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How Spiderman Inspired Me Last Summer

In 2019 (which now feels like a decade ago), I made a new show for early years audiences called BigKidLittleKid.  It’s a wordless physical theatre piece for ages 3-6 years about the complicated world of sibling rivalry.  It opened at The Ark for Dublin Theatre Festival and toured to the Mermaid, the Civic and Draiocht.

Through the summer of 2020, I grew surer and surer about my commitment to finding a way to keep a live connection with my very particular audiences.

During what had become my weekly check-in with my wee brother, he was talking about some guy somewhere in England who’d dressed up as Spiderman and spidey-ed his way through his local streets to the utter delight of the children forced to stay at home in these first shut-in weeks of the first lockdown.

I’ve always been interested in making the ordinary extraordinary and believe that if you can literally change the landscape, you make visible the possibility of change and of hope.

So I hatched a plan.

Thanks to the Ready Steady Show programme run by my main producing partner the Civic, a wee pot of money was found to create a PopUp Play version of BigKidLittleKid which we played on a tennis court outside a summer camp, in a massive hall inside another summer camp and outside a nursery.

My favourite picture of the whole summer was the picture of the one pod sitting watching the extraordinary adventure that unfolded in their tiny playground with the second pod who weren’t allowed to share the same space as them, determinedly pressing their noses against the window intently watching the entire show.

For us as artists, being out there with our audiences again, hearing that very particular laughter of children delighted with a new story, a new connection, was extraordinary.  Our hearts soared and I’d be lying if I said we didn’t shed a tear or two of hard-won joy and hope.

 

What. How. Why.

I remember really vividly where I was on 12th March 2020. I was visiting the cast at the end of their 3rd week of a 10 week tour of my show for babies ‘I AM BABA’ and our tiny gorgeous tent was set up in a rather grand hotel ballroom in Trim. We came out of the third show to the news of the announcement of lockdown. We threw the set and costumes back in my storage facility without masses of care – as we knew it was only going to be a couple of weeks.

I know.

For the next 2 months, I was lost, desperately trying to think what to do and how to do it.

And then I worked out that it wasn’t about the what or the how but rather about the why.

When creating ‘BLISS’, the first show I made specifically for audiences of children with complex needs, I was doing some creative consultation in a classroom and over the course of these few days these children revealed to me what I think theatre is – one human being connecting with another. That’s it. And that my job is to create the optimum conditions for that connection.

And for my audiences, the optimum conditions overwhelmingly are that it’s a live experience.

The work has always had at its very heart the live responsive connection and an inherent and crucial ability to nuance and change from moment to moment.  And I realised what I had to do was to take this built-in flexibility to a whole new level…

Thanks to the incredible support of funders, venues, audiences and artists and more than a little bit of luck, I managed to tour work live for 8 weeks in the summer, autumn and winter of 2020.

And in my next couple of blogs, I’ll tell you the how and the what.

 

RTÉ and Creative Ireland Programme

Deadline extended to Sunday 31 Jan 2021

RTÉ and Creative Ireland Programme have come together in partnership to create This Is Art! – a celebration of visual art through the creation of an exciting new online art competition aimed at young people across the island of Ireland.

The competition aims to promote artistic practice among young people and encourage and support creativity, originality and self-expression. Applicants can enter individually or they can enter as part of a group and all visual art disciplines are welcomed. The competition is open for anyone 18yrs and under.

All of the artwork will be included in a digital gallery and considered for the This Is Art! 2021 Grand Prix Award.

Deadline extended to Sunday 31 Jan 2021

For further information go to: https://www.thisisart.ie/

The Four Dublin Local Authorities

Deadline: 5pm, 11 December 2020

The four Dublin Local Authorities (Fingal County Council, Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council, South Dublin County Council and Dublin City Council) are delighted to invite submissions for: Exploring & Thinking Bursary Award 2020.

The Bursary Award will support individual professional artists to develop their artistic practice working with and/or producing work for early childhood arts. It is open to individual professional artists who wish to develop their practice in early childhood arts, artists practicing in all artforms, artists resident in Ireland.

Bursary range: €500 – €5,000

The closing date: 5pm, 11th December 2020

Exploring and Thinking is a collaborative framework for early childhood arts in the Dublin region. It came about in 2016 when the four Dublin Local Authorities partnered for the first time to collectively consider early childhood arts provision in the Dublin region.

For more details please click on ‘Exploring & Thinking Bursary Award 2020 Criteria & Guidelines’.

 

 

The Ark

Available until 31 December

Explore the importance of all creatures small and large in this video drama workshop from The Ark for ages 2-4 with their grown-ups led by Early Years Artist in Residency Joanna Parkes.

Mouse may be small and shy, but does that mean he can’t help the lion? Let’s see!

Using the Aesop’s Fable of The Mouse and The Lion as a starting point, pack your make-believe backpacks, set off to find the proud lion and see where your imaginations can take you.

If you like, you can bring a few things with you:

A cushion
A small bag or backpack
A soft toy (any favourite cuddly animal will do)
Wear an adventurer’s hat of any kind if you want!

Combining drama, story and play, this video workshop invites little ones and their grown-ups to enjoy imagining together. So if you’re a parent, grandparent, uncle, aunty, godparent or carer, join in with a 2 to 4 year old to discover, explore and create together in this delightful workshop adventure.

Recommended:

Watch Free Online – ark.ie/events/view/video-workshop-lion-mouse

For ages 2-4 and their grown-ups
Video duration: Approx. 15 mins, plus pauses for you to pretend and play in your own time at home

 

The Ark

Dates: Running until 21 August 2020

This summer, enjoy a range of delightful online events and experiences in visual art, drama and dance, inspired by creatures big and small, meek and mighty! Through new online workshops, video tutorials, at-home activities and inspiring experiences, children will be encouraged to look closely, listen, imagine and make!

A selection of events are listed below:

Flap, Glide and Soar like a Bird: Online Visual Art Workshop
Date: 17 July, 11am & 2pm
Ages 5 – 12

Under Water Moves: Online Early Years Dance Workshops
Date: 17 July, 10:15am & 11:45am
Ages 2 – 4

Animal Transformations: Online Visual Art Workshops
Dates: 31 July & 7 August, 11am & 2pm
Ages: 5 – 12

Forest of Fun: Online Early Years Dance Workshops
Date: 7 August, 10:15am & 11:45am
Ages 2 – 4

Beautiful Beasts: Early Years Visual Art Adventures
Date: Running until 12 August 2020
Ages: 2 – 4

For further information and booking go to ark.ie/season/beautiful-beasts-at-home

Branar Téatar do Pháistí

A new multi-platform project presented by branar for children of all ages up to 6 years

Tales of teddies, moments of magic, comforting cuddles and worlds of wonder are celebrated in an exciting new collection of poems and nursery rhymes for young children.

