Category Archives: education

Learning can be messy – Frozen Flowers

I have a confession to make – I am addicted to Pinterest and can spend hours looking at ideas and thinking ‘maybe I’ll have a go at that’. I’ve not done any photography just ‘because I wanted to play’ for ages (done weddings and proper stuff but nothing just for fun). I saw some images of #frozenflowers and immediately created a new Pinterest Board. The images looked amazing, I’ve got a ‘foldio’ portable mini studio and several bunches of flowers due to a recent birthday so ‘jobs a good en’ as we say in Yorkshire.

I hit several problems which I needed to solve – it struck me that this would be a great project to do with children as they could work around the problems – great for combining arts, science and photography.

  1. I didn’t have a container in mind so hunted around the cupboards – I chose a round one which didn’t give me a flat surface from the sides – first mistake but it did mean I tried out different shapes and depths. It was at this point that my teacher brain kicked in.
  2. When I put my flowers into the water they floated – when I put flowers in first and poured water on – they floated! I would ask pupils to solve this problem for me. (A quick tour of Pinterest – pour in a small amount of water to freeze the flower to the bottom of the container. Then add a small amount of more water and return to freezer. NB the word ‘small’ is important because if you pour in too much it melts the first layer of water – mistake number 2!)
  3. I took my frozen block out and managed a couple of ‘OK images’ such as this one.
    My water had frozen as ‘cloudy’ and none of my Pinterest images looked like this – how did I get clear ice? Teacher brain now in overdrive.
  4. Another search – use distilled water! I had some in the garage but if I was in a classroom I’d get pupils to distill their own – there will be a tutorial or a friendly science teacher won’t there?
  5. Photography session number 2  revealed that distilled water doesn’t freeze at the same rate as tap water (science lesson here people!). What looked like a frozen block was still liquid in the middle – lots of puddles later… I managed a couple of images – I love the patterns in distilled water when frozen – (Art lesson 🙂 )
  6. I discovered lots of other issues – the thickness of the ice alters the patterns, and affects how much of the flower you can see. Ice blocks melt and move – (especially under a light source! – more puddles). Did you know if you put a block of iced distilled water onto another block they will fuse together … and crack when you pull them apart!
  7. I love this type of experimental photography as it gives you lots of room to experiment and come up with something unique. There is no end to what you could freeze and what you could learn along the way
    J x



The joy of a cardboard box

Taking air quality for granted

There was an interesting article published in the Guardian today saying that 300 million children live in areas of extreme pollution.

Guardian article

It made me think about the little things I saw in Shanghai last week about how pollution is a part of a school’s daily life in China.


On the front door every day is placed an update about the atmosphere that day with a green/amber/red rating and any additional measures that need to be taken. As you can see here this was a green day – lots of rain that week so the air was quite clear.

The school has ‘pollution days’ where it is not possible for children to attend in the same way that in the UK we sometimes have ‘snow days’ and the school has to close.

In the grounds there is a large white tented structure which is used on amber days to allow the pupils access to outdoors whilst still being protected.

It was a little strange to see people wearing masks around school and in workshops but it’s just an accepted fact of life.



I’ve been for a beautiful autumnal walk this morning at my local RSPB and it did make me think how much we actually take for granted.



Out of my comfort zone

Eleanor Roosevelt said ‘Do one thing every day that scares you’, well last week I was terrified. The offer of presenting at The Festival of Education, Wellington College, Shanghai was too good an opportunity to miss. BUT and it’s a big but, I’ve never actually flown anywhere by myself, I’ve never visited China and as you know i’m just an ordinary person ‘A granny from Barnsley with a camera’ so why would anyone want to listen to me?

I DID it! I was scared but I did it and I’m proper proud of myself so I want to share a few of the things I learnt.


  • Your comfort zone is good but the highs that can be yours if you step outside of it are worth the risk.
  • If you put on an act of being confident then gradually that will become real, even to yourself.
  • It’s OK to ask for help – people are only too willing to help you, you just have to ask.I couldn’t lift my camera bag at times so actually getting it into the luggage locker on the plane was beyond me.
  • There are some amazing people in the world who are just friends you haven’t met yet.
  • Kids are kids are kids wherever they are in the world, curious, inquisitive, sparkly eyed early years, cautious teenagers – but all willing to give you the benefit of the doubt and have a go. Be yourself – kids can tell intuitively if you are genuine or not.
  •  Sometimes ‘ordinary’ is good. Some teachers are over awed by ‘academics’ and the down to earth approach is what they need, they can relax and ask questions without feeling stupid. It’s Ok to laugh and enjoy yourself even if you are a teacher.
  • I use twitter far too much and felt completely lost when I realised it wasn’t possible to access it in China. (The kids did explain all about having a VPN but I was too jet lagged to take it in )
  • Chinese coffee is awful!!

Hopefully I’m going back in March for the Arts festival and already have lots of ideas buzzing. I’m processing what I saw and will blog again later.


Why are there no left handed cameras?

Surely in this technological age it wouldn’t take too much to design and manufacture a left handed camera?

I’m a right handed photographer so didn’t give this a thought before Tommy was born with a missing right hand. He is now at an age where he is curious about everything but he loves my camera. Let’s be honest he rarely sees me without it. He is awesome and can do most things with one hand and the support of his little arm. He uses his mouth, his feet and his little arm without thinking – it’s the norm. BUT he can’t cope with a camera without my help. Yes I know I could set up a tripod, a remote release etc etc but where is the fun in that – he wants to play!

