Sophie Page and Lucy Orta deliver project ‘Ecology, Crisis & Symbolism’ with support from UCL CCHS

5 July 2021

The project delivered mask-making and creative writing workshops to schools across the country, where students were able to look at their relationship with the natural world through a new lens and create their own stories about what we have lost and what we risk losing.

Lost species project images

Earlier this year, Professor Sophie Page (UCL History) and Professor Lucy Orta (UAL) delivered the project ‘Ecology, Crisis & Symbolism’ with support from the UCL Centre for Critical Heritage Studies' Small Grants Scheme and the UCL History Department. 

The project employed creative practice and history to encourage young people to look at their relationship with the natural world through a new lens and create their own stories about what we have lost and what we risk losing. The Lost Species Mask Kit and The Lost Species Handbook produced as part of this project are free, downloadable resources that schools and other groups are very welcome to use. 

Lost species project images
The project opened my eyes to the history around animals and how we should help them. In my future pieces, I want to share a light on the earth and the animals being close to extinction. 

- Student participant 

The project delivered two workshops, the first of which was delivered to 67 students online and focused on mask-making. Drawing and making masks are a method and medium to help restore proximity with nature, to imagine new playful species, and open up new narratives to overcome fear and crisis. Sophie Page and Lucy Orta co-designed and produced The Lost Species Mask Kit, which contained pattern templates of mammals, birds, reptiles, and insects that were once abundant in Britain, alongside a selection of animals that were important in medieval lives and culture. It is accompanied by The Lost Species Handbook, an illustrated guide to 38 endangered, extinct, everyday and extraordinary animals that provides insights into UK species loss and the cultural meanings of animals that are disappearing from our collective imagination. 

Masks year 4 group

Year 4 group who have used the Lost Species Mask Kit to make their own masks! 

I just wanted to say a massive thank you on behalf of the Year 4 children...the classes really enjoyed creating the masks and finding out about some of the extinct animals; and wanted to know more.

- Year 4 teacher

In addition to the mask-making workshop, the UCL History Department awarded funding for Amita Murray to give a second, related, creative writing workshop to students, so that their mask making activity would be accompanied by a manifesto they had written themselves about the climate crisis.

Due to covid lockdowns student participants made their masks at home and uploaded photographs of their project portfolios to a private padlet. 

It was great to see the work of the students that took part in the Insights programme. I was especially pleased to see [my student]’s manifesto, it was powerful and eloquent.  [My student] has expressed before she lacks confidence in expressing herself and speaking, so I wanted to share that I thought this example demonstrated the impact of Insights in enabling her to address this. This year's first year cohort are the most diverse that I have seen at the college and the theme of 'lack of confidence' has been expressed by quite a few.

- Teacher involved in the project


Fashion and art student

Kit being used by a fashion and art student