• Tragic fate of Lulu the Orca inspires badges
  • Brooches and backpacks create value from waste     
  • For schools and home learning
  • Designing a world without waste
  • Artists support children’s desire to build a better future
  • Top tips for cutting your carbon emissions

Artists and designers have teamed up with parents and teachers to create an online initiative showing children how they can use their creative skills to rid the world of waste.

They learn how to reduce the damage done to the environment by litter and pollution – learning how to turn unwanted materials into things like badges instead.

One is a whale made from drinks cans and was inspired by Lulu, an Orca whose fate was widely reported after being found dead on a Tiree beach and was subsequently found to have ingested large amounts of plastics and pollutants (story here). 

The Making Circles free online resource for school or home learning has just been launched by Scottish circular economy organisation Ostrero. 

Ostrero normally works by arranging for artists and designers to run sessions in schools – but Covid restrictions mean this is not possible.

The online resource means that children can continue to learn about the circular economy. It consists of 10 short films and includes four “how to” videos in which professional artists and designers show how to turn everyday waste into everything from badges, to backpacks, and even a vehicle of the future.

Among the contributors is Edinburgh silversmith Bryony Knox who turns drinks cans into badges shaped like endangered species including the whale, a ladybird and a dragonfly.

She said: “I love the way this fires children’s imaginations and starts getting them to see things like drinks cans as materials they use to create something special rather than as waste to be thrown away.

“Before the pandemic I loved going into schools. We’d get the children to draw and design things then come up with ways to make them. It was great because there was no right or wrong, just vivid ideas and bold imaginations.

“So the idea is that the videos are a bit of a gateway – they will get them started, then hopefully they will come up with all sorts of ideas of their own and have the confidence to make them.”

There’s also a video of Bryony in her own workshop, explaining how it is full of recycled, upcycled and repurposed objects, including a cannonball that is now an anvil.

Ostrero was co-founded by former Director of the Incorporation of the Goldsmiths of Edinburgh Mary Michel.

Its aim is to promote understanding of how the circular economy – which aims to design waste out of the economy as well as reusing, recycling and repairing items rather than throwing them away – can help mitigate climate change. 

Mary said: “We all know we are in a climate emergency and that change urgently needs to happen, but it can be difficult to know what to do and how to do it. 

“The Making Circles content is designed with this in mind, so we start off by telling the story of why change is needed. We talk about the damage we are doing to our planet, the effects on plants and animals and the huge amount of needless waste we generate. 

“But rather than listening to someone telling them what they ought to be doing, children learn through taking part in these design and making activities. Hearing about how terrible the situation is can be quite frightening, so we finish off with some really practical ideas that children can start doing at home or at school, today. 

“We’ve heard from children and teachers all across Scotland that Making Circles has helped them to see the big picture about climate change and to make changes in their daily life to design out waste.”

The films also cover studio visits to the makers and finding out how the circular economy impacts their practice, and Go Circular! – a resource that gives practical tips on how to cut out waste at home or at school. 

This includes “did you knows” (such as sending emojis uses more carbon than just sending a text) and top tips like how to save money and cut down on waste by creating a costume library at school.

Making Circles has been informed by teachers, parents, artists and others and is suited to children from P4-S3. The courses will help children develop skills for employability, creativity, design, global citizenship and critical thinking.     

Some of the development work took place in primary schools, near Annan.

Sarah Graham, Partner Head Teacher of Carrutherstown and Cummertrees Primary Schools, said:“Our P4-7 pupils really embraced the principles of the circular economy through the wonderful activities provided by the Ostrero team.  

“They learned valuable skills and were able to use these going forward in other areas of the curriculum.  

“The pupils’ enthusiasm was such that they worked with another school to share their learning and the messages of sustainability and recycling. A really wonderful project to be part of.”

The Making Circles online resource has the support of leading national organisations including CraftScotland and Creative Scotland.

Jessica Bonehill, Creative Industries Officer (Crafts) at Creative Scotland said: “This project couldn’t come at a better time. Making Circles explores how good design reduces our environmental impact and helps what we produce to work for us. A vital lesson for the next generation as we all look after our planet. 

“This project puts young people, creativity and thoughtful making at the heart of a sustainable future. It is fantastic to see children helped to craft new, fun and exciting solutions.”

Participating schools are being invited to enter their students’ designs for a chance to feature in an online Making Circles display in the summer, in partnership with the National Museums Scotland.


Notes for editors

About Making Circles

  • The pilot schools were Fort William; Inverlochy Primary. Mull; Tobermory High. Aberdeenshire; Crathes Primary. Glasgow; Cuthbertson Primary, Oakgrove Primary, St Vincent’s Primary. Edinburgh; Currie Primary, Duddingston Primary, George Watson’s College, Juniper Green Primary, St Joseph’s RC Primary, St Peter’s RC Primary. Angus; Arbroath High. Fife; Newport Primary. Midlothian; Cuiken Primary, Stobhill Primary, Woodburn Primary. Dumfries and Galloway; Carrutherstown Primary, Cummertrees Primary.
  • The project partners are Artemis Charitable Foundation, Craft Scotland, The William Grant Foundation, Arts & Creative Learning, Communities & Families at City of Edinburgh Council, Circular Edinburgh, Edinburgh Trades Fund.
  • Making Circles has run in schools across Scotland, from the Highlands and Islands to Dumfriesshire for the past two years. This online resource has been created as a response to school closures over the past year so that children can continue to learn about the Circular Economy from home or from school. As it becomes increasingly clear that there are links between deforestation and biodiversity loss making pandemics such as Covid-19 more likely, it is all the more important that children are given practical ways of addressing climate change.  

For more about Bryony visit bryonyknox.com

Picture by Colin Hattersley

About Ostrero

Ostrero is a small organisation dedicated to growing the Circular Economy in Scotland through clear communication and education. For more information, please see our website at www.ostrero.com or contact Mary Michel on 07752476954 or info@ostrero.com 

About Creative Scotland

Creative Scotland is the public body that supports the arts, screen and creative industries across all parts of Scotland on behalf of everyone who lives, works or visits here. It enables people and organisations to work in and experience the arts, screen and creative industries in Scotland by helping others to develop great ideas and bring them to life. It distributes funding provided by the Scottish Government and the National Lottery. For further information about Creative Scotland please visit www.creativescotland.com. Follow @creativescots and www.facebook.com/CreativeScotland.

About Lulu the Orca – from National Museums Scotland website https://www.nms.ac.uk

The West Coast pod is the only resident group of killer whales in the seas around the British Isles. Lulu was named when she first appeared among them in 1995. Now there are only eight whales left in the pod and no calves.

In 2016 Lulu was found dead on the shore at Crossapol on the Isle of Tiree. A post mortem discovered that the primary cause of death was entanglement in fishing ropes. 

Lulu was also one of the most contaminated marine mammals ever to have been recorded. Her tissues contained highly concentrated levels of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), more than 100 times the level at which they are known to affect the health of marine mammals. These toxic chemicals will have undoubtedly impacted on Lulu’s ability to reproduce. Her skeleton is now held in the museum marine mammal collection.