Pop Up Poetry for Lil’ Peeps is a new multi-platform project presented by Branar for children of all ages up to 6 years. Irish writers and artists Inni-k, Mary Murphy, Tadhg Mac Dhonnagáin and Liz Weir have created new poems and nursery rhymes in Irish and English for this unique project. Audiences can enjoy this work online through vivid audio recordings and new animations by artist Maeve Clancy.

Originally commissioned by the Galway County Council, Creative Ireland Programme led by the Arts Office in partnership with Galway City Council and Roscommon County Council’s Creative Ireland programmes, in association with Children’s Books Ireland and Poetry Ireland.

Originally presented as part of the Criunniú na nÓg 2020 programme.

For further information to to access resources go to www.branar.ie/popup-poetry

 

Gaiety School of Acting

Recognising the struggle so many parents are currently facing as they broach the mountainous task of home schooling their children during the Coronavirus restrictions, the Gaiety School of Acting has released a series of comprehensive and fun lesson plans to inject a little creativity and some POSITIVE drama to your household.

With 34 years experience in drama training, the Gaiety School of Acting teaches over 2000 children across their Young Gaiety schools in Bray, Malahide and Temple Bar annually, in a range of classes from Parent and Toddler Drama to Musical Theatre Company, Acting for Camera to an eclectic offering of seasonal camps.

Our Home Drama Resources have been developed by the GSA’s education team, and in addition to creative drama, provide a selection of science, craft and film-making activities for you and your children to explore a variety of themes, have fun, and escape from reality!

Every Thursday a new resource is released with the following themes already available on the website: The Lion King, Harry Potter, Roald Dahl, Monsters from the Movies, We’re Going on a Bear Hunt.

For further information and to access downloadable resources go to gaietyschool.com/home-resources/

 

CIT Crawford College of Art & Design

Dates: 29 February, 28 March, 9 May 2020

Early Years Arts & Play Education workshops, delivered by Artists/Educators, Rachel Doolin and George Hannover. CIT Crawford College of Art & Design, Grand Parade Campus, Cork.

This series of CPD Masterclasses at CIT Crawford College of Art & Design will focus on early years experiential and creative play methodologies, with each workshop exploring a different material theme such as: LIGHT Play, PAPER Play, CARDBOARD Play and POP UP Play. ‘Simplicity’ and ‘wonder in the ordinary’ are at the very core of this holistic series of workshops. Artists will guide, offer ideas and materials to inspire and ignite curiosity in a fun and relaxed atmosphere. Participants will be encouraged to activate their imaginations and to explore ‘ways to play’ that encourage and embrace spontaneity, open-ended exploration and unpredictable impulses!

Dates & Times

For more information go to crawford.cit.ie/courses/masterclasses-for-early-childhood-educators-and-childcare-professionals/

Uillinn West Cork Arts Centre

Date: 11 – 20 February 

Uillinn West Cork Arts Centre invites toddler groups, playschools, junior and senior infants to a guided experience of Art in Action. An interactive exhibition where artists have used images, objects, actions to communicate with their surrounding world.

An interactive, multimedia exhibition for children with work by Basia Bańda + Tomasz Relewicz, Ewa Bone + Ewa Kozubal, Tomasz Madajczak, Krzysztof Matuszak, Aleksandra Ska and Hubert Wińczyk. Curated by Bartosz Nowak in collaboration with MOS: Municipal Art Centre, Gorzów Wielkopolsk, Poland. http://www.mosart.pl/ wystawy-2019/detail,nID,6164

This exhibition is a meeting of children and artists. The eight visual artists included in the exhibition have created interactive artworks that involve children in the co-creation of the works presented in the gallery. Encouraging children to participate in their construction and reconstruction allows them to experience artistic processes in action.

The exhibition and accompanying events are focused on enabling children to develop creativity, self-confidence and curiosity, explore the world, to communicate and to think critically, demonstrating that art is primarily a way of experiencing and building mutual relations with the environment, other people and oneself

Your group can book a guided experience led by one of the exhibiting artists Tomasz Madajczak. Group bookings are free of charge and can be made by telephone on 028 22090 or email info@westcorkartscentre.com

 

The Ark

10 – 11 January 2020

As the fun of the festive season fades and the new year sets in, this early years drama workshop for little ones aged 2-4 will explore how to cope when things go wrong. Part of First Fortnight festival and led by The Ark’s Early Years Artist in Residence, Joanna Parkes.

Oh dear! Elliott the Dragon is having a bad day. It’s a cold, snowy day and he’s fed up. Everything’s going wrong and he doesn’t know what to do. He says he’s going to give up and not try anymore but… maybe we can help him? Maybe we encourage him to try again? Maybe we can help him bounce back?

Join in to discover, explore and find out if you can help Elliott figure out how to be resilient in this delightful workshop adventure.

Combining drama, story, play and props, this interactive drama workshop invites little ones and their grown-ups to enjoy imagining together. So if you’re a parent, grandparent, uncle, aunty, godparent or carer, come along with a 2 to 4 year old and join in the fun.

For further information and bookings go to ark.ie/events/view/seedlings-first-fortnight2020

The Ark

Dates: 14 – 29 December 2019

Little Bigtop in Association with The Civic

Escape into space in this fantastic interactive theatrical adventure for ages 3-5 from Little Bigtop in association with The Civic.

Moon Woke Me Up Nine times
It was still 4am
So I built a rocket with my friends
And went on a journey that never ends

Come up and away with us. Come and play with us.

You are invited to come and build a rocket that will BLAST OFF and take us on a magical adventure. Once inside their homemade rocket children are treated to a magical shadow show as they journey to the moon! Come with us all the way, up there, into outer space!

I wonder if it smells of cheese?
I wonder if it will make me sneeze?

Let’s find out!

Inspired by a Haiku of the same title by Basho Matsuo, Moon Woke Me Up is an interactive theatrical adventure to space for ages 3-5, using a wonderful blend of performance and interactive drama, construction play and sensory explorations.

For further information and bookings go to https://ark.ie/events/view/moon-woke-me-up

 

 

The Ark 

Date: 1 & 2 November 2019

Embrace the wonders of the wind in this fun drama workshop for little ones aged 2-4, led by The Ark’s Early Years Artist in Residence, Joanna Parkes.

It’s a whirly, swirly, windy day and the Wind Wizards are busy at work. Not everyone likes the wind though, as it whips up fallen leaves and tousles their hair. Can the wind wizards help people see how wonderful the wind can be?

Join in to explore, imagine and discover your own secret love for the whistle and whoosh of the whispering wind.

Combining drama, story, play and props, this interactive drama workshop invites little ones and their grown-ups to enjoy imagining together. So if you’re a parent, grandparent, uncle, aunty, godparent or carer, come along with a 2 to 4 year old and join in the fun.

