlin Bishop Challoner RC School, Tower Hamlets

"The one World Week project - Building Our Futures has been very valuable - unifying all classes across year groups and providing a very useful practical focus for Personal & Social Education issues, Art and Design Technology. The whole school has benefited - not just the few involved on the day. It was so satisfying to see enthusiastic conversations grow into rich activity. I am sure that a public exhibition would encourage other schools to use your imaginative project structure - and provide a moving example to the public of children's viewpoints and the need for commitment to our future."

Anne Buffoni Cirencester Junior School, Glos.

"For the pupils of St Pauls Way, the project was a very rewarding experience. The structure of the project provided a very direct and accessible method of making sculpture and one that I would definitely use in the future. The theme was one which the pupils found interesting to work with and discuss. The great strength of the project was that it encouraged teamwork and co-operation. The pupils who attended the celebration day had a very positive experience. It was extremely valuable for them to work with pupils with disabilities and with pupils from different backgrounds. The final sculpture was a very powerful and beautiful object."

Jonathan Cowell St Paul's Way Community School, Tower Hamlets

"The opportunity to be involved in an art project that incorporated a variety of educational establishments, enabled students to develop a group concept within the knowledge that their artwork was to be built into a wider framework. A rare opportunity within A level art as individual portfolios are focussed upon.
The students Were highly motivated by the two workshops and these provided the vehicle for the students to discuss, interpret and develop ideas for One World in a lively, interesting and motivating atmosphere. This resulted in a very positive group interaction where the students felt complete ownership of the art work developed. The concept devised by the group was sky, as we all live under one sky, one roof. The group discussed how the elements were vital to feeding the world's population and how the vision of sky would be representative of new horizon's, a fitting concept as we enter a new millennium.
The idea of having so many students ranging in age and from a variety of backgrounds all contributing towards a major piece of artwork, was also very important, given the extensive issues around building our future and working together."

Gillian Read Cirencester College, Glos.

"The project itself was intensive at the beginning of the term for 3 weeks and involved all the art students. I had thought long and hard about the starting point and felt that colour unites the world. It was from this point that the students worked together on their triangles producing some figurative and some non-figurative world, all linked by colour, but with themes that are common to the world: colour my world / communications / one world / rain forest / cultures of the world ./ planet / earth / oceans / electricity / students poetry / hopes for the future / hunger / pollination / festivals.

Here are some student quotes: With colour my world - we wanted to express the message- that despite problems in the world - how colourful and exciting the world is, and that there is hope for the future - Sonia

We wanted to link the work together and let people's imaginations fill the gaps. We used a whole variety of mixed-media to give depth to our pictures, from tissue to conte to gouache to acetate - Tim

It all came together and although strange at first on the day to work and share with young pupils and able bodied students, it was excellent and impressionable - Rob

We are using our tetrahedron materials for our Arts Week and we are going to encourage other than art students throughout the College to produce the triangles to display at the end of the week, on which they express their feelings for a united world."

Linda Gartshore The Lord Mayor Treloar College Alton Hants.

"The students who took part in the school workshops and the One World art project have produced some very high-standard work which is displayed around the School, alongside information about the concepts behind the project. The displays have attracted much admiration from students, staff and visitors to the School. In addition to the pupils visual and spiritual experience of the project, taking part has had an impact on the lives of the pupils, in that it has raised their awareness and understanding of global issues. This is particularly pertinent to our school community which is approximately 98% Bangladeshi in its student population.

I thought that the artwork produced by all schools for the project was imaginative, expressive and of a high standard."

Kyra Mihailovic Mulberry School for Girls, Tower Hamlets

The Building our Futures Project happened due to support and funding from the following :

  • The Department for International Development DFID

  • One World Week

  • Voices from the South

  • The Development Education Association - DEA - DEEPER Evaluation scheme

  • The Society of Black Architects

  • Cirencester Kingshill School

  • Cirencester College Media Department

The Building Our Futures Project couldn't have happened without the participation and commitment of the Headteachers, Principals, Staff, Students and Pupils of:

Ann Edwards Primary School, South Cerney, Glos.
Smithy Street Primary School, Tower Hamlets.
County Junior Primary School, Cirencester, Glos.
Cyril Jackson Primary School, Tower Hamlets.
Bishop Challoner RC School, Tower Hamlets.
Sir John Cass Redcoat Foundation School, Tower Hamlets.
Cirencester Kingshill School. Glos.
St Pauls Way Community School. Tower Hamlets
Cirencester Deer Park School. Glos.
Mulberry School for Girls. Tower Hamlets.
The National Star Centre, College of Further Education Cheltenham, Glos.
The Lord Mayor Treloar National Specialist College, Hants.
Cirencester College. Glos.


Building Experiences     Site Design: Wills-Fleming