Thursday, 9 January 2014

Sara Fanelli - Collage

Bright, engaging, quirky, unusual. Also informative.

Fanelli uses humour to engage children to her work.

The Guardian describes her work as a "breath of fresh air". The medium of collage is not used a lot  - even in children's books, etc. - so I think it is unusual enough to grab their attention.

From The Guardian:
Everything in Fanelli's collages has had a previous life. Sweet papers are crinkled and torn, newsprint is yellowed: every mark, every stain has its own story to tell.
Fanelli's favoured medium is collage, which she has developed in a very personal way. She took it up not just as a way of moving on from the flat colours she'd always used in her paintings, but also to make use of a vast collection of bits and pieces

I was inspired by Fanelli's use of collage. I think it adds something extra to her work, an extra story of where the materials could have come from. The stylized, textured visual language is almost child-like and children really love it.


Saturday, 4 January 2014

Whinlatter Forest: The Stick Man Trail

The Stick Man Trail was present in Whinlatter forest from December and up until the end of January. In contrast to the Squirrel Scurry and Tracks Trail, this trail was clearly marked with directional signs and constantly kept the interest of a young audience by having activities along the way. We discovered no one doing the Squirrel Scurry and Tracks Trail, yet we found that many families were doing the Stick Man Trail and there was certainly a reason why this was the preferred one. The "Stick Man" is based on a children's book written by Julia Donaldson and illustrated by Axel Scheffler.

The trail starting off with a clear marker, signalling the start. The Squirrel Scurry and Tracks Trail did not have a clear starting point and I think a sign saying such is beneficial for children.

Constant markers were present to encourage and explain that you were on track. This could have been useful for the other trails and might have avoided us getting lost!

Each sign was very similar, meaning that you were immediately able to spot one. They also contained the character which marked the trail and were bright and colourful enough to stand out amongst the browns and greens of the forest. It was never far that you had to travel before you found a sign which marked this trail.

Information boards were also present and marked activities that children could complete along the way.
 Some were information, others simply to get the children more involved in the trail.
Many families were undertaking this trail, rather than the others:
Colourful illustrations and minimal text on the information boards would appeal to the younger target audience.
And we did see a number of children undertaking these activites. For example there were a number of dens which had already been made, which was encouraged as an activity in the above image. As we passed, a family were also making their own. Making a den is such a fun, simple idea and is obviously going to appeal to children. However, I liked that the parents could also get involved with this activity, as we saw some parents helping the children make a 'den'.
Next, at one point in the trail there were also a number of other signs that were educational and linked to the below information board. There were hidden on various trees and could have made a fun game for the children to find them all, while also learning.
Other fun activites:

Toward the end of the trail, there were also poems to find, presented on trees. Stories from the Twig Man book were present. I think that the poem and the story should have been separated, as they intertwined and this could have caused some confusion. Perhaps the story would have been better suited at the start of the trail.

Last, a sign marked the completion of the trail, which I think would give the child a sense of success and completion.
 When the trail ended, the play park was present, which seemed like a reward for the children.
Overall, I felt that this trail was so much more successful than the two others and this was evidenced in the number of families undertaking it. Wayfinding signs were clear and frequent. Activities kept children engaged for a long time and differentiated so that the young audience would not grow bored. The only thing that I could think to improve upon was that it would be nice to include booklet with this trail, which perhaps showed a map, like the other two trails were given.

Whinlatter Forest: Tracks and Squirrel Scurry Trails

When I was back home for Christmas in Cumbria, I visited Whinlatter, a place which homes forest trails, as I thought this would prove helpful for my research. Whinlatter has two main trails for children - the Track Trail and the Squirrel Scurry Trail - which are available to complete all year round and take about 45 mins each to complete. There are also more demanding and time consuming adult trails present, for hikers and bikers, though my focus was to be on the children's trails.