Dates & Times: 

Friday 1st November, 10.15am & 2pm
Saturday 2nd November, 10.15am & 11.45am

For ages 2- 4

45 minutes

For more information and booking go to ark.ie/events/view/seedlings-whirly-swirly-wind

The Ark 

Dates: 4 & 5 October 2019

Get cosy for the autumn in this early years drama workshop for little ones aged 2-4 led by The Ark’s Early Years Artist in Residence, Joanna Parkes.

Autumn is here, leaves are falling and the animals in the woods are preparing for their long winter sleep. But Howie Hedgehog is not ready. He has no food supplies and no shelter to sleep in. He will need some help from the wood elves to collect food and build himself a warm and cosy den.

Join in to discover, explore and find out if you can help Howie build his den in this delightful workshop adventure.

Combining drama, story, play and props, this interactive drama workshop invites little ones and their grown-ups to enjoy imagining together. So if you’re a parent, grandparent, uncle, aunty, godparent or carer, come along with a 2 to 4 year old and join in the fun.

Dates & Times: 

Friday 4th October, 10.15am & 2pm
Saturday 5th October, 10.15am & 11.45am

For ages 2- 4

45 minutes

For more information and booking go to ark.ie/events/view/seedlings-howie-the-hedgehog

The Ark 

Dates: 2 & 3 August 2019

The Ark continue our monthly early-years programme Seedlings with a special workshop perfect for children ages 2-4 to get creative with their older relatives.

We’re heading to the sea this August in this early years drama workshop for little ones led by The Ark’s Early Years Artist in Residence Joanna Parkes.

Come on an imaginative journey to the beach! It’s a fine sunny day and the children are having fun playing in the sand. Then some unexpected visitors arrive and seem to behaving in a suspicious manner.

What is going on? Join in and explore what happens in this delightful workshop adventure by the sea.

Combining drama, story, play and props, this interactive drama workshop invites little ones and their grown-ups to enjoy imagining together. So if you’re a parent, grandparent, uncle, aunty, godparent or carer, come along with a 2 to 4 year old and join in the fun.

Dates & Times

For further information and ticket bookings go toark.ie/events/view/seedlings-early-years-workshops-aug19

The Ark

Dates: 5 & 6 July 2019

Enjoy participating in this joyful early years (ages 2-4) drama workshop about a beautiful imagined garden led by our The Ark’s Early Years Artist in Residence Joanna Parkes.

In this workshop, little ones will meet a king who loves spending time in his gorgeous garden surrounded by flowers, bees and butterflies.

One day he learns that other kings have wardrobes full of shiny cloaks and crowns so he buys himself a new cloak, and another, and another. Soon he has lots of dazzling cloaks of many colours but what about the garden? He has no money left to pay the gardeners and the garden is overgrown, the flowers are dying and the bees have gone.

Maybe you can make the King see sense and save his garden before it’s too late!

Combining drama, story, play and props, this interactive drama workshop invites little ones and their grown-ups to enjoy imagining together.

Dates & Times 

Friday 5 July at 10.15am & 2pm
Saturday 6 July at 10.15am & 11.45am

For further information and booking go to ark.ie/events/view/seedlings-early-years-workshops-jul19

The Ark – Lucy Hill & Christina Macrae

Date: 28th March 2019

Join artist Lucy Hill, our inaugural John Coolahan Early Years Artist in Residence, and her residency mentor Dr. Christina Macrae from Manchester Metropolitan University to celebrate, reflect on and discuss their experiences together as Lucy’s residency draws to an end. The fascinating discussion will include illustrations of key moments and learnings during the residency, the mentoring process, as well as research and ideas in early years and visual arts practice more generally.

Thought-provoking for parents, preschool and primary teachers, artists, arts managers and anyone with an interest in art and children.

For more information and bookings go to ark.ie/events/view/talk-for-grown-ups-a-year-of-early-years-visual-art

Ciara Gallagher Profile PicCiara has a PhD in English from Maynooth University. She has worked as researcher on the National Collection of Children’s Books (TCD) and “Gender Identity: Child Readers and Library Collections” at the Centre for Children’s Literature and Culture, DCU. She has taught English in various universities and currently works at Kids’ Own Publishing Partnership as office administrator.

Making Connections – Blog 2

The Creativity and Change programme meets once a month for one full weekend, each weekend bringing new experiences, challenges, and connections. These full weekends allow participants a depth of experience in learning, critical thinking, and creativity. There are also spaces for pause, reflection, and making connections woven into the structure of the course, and I begin to appreciate the space for reflection that the weeks between each course weekend allow too.

The idea that creative engagement is key in facilitating transformative learning experiences that might effect change in the way we see, exist, and act in the world is at the core of the Creativity and Change programme. With this focus, new possibility is discovered within seemingly simple, everyday acts. Listening, speaking, and observing, core components of many adult education courses, are first given renewed attention. For example, as part of our learning in a day dedicated to transformative learning and the creative process, participants pair up and take turns speaking and listening without interruption. The experience of listening intently and actively, and that of speaking uninterrupted demonstrates perhaps how often we take these acts of speaking and listening for granted in teaching, in facilitation, and in learning, and in simply communicating with others.

Consideration of communication and creativity is furthered in a weekend dedicated to the exploration of visual facilitation, which broadly refers to a process of facilitating meetings, seminars and other exchanges in visual form using images, words and symbols. As someone used to working only in the written word, this was a challenge for me. We began by visually representing sounds and playfully making marks on the page in groups. Once those daunting first marks were made on our paper canvases, the temptation to overthink into inaction was removed, at least temporarily. As we gradually built toward the challenge of visually documenting the conversations of other participants, the merit of incorporating creatively challenging work into my own facilitation and my learning became clear. A completely different part of my thinking and concentration was engaged. I gained new insight into the process of how I listen as well as how I order and create meaning. Just as the exercise on speaking and listening drew attention to the dynamics of dialogue, this act of visually representing the groups’ words brought a new attention to how I interpret and document, as well as a feeling of responsibility to accurately reflect and honour the group’s conversation.

Developing new ways of seeing and interpreting continued throughout the weekend on visual facilitation, which concluded with the class working in small groups, each tasked with creatively representing different sets of data. Groups worked on visualising data relating to the deficiencies of the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) scheme, the difficulties people with disabilities face when trying to access social housing, and on numbers of people on housing lists against the units of social housing available – important data that can become meaningless in spite of its devastating reality. From an assortment of seemingly random materials, groups created stop-motion animations, made clay models, assembled sets, and designed performances incorporating material to represent this data. What emerged from the varieties of modes and forms through which this data was visually represented was perhaps the force of that which could not be measured or visualised, the shock of what this data represented that could not be contained or incorporated numerically. Through this creative process, the groups began to find new ways to see and explore some of the most pressing justice issues in our contemporary moment.