I love this photo – not because of its technical quality, not even because it has my beautiful Layla- Jane in it BUT because Tommy took it! (with help from his doting grandma)

Even toy cameras are all right handed so very difficult for Tommy to use alone. I’ve googled and researched but although there are societies which help people with different needs – to me it seems simple – can someone just make a left handed camera so I can share my love of photography with my grandson?!

His little arm doesn’t stop him doing anything – he’s a normal, loving mischievous little boy  can anyone help us?

Sometimes …

…you encounter an amazing group of people. This morning I had the privilege of thanking a group of around 1,000 pupils who had ALL, along with staff, parents and the community, raised £5,600 to build a classroom in Kakuma Refugee Camp.

A mud built classroom in Kakuma refugee camp

The classrooms such as the one above are in a desperate state and often house classes of anything up to 200 children.

The morning was a mixture of reflection, pride, celebration and empathy. The concentration on the faces of all throughout the assembly was inspirational. I went with Simon Devine who thanked the school on behalf of the WorldWide Education Project and spoke about how this school is putting their value words into action. These are not random words to make walls and planners pretty they are a set of values to live by! The values of determination, inclusion, enthusiasm were what had lead to this amazing achievement.

2 PicMonkey Collage
Assembly at The Dearne ALC

I am proud of all of them and felt very emotional. A special thank you to Ben @thebenhorbury who had the vision and determination to see this through. The spontaneous singing of Happy Birthday to a valued member of staff just reinforced the sense of community. There will shortly be a ‘Dearne ALC’ in Kakuma and these young people have really made a difference – thank you all x

PicMonkey Collage

There is another way

The 14th Nov has been ringed in my calendar for months! The Big i Foundation Ball and the launch of ‘There is another way’. Sleepless nights, spreadsheets, food allergies, seating plans, last minute changes, table decorations, auction prizes, invoices, daily e mails from Ian, Nina and Crista (all mixed in with the imminent arrival of my granddaughter) meant my stress levels were high. But do you know what I really did have a Ball. The reason? People! The people who are part of the ITL family are amazing. Support, hugs, smiles and sheer energy from people who want to make a difference. I don’t know yet how much we raised but I do know it will make a difference. Having been to Kakuma earlier this year I know how much is needed.

Big i Foundation There is another way

As well as raising money it was the launch of ‘There is another way‘. If you are feeling even slightly jaded or worried about education then read this – it is so refreshing. Uplifting!



I’m feeling my age this morning – too much dancing I suspect but so worth it! Thank you to everyone who helped, donated prizes, bought auction lots (even genuine copies of newspapers 🙂 ) sang, decorated and basically made me realise that yes – there is another way x

Big i Foundation There is another way

Big i Foundation There is another way

YSP Poppies Wave

Having seen the poppies installation ‘Blood swept lands and seas of red’ at the Tower of London in 2014, I was keen to visit the Wave installation at YSP. This runs from 5.9.15 – 10.01.16 so we decided to avoid the opening weekend and go early this morning. I have never seen YSP so busy – even the overflow car park was looking full.

YSP Poppies Wave Paul Cummins and Tom Piper
YSP Poppies Wave Paul Cummins and Tom Piper

The poppies are  situated on the bridge of the lower lake and are easy to find by following the map and the well signposted route (there is also a shuttle bus should you need it) – it is about 1km from the top car park. The approach to the poppies is along the water edge and so the reflections are impressive.

Unlike the Tower of London exhibition you can get close to the poppies and so it is easier to get abstract shots but you do have to wait to avoid getting people in your shots – hopefully it will be quieter later on.

Paul Cummins and Tom Piper poppies Paul Cummins and Tom Piper YSP RZ6

Reflections of the poppies in the water draw your eye and seem more poignant for the contrast of the black silhouettes and the bright red poppies.

YSP Poppies Wave
YSP Poppies Wave
YSP Poppies Wave
YSP Poppies Wave
Vintage effects

YSP Poppies Wave

The original installation

Tower of London Poppies
Tower of London Poppies

If you visited the Tower Poppies it is interesting to see them in a totally different setting and on a totally different scale.

If these images are of any use to my teacher friends within your classroom please feel free x

Tower of London Poppies
Tower of London Poppies

Looking for the positives

The start of  a new term is always one of mixed emotions. The excitement of new classes, the blank page – the new stationery mixed with the wistfulness of missing family and the slower days of Summer.
For many children school is the one place that they have security. Following our visit to Kakuma refugee camp the first classroom from our fundraising is now built and will open shortly.
Hopefully this is the first of many – we will keep you posted. I’ve been doing some editing today and looking back over my Kakuma photos – these are a few that I haven’t shared before.

JMH_5321a JMH_5322a

This collage is of a workers’ cooperative where the people there were  making bags both from the amazing material you can see here and also the plastic UNCR heavy duty plastic sacking.
The resilience we saw there was second to none. The people were welcoming, friendly, determined, parents and teachers just like us who only wanted the best for their families and children.
Enjoy your first days of term and remember Education  can make such a difference to peoples’ lives x

PicMonkey Collage2

8th – 10th May


Friday I lead an assembly at Springwell about raising funds for #Kakuma refugee camp – they have decided to do a #4000milechallenge! This is roughly the distance from their school to the camp in Kenya.


Flower quotes I played with flowers from the garden and a ‘jam jar’ yesterday. Tommy stayed overnight – this morning was bath time! xx

RZ3 rz1