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Transforming Rainham Marshes: Live project with the RSPB and South Essex College takes flight

Art and Design students from the Thurrock Campus, Woodview are collaborating with the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) in Rainham Marshes on a unique live project as part of their studies.

Second year Level 3 National Diploma Art and Design students have been given the mammoth brief to improve the RSPB centre with their design work. If the designs are good enough, their creations could be manufactured and used on the site.

On a fact finding mission for the four month long project, the students visited the Marshes armed with sketch pads, cameras and binoculars.

Sophia Richards, 18, from Stanford-le-Hope said: “I think it’s great that we’re working with the RSPB because we’re learning how to think ‘green’. Sustainability is a really important aspect of the project and ultimately design is moving that way so experience such as this is really good to have in your portfolio.”

The course covers art and design aspects such as graphics and illustration, fashion and 3D design which gives students the scope to design a range of items that would benefit the centre including sculptures, signage, clothing or even new interactive insect houses!

Art and Design student Emily Meaney, 17, from Stanford-le-Hope said: “It’s really exciting that we have the freedom to design whatever we like. I’m planning on designing an item for the RSPB gift shop, the fact that my clothing could actually be made and seen by other people is a great opportunity.”

The RSPB has over a million members including over 195,000 youth members. Placed between Purfleet and Havering, the medieval marshes form part of Purfleet’s interesting history and are an exciting part of the community, alongside an important place for nature, with rare birds, insects and other animals.

Senior Education and Communications Officer at the nature reserve, Brona Doyle, said: “We like to work closely with the community to offer more to the people of Thurrock. It’s great to be able to use local creative talent that takes into account our needs as well as theirs and this project will undoubtedly give students new skills to employ in a working environment. I’m so excited to see what they come up with.”

Alongside designing an item for the centre, as part of their printmaking unit every student has to design a print which can be incorporated into their design and will go on display in a public exhibition at the RSPB in April.

Course Leader for General Art Design at the Thurrock Campus, Woodview, Jo Stringer, said: “We’ve been given unprecedented access to Rainham Marshes on this project, which is a great coup for the College and with the results we are hoping to help reinvigorate Rainham Marshes as well. From my experience students who work on live briefs such as this produce work of a higher standard, they’ve got that competitive edge because they want to get their designs produced.”

She continued: “It helps them to gain skills that will actually be used in the workplace. When the students go for interviews for jobs or higher education programmes they can talk about what they’ve actually experienced from the brief and the skills that they’ve learnt which is quite unique for students at this age.”

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