Upon visiting, these signs were displayed by the parking area. The parking itself was very expensive, which I felt could put people off from taking their children here in the future. The information boards I came across had the same jagged edge, the shape copying that of the nearby mountains. There were also bright colours present, which made the boards stand out, and a link to nature with the wood, which is used to support the information.

Further information boards were present outside the building. These matched the ones at the carpark.
The bench next to this sign also incorporated the mountain shape. It also pointed out the names of the mountains it had based its shapes on.
A fingerboard sign then marked the different routes to reach different locations. 

We had to get the map and activity booklets for the two children's trails from the shop. They cost £1 each.

(images - booklets)

As the squirrel trail clearly adopted the colour red in the booklet, we grew confused by the other coloured markers, thinking that the red of these posts signaled the presence of the squirrel scurry trail. Seen below:
Since we could find no other signs for this trail after the first, we presumed the red tips of these posts meant that we were on the right track. However, they actually signaled the presence of an adult trail and therefore we headed in the wrong direction. The use of the same colour was the fault here. I think that each trail should have its own colour. Perhaps if the adult trail had been marked with a yellow, for example, instead of the same red, it would have avoided confusion and we would have therefore kept to the right track.

There was also very few signs on the squirrel scurry, meaning that often we were not sure if we were on the correct path or which way we should be traveling when we reached a crossroad. Larger, clearer signs should have definitely been present to help children - and adults! - navigate the trail. A marker would have also encouraged the children. As a result, we felt that children might grow bored by this trail, as there was nothing to do in the walking intervals between the posts, as the activity booklet only worked if you were able to find the marker points.
When the Squirrel Scurry markers were found, they displayed an attractive, child-friendly design, with the inclusion of a character. There was also a carving of a squirrel as a marker, which added fun and interest. However, no interactive elements were present.
Below was one of the only signs for the squirrel scurry that we did find that was there to point the walker in a certain direction. However, it was a very small sign, which almost went unnoticed by us.
Below was an information board found on the trail. It contained various information about red squirrels, yet I felt that the flat design would not interest the young audience it was targeted at. 

Overall, we felt that the squirrel scurry was quite a poor trail. There was nothing to keep a child particularly interested and the wayfinding was seriously lacking. An estimated time that the trail should take should have been included on the booklet, as we had no way of knowing how long it would take. The markers needed to be bolder and more frequent and activities - or something to keep the children occupied - would have made the walk more interesting for a younger audience.

Unfortunately, the Tracks Trail was very similar and apart from the sign posts, which marked different paw prints, there was nothing to keep a child engaged on the trail.

When I was younger, there were two trails in Whinlatter called the Rabbit Run and the Squirrel Run. What was so successful about these trails was that they were aimed specifically at a certain age. The Rabbit Run was a longer and more difficult trail, aimed at children around 7 - 11, while the Squirrel Run was shorter and aimed at from 7 to toddler age. I felt that the trouble between the present Tracks Trail and Squirrel Scurry was that there was no differentiation between age. Each trail was 45 mins long and was more or less the same.

I also remember that in the Rabbit Run, a letter could be found on each sign post, which would then make up a word once you completed the trail. Something so simple like this gave me something (at a young age) to work toward, kept my interest during the trail and gave me a sense of accomplishment when I had discovered the word at the end.

It was mentioned on the booklet that a badge for a completed activity sheet would be rewarded after the trails. Yet I felt that the activity booklet (perhaps not for the Tracks Trail but for the Squirrel Scurry) was too dry to interest a younger audience. I think that they were trying very hard to make children more aware of the dangers presented to red squirrels and so did not want to take a playful approach. Yet I felt that having to read information boards containing large chunks of text to find certain answers would seem more like work to such a young age group.

 The colours are great because they match perfectly to the two trails.
 Map. Shaped like the squirrels face - fun twist.
 Too information/text heavy.

 Consistent layout through both activity sheets.

However, there was another trail present, one which was not permanent, and we found this to be more much successful. This will be explored in my next blog post.