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Mapping the Community in Bunclody
by Mary McIvor, FCJ Bunclody, Co. Wexford

The following project was undertaken by a group of first year students with the assistance of Kevin Anderson, Wexford County Council and The Local Artists in Residence Scheme. The project involved students looking at their local communities, and deciding on how they as young people would like to portray their community. The process involved looking at what communities are, how they exist, and how smaller communities can be a part of a larger community.

The larger one in this case was the school community, which consists of students travelling from various areas. Initially groups were formed consisting of students from the same area. Within groups students came to a consensus on what their local community was about, and decided on what features of their local community they wished to exhibit.

Then the class decided on how all of these communities could be depicted on a map. The mapping exercise involved the Geography teacher, and students looked at how a variety of maps can relay a different message. Each individual student prepared a map showing how they saw their local area, and then again through consensus decided on what aspects they would show on the larger class map. The students had decided to produce a map in the form of a giant jigsaw. The jigsaw was decided upon because they felt that each piece, while important in its own right, was also important because it showed how it had a part to play in the overall picture of their community. At this stage the artists in residence were invited in to discuss their ideas with the students and over a period of three visits (2 hours each) the students produced their map.

The process was a very valuable learning experience varying from learning about group dynamics, how the male and female viewpoints differed, to learning about recycling material for use in their art work. Students also learned about the interdependence of communities upon each other e.g. some areas were dependent on others for facilities - post office, football pitches, main road links etc. When the artwork was completed the students had then to negotiate with the school authorities for permission to display their work permanently within the school. Some students undertook to apply for local grants and learned about the bureaucracy involve! Others were involved in making the frame to display their work.

Finally the students decided to launch their map officially and invited in parents and public representatives to view their work. This also gave them the opportunity to express their opinions to their local TD's on some of the issues which directly affect their local communities. It gave them a great appreciation for their local communities, a great sense of achievement and an appreciation for the success which can be gained by working and co-operating together.