The Four Dublin Local Authorities in association with the NCH

Date: 24th January 2019

Exploring and Thinking is a collaborative framework for early childhood arts in the Dublin region. It came about in 2016 when the four Dublin Local Authorities partnered for the first time to collectively consider early childhood arts provision in the Dublin region.

The project partners made a successful application for Arts Council funding under the Invitation to Collaboration Scheme 2016. The joint proposal focused on commissioning and touring new artwork to the four Local Authority areas with local engagement programmes, in arts and non-traditional arts venues.

The Exploring and Thinking framework culminated in the commissioning of two unique projects:

Anna Newell, I Am Baba – A new immersive theatre piece for babies aged 0-12 months. A full commission for the development, creation and tour of I Am Baba to the four Local Authority areas.

Helen Barry and Eamon Sweeney, Sculptunes – A modular interactive music-producing sculpture. A research and development commission, which supported the artists to develop one piece of the original sixpiece Sculptunes proposal and test this musical sculpture with children and early childcare practitioners.

The Local Authority partnership in association with the National Concert Hall (NCH) now wish to share the commissioned work and invite you to hear from the commissioned artists. A publication capturing a review of the commissioning process, outputs and impacts of the collaborative framework, alongside additional research conducted among the artists and key personnel will be presented on the day. Dr. Michelle Downes has been invited as keynote speaker to share some of her insights and findings on brain and behaviour development in the first years of life.

The inclusion of a space for reflection and discussion is included in the day’s events in the form of a focus workshop. Attendees are invited to communicate their experience of working in the early childhood arts sector with the local authority partners.

for more information and to view the full event schedule go to www.nch.ie/ExploringandThinking/

This is a free event but booking is required.

Bookings through NCH boxoffice at www.nch.ie or phone +353 (0)1 417 0000

The Ark 

Date: 19 January 2019

Meet the King who has banned feelings and colours from his Kingdom in this fun and interactive workshop for 3 to 5 years olds and their grown-ups at The Ark, Dublin. In partnership with First Fortnight.

The King finds feelings confusing so he says no one can laugh or cry when he’s around. Feelings of happiness, sadness or anger are not allowed. He wants everything and everyone to be grey and gloomy all day long – so he’s banished colours as well.

Be part of a group of brave, young adventurers who decide this can’t be right, so go an a mission to collect the missing feelings and colours and bring them back to the Kingdom.

About Joanna Parkes

Joanna Parkes is a freelance drama facilitator and theatre practitioner working in Primary Schools and Teacher Training Colleges. As well as devising and delivering drama programmes in schools she has also written a number of teacher’s resources packs and publications. She has been running workshops and teacher-training at The Ark since 2013.

About First Fortnight

First Fortnight is a charity that challenges mental health prejudice through arts and cultural action. The First Fortnight Festival creates a consistent space in the cultural calendar where citizens can be inspired through arts events and experiences to talk about mental health issues in a non-scripted manner. This year they are delighted to host the European Mental Health Arts & Culture Festival in Ireland. Find out more at www.firstfortnight.ie. 

For more information and bookings go to ark.ie/events/view/the-king-who-finds-feelings-confusing.

The Ark

2 – 3 November, 2018

Early Years Artist in residence Lucy Hill presents ‘Seedlings’ a series of workshops for children as part of the The Ark’s John Coolahan Early Years Artist Residency. The Seedlings workshops offer opportunities to explore materials and the world around them through playful and engaging activities – ideal for getting little ones (and their grown-up!) imagining and creating together.

Join Lucy Hill for ‘Plaster Caster’

Plaster is amazing! Its transforms from powder to liquid to solid, it warms up as it transforms and it can take as many shapes and forms as we ask it to. It’s a messy but exciting business!

To start, we will press things into brown clay to leave an impression (toys, fingers, shells), then we mix the lovely powder plaster with water and pour it onto the clay.

The plaster warms and then ‘sets’ (goes hard), we then peel the clay away from the plaster, to find a new plaster impression of our objects to paint and to take home! We can also try using other things as ‘moulds’ like orange peel, avocado skins, chestnuts.

Lucy Hill is the inaugural recipient of The Ark’s John Coolahan Early Years Artist Residency and will be devising and delivering an exciting workshop programme for children in the early years at The Ark from May 2018 until April 2019.

For further information and bookings go to ark.ie/events/view/seedlings-early-years-workshops-november

 

The Ark

Deadline: 5pm on Tuesday 30th October 2018

The Ark is delighted to invite professional artists from the fields of dance, theatre or music to apply for their second 12 month Early Years Artist Residency, running from May 2019-April 2020.

This artist residency opportunity has been established in honour of John Coolahan, who sadly passed away earlier this year. John was a longstanding member of The Ark board and a leading champion for arts education in Ireland.

Beginning in 2018, this residency aims to honour the legacy of Professor Coolahan by providing the selected artist with a yearlong opportunity to develop his/her early years arts practice in association with The Ark.

This opportunity recognises the importance of the arts in early childhood and aims to nurture and support the development of professional artists working in this emerging sector of arts practice.

The inaugural John Coolahan Early Years Artist in Residence at The Ark is visual artist Lucy Hill who will be in post until April 2019. As The Ark wishes to establish the residency as an annual opportunity, we are now seeking a new artist from the fields of dance, theatre or music who will take up the residency for a year from May 2019 when Lucy’s tenure comes to an end.

The selected artist will have a strong vision for how they would like to deepen the range of their experience, knowledge and practice with this age group through the unique context of this residency in collaboration with The Ark.

For further information including application guidelines and to access the online application go to ark.ie/news/post/open-call-john-coolahan-early-years-artist-residency-2019-20.

Completed applications must be received by 5pm on Tuesday 30th October 2018

The Ark

Deadline: 5pm, 20th March 2018

The Ark are delighted to announce a new early years residency opportunity established in honour of John Coolahan, a long-standing member of The Ark’s board, to celebrate his outstanding contribution to education in Ireland during his long and rich career.

This year long residency recognises the importance of the arts in early childhood and aims to nurture and support the development of professional artists working in this emerging sector of arts practice. The first residency will start in 2018 with the aim to establish this as an annual opportunity with a different artist being selected to take up the residency each year.

This opportunity is suitable for professional artists of any discipline with an existing early years practice who are interested in the opportunities and benefits of a long-term residency to develop their career and deepen the range of their experience, knowledge and practice with this age group. A key part of the residency will involve the chosen artist developing and leading of a series of early years workshops through monthly engagements (first weekend of the month) at The Ark.

Aspects of the residency will be delivered in association/partnership with Dublin City Council Arts Office.

For more information go to ark.ie/projects/details/john-coolahan-early-years-artist-residency

Deadline for application is 5pm, 20th March 2018. 

