Deepening our knowledge of the MAR-ECO Project


The MAR-ECO project has a public outreach part that was incorporated into the EU Comenius programme. Comenius objectives are to enhance education and to promote the learning of language and intercultural awareness.

In the first year of the programme, five European schools were involved with projects covering Geography, Biology, English and Art. The focus was to investigate the local marine environments in the respective countries and develop links between the teachers in the different countries so that all could benefit from one another’s different expertise. Some school work from the project is available to view on the MAR-ECO website.

This theme was continued throughout the second and third years, but only three schools continued: Klaipeda Vydunas Secondary School (Lithuania), Ellon Academy (Scotland) and Madalena Secondary School (Pico, Azores).

In the last year of the project the focus was redefined to concentrate on aesthetic investigations of the coastal zones in the three respective countries. A massive on-line archive of photos was established as a stimulus for the creative activities. Students were encouraged to explore this archive to acquire a greater appreciation of the partner schools coastal environments.

Each school undertook to develop different imaginative artistic activities exploring a variety of techniques. The results are shown here in a publication of a selection of student work produced.

Artistic activity at Ellen Academy (Scotland)

Students were introduced to two techniques. The first built on the students’ experiences in Pico as well as information about the whaling industry in North East Scotland. The other employed an established technique, using water based paints combined with Indian inks to create a series of rich and atmospheric, textural images.

The whale processing factory (Museu da Industria Baleeira) in Sao Roque, Pico was a key stimulus, together with imagery from the ‘scrimshaw’ museum in Horta. Some time was spent exploring the exhibits in both venues and taking photographs for later reference.

Some students created their own ‘scrimshaw’ pieces. Production of their finished pieces involved preparing a surface with white oil pastel followed by applying black pastel on top. The images were ‘drawn’ using various sharp points and needles, hatching and cross hatching to achieve progressively lighter sections. The final images were then scanned and manipulated in Photoshop, adding sections of relevant images to achieve the results shown here. The images are atmospheric and visually arresting the strong contrast of black against white generates a dark brooding somewhat menacing sensation.

The younger students used images of the Baltic and Azorean coastlines. They took a part of an image and then selected and scaled up a specified area, painting each section as a discrete area. They used no paint between adjoining sections which gave a definite structure to the image. Then, working quickly with waterproof Indian ink, they covered the entire image. Once completely covered, the paper was washed gently under cold running water, using with a soft brush to help wash the ink from the paper surface. The result gives a certain magical ‘hit or miss’ aspect to the process that, if successful, provides a heightened appreciation of the image’s textural qualities. The images may appear vividly coloured, or, if more extensively washed, their faded tints might evoke the more sombre atmosphere of a bygone era.

Artistic activity at Vydunas Secondary School (Lithuania)

The artistic interpretation of the school’s experience of the MAR-ECO Project had two stages.
The first design task was for students to take a photograph of the Baltic coast. They were asked to record aspects of the uniqueness of this seacoast in their photographs: flora, fauna and inanimate nature. The photographs taken by the students from the three different schools were pooled so that the students were introduced to the natural landscapes of the other countries.

The second stage involved the transformation of photographs and images. The students used the photographs of the students from Azores for their creative projects. They extended the fragment of the photograph using paint and graphic techniques. The students then applied their finished image to an object.