School’s diversity project proves a great success

By Luke Williams   |   Reporter   |
Wednesday 6th July 2022 4:00 pm
@LukePowysNews
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‘Our Cynefin Project’ at Ysgol y Mynydd Du
Pupils and teachers outside the bell tent on the school site, pictured with Phil Okwedy and Eve Howard (B&R )

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A Talgarth school is celebrating the success of an inspirational project focused on learning about multiculturalism in our society.

Pupils at Ysgol y Mynydd Du have been taking part in ‘Our Cynefin Project’ since last autumn. The pioneering project, funded by the Arts Council of Wales, has given learners at the school the platform to develop their knowledge and understanding of heritage, identity and diversity.

Teaching about black, Asian, and minority ethnic history and current affairs is now mandatory in the new Welsh Curriculum. Ysgol y Mynydd Du’s ’Our Cynefin Project’ is seen as an important step in delivering diversity education at the school.

Last Wednesday, June 6, parents, governors, pupils and guests gathered in the school hall for a ‘Show & Tell’ celebration, to share the exciting work that the pupils have taken part in over the past eight months.

Special guests on the day included storyteller Phil Okwedy and author and creative Eve Howard, who have both played important roles in the children’s learning.

‘Our Cynefin Project’ at Ysgol y Mynydd Du
Phil Okwedy tells a story to the group (B&R )

Phil Okwedy is a Nigerian Welsh storyteller who has provided workshops and talks for the children across the course of the project. Through capturing the pupil’s imagination through his performance storytelling, his knowledge and expertise has been invaluable to the pupil’s understanding of the project’s themes.

Reflecting on the project, Phil said: “The pupils have all responded so well to the project and have been engaged throughout - it’s been excellent.

“The word ‘Cynefin’ is a Welsh word, which isn’t directly translatable, but roughly means ‘belonging’. The entire project has revolved around this and what it means to live in multicultural Wales.

“What the pupils have learnt goes beyond the curriculum. It’s an approach that’s now embedded within the school.”

Eve Howard is a creative and founder of virtual gallery, website and blog DiversiTrees.

Diversitrees promotes building a socially inclusive and sustainable green recovery that celebrates and protects the ecosystem of biodiversity in humans and the natural world.

Eve, who lives in West Wales and visited the pupils for the first time last week, has been an asset to the project, taking part in video calls with the pupils to help develop their empathetic questioning when talking about Eve’s heritage and personal journey. The pupils have also explored some of Eve’s poetry, which draws parallels between nature and human relationships.

During last week’s celebration, the guests were shown a nine-minute video documenting the learning and achievements of the pupils during the course of project.

The project began last October with pupils researching their hobbies through a diverse lens, learning about British black, Asian, and minority ethnic achievements in their field. A further highlight was a visit from Molara, who taught pupils about African drumming and rhythm.

Over the months, pupils created their own storytelling cushion designs using a variety of techniques, as a way to celebrate and remember the project. This included a group trip to the arboretum at the Gliffaes Hotel, where the pupils created bark rubbings from non-native trees - a technique which they replicated on their cushions. The cushions were on display in a storytelling bell tent, which was set up on site.

The pupils learnt about John Ystumllyn, an 18th-century Welsh gardener and and the first well-recorded black person of North Wales. The talented gardener was held in high regard by his community.

In October 2021 a new rose variety was named in honour of Ystumllyn by Harkness Roses. It was the first rose in the UK to be named after a person of colour. The pupils at Ysgol y Mynydd Du planted their own John Ystumllyn rose on the school site.

‘Our Cynefin Project’ at Ysgol y Mynydd Du
The school’s John Ystymllyn Rose (B&R )

The morning was concluded with everyone helping contribute to make a community indigo tie-dye cloth. This is a remembrance of the start of the ongoing diversity education at Ysgol y Mynydd Du.

Class teacher Kate Ocham, was one of the driving forces behind the delivery of the project at the school.

Speaking about the project, she said: “I’m so grateful for everyone who has played a part in ‘Our Cynefin Project’ - it’s been a wonderful success.

“The project has been a fantastic opportunity for the pupils, and a stepping stone for the school to start integrating an ongoing diversity education.”

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