 

Baboró International Arts Festival for Children

1 – 4 February, 2018

Baboró International Arts Festival for Children will host an exciting and imaginative programme of theatre and dance shows for babies and children aged 0 – 6 years, presented by Irish and international artists. Wide Eyes is a one-off four-day European celebration of Performing Arts for very young children that will take place in Galway from 1 – 4 February, 2018.

As well as an extensive workshop and performance programme for schools and early years groups, Wide Eyes will feature a range of talks and workshops for early years professionals, including a talk for early years educators and artists, Celebrating the Creative Arts in Early Years Setting, presented in collaboration with Early Childhood Ireland. There are also a limited number of delegate packages available for the event.

Wide Eyes is the culmination of a four-year ‘Small size, Performing Arts for Early Years’ project with European partners from Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Romania, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, UK and Ireland.

Wide Eyes will see 140 arts professionals from 17 organisations and 15 countries gather in Galway to present an extravaganza of new dance and theatre shows for 0-6 year olds developed specifically under the project’s overarching theme of ‘Wide Eyes’. The concept for Wide Eyes, developed by Project Leader, Roberto Frabetti of La Baracca – Testoni Ragazzi in Italy, is rooted in the belief that children are never too young to quite literally have their eyes opened wide in amazement while they experience the performing arts. The programme will feature performances for schools, crèches and families, produced by some of Europe’s finest creators of Early Years work, as well as professional development workshops and industry symposia.

For more information and to view the full programme of events go to www.baboro.ie/wide-eyes

Schools performances will take place on Thursday, 1 February and Friday, 2 February. We welcome bookings from early years groups such as; preschools, crèche and Montessori, junior and senior infants and those with additional needs.

Creative Ireland

On the 7th December Creative Ireland delivered on one of it’s key promises by publishing Creative Youth: a Plan to enable the Creative Potential of Every Child and Young Person.  This now represents the core work programme for Pillar 1 of the Creative Ireland Programme. Michael O’Reilly from Creative Ireland discusses the plan development and implementation.

Michael O’Reilly – Creative Ireland 

Developing the plan was an interesting and not entirely pain-free process: it is no secret that the 2018 budget didn’t allow as much scope for new investment as had been hoped.  But in the end, a creative engagement between the Department of Culture Heritage and the Gaeltacht, the Department of Education and Skills and the Department of Children and Youth Affairs produced a plan with a long-term vision – cultural and creative education for all – a strategic approach to the further development of pillar 1, and 18 implementation actions.

The two headline actions are implementation of Scoileanna Ildánacha / Creative Schools – an Arts Council led project, which is a development of the Arts in Education Charter initiative, Arts Rich Schools – ARIS, and the extension of Music Generation countrywide during the lifetime of the Programme.

There are several entirely new ideas in the plan but in the main it builds on existing initiatives.  For example there will be a significant research project, and a culture and creativity-mapping project, but both will build on existing work.

From our point of view the most encouraging aspect of the plan is the acceptance of the long term vision of cultural and creative education for all: Cultural education that enables young people to explore and understand their own and other people’s cultural assumptions, viewpoints, beliefs and values, and Creative education that uses the innate creative skills of children and young people as a powerful instrument of learning.

The plan is not static.  A Pillar 1 expert advisory group will be appointed shortly which will guide the further development of pillar 1 and also monitor the implementation of Creative Youth.  A cross-departmental working group and a senior officials group will ensure that implementation stays on track.

We now have a clear agenda and cross-government support for its implemenation.  The next few years will be both testing and exciting.

Click here to download the full report

Milica HeadshotMilica (Mili) Atanackovic is a Practice and Training Manager with Early Childhood Ireland. Her background in the early years is rooted within a passionate interest in Creative Arts. Mili originally studied Design Communication before moving into Early Childhood Care and Education in Australia.  Considering training and mentoring as a key element of quality in the early years, Mili has worked as an Educator, Service Manager and Trainer, she also combines experience from a range of creative disciplines to her work.

The Art of Storytelling

“People think that stories are shaped by people. In fact, it’s the other way around.” Terry Pratchett

The art of storytelling allows children and adults to express themselves. A written story, an illustration and the spoken word can provoke an immediate connection. For very young children stories can have no words, a story might have clear meaning, but a story may also remain unclear – their play is the story. A teacher needs to tune in and listen to how even the youngest child is expressing their story, through for example their voice, actions, interactions, and hands-on experiences. The child needs tools to provoke a story, opportunity and time to share their thoughts. For older children exploring deeper questioning, their inquiry can be helped by the child and adult enquiring together.

Like a writer telling a story when a child can represent their ideas and words through creative processes, they can express thought and emotion. Expressing these emotions in a symbolic or abstract way. We do not have to draw, paint or photograph for children. Older children can be shown a variety of illustrative techniques that can inspire and provoke a representation of their individual ideas, but it is not a necessity.  By providing the tools, we support children to explore and contextualise their thought processes independently.  Through hands-on investigation and illustrative techniques children can develop an understanding of themselves and the world around them. Children can challenge and extend their own thinking, create new knowledge and engage individually or collaboratively in processes.

The creative child is encouraged when materials are presented for free uninterrupted exploration. By using art to tell stories, children are given the opportunity to problem solve, share, explore and communicate through the arts. Active involvement changes what they know and can do, developing creativity and storytelling concepts enables children to participate in and give voice to their thoughts, transferring and adapting what they have learned from one context to another.

One way Early Childhood Ireland encourages early childhood teachers to share children’s stories, is through our Book Club, the aim is to create a space where stories are shared with other children, teachers and families. We store them in our online Children’s Library, encouraging children as authors and illustrators. The book club is not about a product it is about seeing the beauty in what children say, think and create.  A child’s story does not need to be planned, it does not need to follow a sequence, children have an innate ability to take us on such amazing unexpected and inspiring adventures.

To be inspired by children’s stories or to submit a child’s story please visit https://www.earlychildhoodireland.ie/?s=book+club

Kids’ Own Publishing Partnership

8th & 9th November 2017

Kids’ Own Publishing Partnership, as part of its 20-year anniversary celebrations, will host 2 days of sectoral activities, in partnership with Dublin Book Festival and The Ark, exploring the value of publishing with children, and interrogating how we can support children to be seen and heard within our literature, culture and society. With the ambitious vision of current policy to reach all children through cultural tuition by 2022, Kids’ Own seeks to ask how we make space for quality and depth of engagement to support children as cultural makers and creators in their own right.

8th November 2017
Round table discussion (10.30am – 4pm)
Chaired by Martin Drury

Through a series of presentations and discussions hosted by Kids’ Own Creative Director, Orla Kenny and Kids’ Own co-founder Victoria Ryle, the day will involve explorations and case studies of the Kids’ Own archive, followed by discussions involving a chaired panel of guest speakers, and focused conversations, where participants will be invited to explore and interrogate how we make space for quality and depth of engagement, the role of the professional artist working with children and young people, and how we give children’s work greater visibility and recognition within mainstream culture.

