THE minerals, skeletons, fossils and insects of Oxford's Natural History Museum have inspired young people for generations.

Now they are providing the backdrop to an art project that has seen pupils from three city primary schools develop as artists and build their self confidence and creativity.

Story Makers was devised by Fusion Arts, based in East Oxford, in partnership with integrative arts psychotherapist Helen Edwards.

It originally ran between 2010 and 2014 but returned this autumn with funding from BBC Children in Need for the next three years.

Over the 12 week course youngsters from Wood Farm, New Marston and Rose Hill primary schools have visited the museum twice and created a range of artworks inspired by their trips.

Ms Edwards said: "The children went at the start of the project as an inspiration and then visited again last week at the halfway point.

"Each time we looked at a different collection.

"It is like seeing the children come to life really.

"Quite often they come at the beginning of the project and they can appear nervous or withdrawn and then slowly they sort of unfold."

One of the project's aims is to allow children to develop the capacity to think reflectively and to develop their speech and language.

Youngsters are encouraged to use their hands, body and senses to engage self-awareness and to share their experiences.

All the children have made a model small-scale stone home and have been able to design and landscape around it.

Ms Edwards said: "It is about them imagining what they would bring into their world to meet their needs.

"They have also gone on to work with bone and skeleton and have created an image of themselves which we sewed onto a Hessian groundsheet."

The new ideas shared by pupils as the take part in Story Makers are intended to create a playful, trusting and thoughtful atmosphere.

When the project reaches its final year in 2019 Fusion Arts will host a symposium where staff, practitioners and educators can share their experiences and thoughts on the scheme.

Children have previously drawn inspiration from the Pitt Rivers Museum and the Ashmolean Museum.

Ms Edwards said: "It is incredibly reward and very touching to work with the children.

"We want as many of them as possible to join.

"We are going to be writing some stories based on the homes they have imagined and they will get the chance to put a homemade book together.

"We will make some large scale models as well."

One of the children, Alfie Glenn, 10, said: "It's great, we get to go on some awesome trips."

BBC Children in Need regional officer Pam Bacon said: "Combining fun and practical activities such as painting, photography and writing, the project will help young people develop new skills whilst building their confidence and social networks.

"We look forward to seeing their work in action."