This event is free but booking is essential.

9th November 2017

A day of practical exploration and creativity
Workshops for artists, teachers and arts education practitioners

11am – 1pm
All That We Are: An artist-led public participatory workshop with Simon Spain (Australia)
Kids’ Own co-founder and artist Simon Spain returns to Ireland to share his practice with Irish artists, teachers and practitioners. Through this practical workshop where participants will make figures from wood and plaster that will be joined to create a gathering, Simon will discuss key elements of his current practice-based PhD enquiry about working as a socially engaged artist. The work is centred around a strong theory of collaborative making environments that create liminal spaces for individual input while leading to a shared outcome celebrating difference.

Workshop fee: €10

2pm – 5pm
Print and book-making workshop with Alain Regnier (Belgium)
In this workshop, printmaker and art teacher (and founder of Motamo International Biennial of Children’s Books) Alain Regnier shares his way of working and will support participants to make books that include print and text, inspired by the work of his second-level students in Belgium. Copies of the books made during this workshop will be taken back to Belgium to be shared with a European audience.

Workshop fee: €10

For all bookings go to ark.ie/events/view/childrens-voices-are-we-listening.

For more information go to kidsown.ie/childrens-voices-listening/

Jean Tormey is Curator of the Early Years and Families programme of resources, Jean Tormeyevents and projects at Tate Modern and Tate Britain for under 5s, 8-14s and intergenerational audiences. She has worked on Families’ programming in galleries since 2008. Her practice involves working with artists, audiences and colleagues at Tate to develop content and activity through which diverse children and families can be considered as equal and valued visitors to Tate. Jean has worked in gallery learning since 2005 as an intern in New York and as a learning curator in different galleries in Liverpool, Kilkenny and London. 

Blog 4: Interview with Assistant Curator Lucy McDonald

In my final blog post I’d like to focus on the most recent addition to Tate’s Early Years and Families’ programme offer – Under 5s Explore the Gallery – an artist-led, monthly event for under 5s and their families held in the collection galleries of Tate Britain. http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-britain/workshop/under-fives-explore-gallery.

To introduce another voice to this series of blogs, I asked Assistant Curator Lucy McDonald [1] (the lead curator on the under 5s programme strand) to reflect on her involvement in the development of this programme.

Where did the idea for ‘Under 5s Explore the Gallery’ come from?


The impetus came from an institutional objective to increase the family offer at Tate Britain – to improve attendance, but also visibility of this audience. It felt very important for the sessions to be held in the galleries – openly exploring the spaces and artworks as opposed to out of sight in a studio space. The presence of other gallery visitors in the sessions supports the building of families’ confidence to find their own individual way of being in the gallery as a family.



What are the key elements of this programme for you?


Key elements include the role of the artist, who are briefed carefully about their position in the sessions and invited to find ways of supporting families’ journeys through the galleries. Within this, children are encouraged to lead – deciding what to look at, where to go and setting the pace. The artist shares ideas they are exploring in their own practice to provide strategies that families can use to experience the spaces and artworks in their own way. These strategies can include, but are not exclusive to, ways of looking, ideas to promote discussion about art and/ or encourage physical exploration of the galleries. This is usually done with a selected range of materials that are introduced at carefully considered moments.

The structuring of the sessions is also key. Being in and moving around the galleries is core to the programme, so limiting the number of visitors that can join is important. Maximum group size is 30 including adults, ensuring the sessions do not become overwhelming for the participants or other visitors. This works towards the families being integrated into the everyday landscape of the gallery, so it doesn’t feel like a ‘special event’ as such, and families can feel empowered to return independently. The structure includes careful consideration of timing and pace, with the two hour duration allowing a relaxed, unrushed atmosphere.

Another key aspect of the programme is having a dedicated space to gather for the introduction, where the tone and some key ideas are first introduced. This space also acts as a place to return to during the sessions should families need to, as well as somewhere to re-group at the end to reflect on what has happened – encouraging families to recognise the learning that has taken place.

Reflection is core to Under 5s Explore, and it is encouraged to take place during the session and at the end, where families are invited to consider what is happening and what it means for them. Participants have access to digital cameras, where they can capture what they notice or something that happens within their family unit that they feel is of value. Images are projected at the end of the session, and families are invited to observe and chat about what they and other families notice, giving value to what they have done and learning further ways of exploring the gallery from other families.



What kind of artists’ practices are you interested in exploring, and how have artists used their practices to facilitate activity?

I am interested in practices that encourage a gentle approach to exploring new ideas, and artists that are skilled in supporting families to develop an understanding of artworks on their own terms – so that sessions are accessible to all visitors including new ones. For me, artists who have been particularly successful in facilitating the sessions in the past are those who are open to seeing them as a series of experiments or possibilities, and are confident in allowing unexpected happenings to unfold and emerge.

What has been the audience response to this event?

It has been really positive, with parents and carers reporting a real shortage of gallery/ museum programme specifically for this age group, especially ones that encourage children to lead and value the unpredictability they can bring to these environments. Through interviews with families during the first few months of the programme, I discovered that many have preconceptions about Tate Britain being less welcoming of families than Tate Modern, and less appropriate for under fives in particular. Happily, feedback gathered indicates that families greatly value the sessions, enjoy experiencing the galleries together and show an interest in returning.

How do you think this strand might develop in future?

I have been particularly struck by how families (especially young children) very intrinsically and naturally explore the space of the gallery with their whole bodies through movement. I would like to work with more artists who work with movement to experiment with this further, as I feel movement as a practice is a positive way to address the negative ideas about gallery behaviours and etiquette that many families have. This would need to be done carefully with the right artist to ensure it didn’t become too performative or intimidating in nature. 

I would love to see all families feeling like they no longer needed the support of the sessions to visit and be in the galleries, and that through the sessions a network of families could emerge, who become advocates for under 5s in galleries and museums more broadly.

[end of interview]

I think Lucy’s viewpoint in this concluding post reiterates some of the Reggio Emilia philosophy, as well as our non-negotiables discussed previously, and hope that the series as a whole have given a sense of the inspiration, thinking around and development of the early years programme at Tate.

[1] Lucy McDonald has been Assistant Curator on the Early Years and Families programme for the last 2 years with a special emphasis on early years, and has recently taken over as Curator (jointly with Jessie McLaughlin) to cover my maternity leave 2017/18. Lucy also worked as an Assistant Curator on the final year of the Big and Small programme in 2013/ 2014 and as project manager on a number of BP Family Festivals in  2014 and 2015.

The month of October at Roscommon Arts Centre means it’s Lollipops Children’s Festival time! We’ve planned a host of children’s events here at the arts centre for families, schools and crèches to enjoy. From theatre performances, music events, workshops, and exhibitions, the month of October is all about our youngest audience members! We hope you will come along and join us in some Lollipops fun!

Four Go Wild In Wellies –  A whimsical adventure featuring bobble hats, scarves, tents that have a life of their own and, of course, lots of fun in wellies! FRIDAY 6th OCTOBER 10am, €5, Ages 3 – 5

The Locksmiths Song – Set in the dusty world of an old locksmith’s shop in this tale is full of action and adventure. TUESDAY 17th OCTOBER, 10am, €5 Ages: 7+

They Called Her Vivaldi – Family favourites Theatre Lovett return with this upbeat comedy-adventure. WEDNESDAY 25th OCTOBER, 10am & 12pm, €5, Ages: 7+ and Adults of All Ages

And coming up in November!

The Ugly Duckling – In a nest at the edge of a pond a flock of baby ducklings find an enormous egg in their midst and here our story begins…. of the most unusual duckling the pond has ever seen. TUESDAY 28th NOVEMBER, 10am & 11.45am, €5, Ages 3+

For more information on shows, click here 

 

Jean TormeyJean Tormey is Curator of the Early Years and Families programme of resources, events and projects at Tate Modern and Tate Britain for under 5s, 8-14s and intergenerational audiences. She has worked on Families’ programming in galleries since 2008. Her practice involves working with artists, audiences and colleagues at Tate to develop content and activity through which diverse children and families can be considered as equal and valued visitors to Tate. Jean has worked in gallery learning since 2005 as an intern in New York and as a learning curator in different galleries in Liverpool, Kilkenny and London.

Blog 3 – EYF programme

In this penultimate blog post I’d like to talk about what we currently programme for early years audiences at Tate Modern and Tate Britain, reflecting on the history of the programme and its current ‘non-negotiables’ of agency, curiosity, diversity and openness – which reflect the influence of the Reggio Emilia philosophy.[1]

By designing an open programme with artists, we aim to encourage the agency of a diverse group of children and carers to use their curiosity to explore the social space of the gallery together – inclusive of art and architecture – to co-construct meaning relevant to their lives.

Children of an early years’ age come to Tate with parents or guardians if they are in a family unit or early years’ practitioners if they are with their nursery, and our programme needs to speak to these adults as much as to the children. We are keen to acknowledge the expertise and inherent knowledge these adults hold in relation to the children in their care, and for our resources and events to draw this out and build on it. We offer a range of self-led resources that can be used independently for people to use in their own time and in their own way. Through their openness, our self-led resources aim to evoke the unique interests, abilities and motivations of visitors under 5.

An example of one of these resources at Tate Britain is ‘Swatch’.[2] Swatch takes its name from a colour swatch and is a palm-sized collection of cardboard pieces with images of details of the gallery (one of which has a raised texture, another a hole through which to look), a mirror piece and an orange-coloured perspex piece. Developed by artist Abigail Hunt [3] with the Early Years and Families’ team over 5 years ago, it has a long history with the programme.

Its language-free, sensory and tactile nature means it’s accessible to children with special education needs, and it has been used succesfully as part of projects for children with speech and language development needs as a communication tool in the gallery.[4] When facilitating the resource, we try and offer it to the child rather than the adult so that they can choose the images or materials that excite them to act as a catalyst for their collective experience of the gallery.

For many families a resource is not enough. An event, where parents/ carers know that other families will be present and more guidance will be offered, is far preferable. Our artist-led and staff-led events are aimed at either parents/ carers or early years’ practitioners and aim to support people to have confidence in using their own expertise and knowledge of the early year’s children in their care to support a very individual, child-led experience.

In the last year a new monthly event was launched by the Early Years and Families team at Tate Britain entitled Under 5s Explore the Gallery.[5] Taking the learning from the aforementioned Big and Small programme as well as borrowing a format similar to our 8-14s Studio programme at Tate Modern[6], this relatively new strand works with a different artist every 3 months and explores their practice in the galleries with families through different choices of artworks or spaces, materials and processes. This strand considers the environment of the gallery as educator, capitalises on the social experience of the gallery for families, and ensures early years audiences are visible and evident to other audiences.[7]

Another strand worth mentioning is our seasonal Early Exchange event for early years’ practitioners.[8] Building on previous experiences trying to work with partners in a reciprocal, equitable way through programmes like Big and Small and the Early Years Open Studio[9], this social event invites practitioners to come together, view an exhibition with early years audiences in mind, and engage in a discussion about the benefits and challenges of working with early years in the gallery. As well as being an opportunity for practitioners to find out what we do, it’s a great way for our team to find out about the challenges facing this audience and remain relevant to the sector. We invite these practitioners to return with groups of under 5s and lead their own visit of the galleries based on our advice and the learning from this event.

My next blog will consider the artists’ practicies being explored through our early years programme.

[1]  Up to date listings of what’s on for families at Tate can be found here –

http://www.tate.org.uk/visit/tate-modern/kids-and-families/tips-for-families

http://www.tate.org.uk/context-comment/articles/10-visiting-tips-tate-britain

[2]  Swatch is listed on the Tate website here after our Title resource which is a self-led paper-based resource aimed at visitors of all ages –

http://www.tate.org.uk/visit/tate-britain/pick-up-activities-2016

[3]  Abigail Hunt is an artist who we work with again and again on our early years programme and who has been pivotal in shaping what it is today. More information about her work can be found here –

http://www.abigailhunt.co.uk/a.statement

[4]  A major example of this is when it was used as part of projects for the Big Lottery funded Big and Small programme of long-term projects, veents and resources. More information and a film explaining the aims and different facets of this programme can be viewed here – http://www.tate.org.uk/about/projects/big-and-small.

[5]  More information about this event can be found here – http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-britain/workshop/under-fives-explore-gallery

[6]  More information about the 8-14s programme can be found here – http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-modern/workshop/8-14s-studio-performing-bodies.

[7]  Over the summer we worked with a PhD student who is looking into this area of practice in different arts organisations across the UK. http://www.tate.org.uk/research/research-centres/learning-research/in-progress/investigating-value-experiential-creative-play

[8]  More information about this event can be found here – http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-britain-tate-modern/courses-and-workshops/early-exchange-professional-development.

[9]  More information about this London Development Authority funded programme can be found here – http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-modern/courses-and-workshops/early-years-studio-programme-tate-modern

Milica Headshot

Milica (Mili) Atanackovic is a Practice and Training Manager with Early Childhood Ireland. Her background in the early years is rooted within a passionate interest in Creative Arts. Mili originally studied Design Communication before moving into Early Childhood Care and Education in Australia.  Considering training and mentoring as a key element of quality in the early years, Mili has worked as an Educator, Service Manager and Trainer, she also combines experience from a range of creative disciplines to her work.

Creativity through materials, space and time 

‘There is no substitute for exploration, unconstrained by rules or expectations when it comes to generating creative solutions to our problems.’ Alison Gopnik

More and more research hints at simple, open-ended objects as ones that are most likely to be used continuously, over and over to stimulate the imagination of children regardless of their age. These are objects such as cups, tubes, fabric, natural elements including bark, sticks, stones, feathers. These are materials that can be used in multiple ways, and are activated and defined by the child’s exploration. Three settings – Creative Kids Walkinstown, Corduff Childcare and YMCA Childcare Kidsworld Creche – were selected to participate in a sensory project with ReCreate* and Early Childhood Ireland, and use open-ended materials within their existing environments. The project was based on the strategic approach of ReCreate and Early Childhood Ireland to support the arts in early childhood education, and focused on the marriage of the arts and pedagogy – the arts as a language of inquiry, a way of communicating, exploring and thinking (Aistear 2009) in early childhood.

The sensory project took reusable open-ended materials from ReCreate to engage children’s senses through play. The artist Deirdre Rogers from ReCreate set up each room with objects intended to spark curiosity, imagination and exploration. The focus was the process of exploration – allowing children to be with the materials, to create without seeking a result. It positioned the environment as the ‘third teacher’ – an ECE environment can bring hope and inspiration to the child and educator, or it can be lack lustre and leave them frustrated. Seeing the environment as a teacher reminds us that our spaces should provoke learning and stretch the mind.

Children need to be given the opportunity to realise their potential as thinkers and creators. Open-ended materials and unstructured play encourage them to devise their own challenges, problem-solve and be immersed in their thoughts. Children in the throngs of self-directed creative play are too often interrupted. Creativity is nurtured when adults master the skill of quiet observation, answering questions from children when requested to. In the sensory project, educators were positioned as observers and co-explorers, not instructors, to support each child’s creative spirit.

One goal was for children to use the materials to develop their own problem-solving abilities through trial and error. Through observation, the educators made additional sensory provocations available and incorporated these into the spaces as extensions of the children’s exploratory processes. Photography was used to document the processes children engaged in. Photographs help boost children’s memories by  revisiting their experiences and reminding them of the process. During the project, the children were confident, resembling scientists in the depths of problem solving and questioning. As Alison Gopnik has discovered, children are like ‘scientists testing theories’, expressing their intelligence through connections with the every day, with people and objects. Explicit teaching can interfere with what comes innately to young children.

By giving the children more time to exhibit their independence and engage with each provocation, and have a say in what was going on around them, they started to develop the sense that their own ideas and opinions matter. The children moved bubble wrap through the space, popping it using their hands and feet, the technique of jumping was applied and the couch was used as a prop to bring more height to the experience. They explored, for example, light and shadow using projectors, tasted the bitterness of lemons, constructed and deconstructed a wide variety of objects. The camaraderie oozed from each small group as experiences strengthened their play communities. Masterful negotiations were witnessed as the children’s play was extended.

We sometimes unintentionally limit children’s ideas and creativity by assuming they are aiming for a specific outcome or result. Our role is to offer encouragement, rather than instructions. The child’s sense of agency was encouraged by welcoming and responding thoughtfully and respectfully to their questions and ideas. One of the best aspects of inquiry-based approaches is that they often lead to unexpected surprises and extended ongoing investigations. One goal of the project was to support educators in using open-ended materials in their environments, to develop sensory spaces that extend beyond one-off activities. However, the overarching goal was to ensure each child is given the space to engage uninterrupted and unquestioned, tuned in to each precious moment in time.

*ReCreate: recreate.ie/Recreate is a thriving social enterprise making art materials and educational supplies affordable and accessible to every sector of the community.

Jean TormeyJean Tormey is Curator of the Early Years and Families programme of resources, events and projects at Tate Modern and Tate Britain for under 5s, 8-14s and intergenerational audiences. She has worked on Families’ programming in galleries since 2008. Her practice involves working with artists, audiences and colleagues at Tate to develop content and activity through which diverse children and families can be considered as equal and valued visitors to Tate. Jean has worked in gallery learning since 2005 as an intern in New York and as a learning curator in different galleries in Liverpool, Kilkenny and London.

Blog Post 2:

This post looks at some of the key parallels between the Reggio Emilia philosophy and the ‘non-negotiables’ or values of Tate Learning’s Early Years and Families’ programme. It’s worth noting just how different the conditions of each context are before launching into this. While the early years’ schools of Reggio Emilia are formal educational settings, Tate offers an informal, flexible learning setting not restricted by the demands of curricula, but inextricably linked to the Tate collection (sometimes exhibitions) and the buildings artwork is housed within. In Reggio Emilia, the pedagogistas, atelieristas and others who run the schools have an opportunity to get to know children and families well, meeting them daily and going on a journey of at least an academic year with them. At Tate, the Early Years and Families’ team are usually dealing with a transient, fleeting audience who drop in to the programme occasionally – sometimes by accident. Despite this, there are many correlations that can be made between our approaches to learning.

Agency

In the Early Years and Families’ team, we are passionate about treating children as equal gallery visitors and as an audience of the here and now rather than a developmental audience of the future. Similar to Reggio, this is about treating every child as an individual and programming in a way that recognises their unique interests, abilities and motivations.

One of our key values as a team is agency. We aim to design a programme that invites families of all ages from many different backgrounds with a range of experiences and knowledge to participate and find their own personal route through the gallery via our programme. Our resources and events should be an opportunity for families to co-construct meaning together (which also relates to the Reggio approach). In order for this to be successful, activities need to speak to and attract both adults and children in a very open-ended way.

Art and artists

The status of artists on our programme and the way we work with them can be compared to the Reggio approach. When we engage artists in the work we do, it’s about agreeing on where we would like to get to in terms of audience engagement, without knowing exactly how we’re going to get there.[1] This makes it an exciting but often complex relationship that needs to be continually managed and reflected upon.

Like in Reggio, we view artists as experts in their own practice and as having a very particular view of the world which can be very different to ours, but we do not expect them to be experts in working with children or the Tate collection – which is where our expertise comes in. At the heart of this is a discussion about their studio practice and how the materials and processes might relate to engagement with the Tate collection and our audience.

Curiosity

When working with an artist, our approach to the framing of an activity and to the use of materials we employ can be compared to the Reggio approach too. We believe in using high quality materials that relate to artists’ studio practice, ones that cannot be found in conventional educational settings. We aim to present these materials in a way that engages children and families’ curiosity (another of our non-negotiable) and imagination through introducing materials and processes in layers that unfold, rather than introducing everything all at once. This relates to the Reggio Emilia belief in ‘environment as educator’, and we would include the setting and location of our activity in this – the galleries and architectural spaces of Tate.

A social space

By its very nature the gallery environment is a public, social space. It is a space where families have the potential to view each other in a very different light, where they can encounter (and sometimes collide with!) other visitors, and where they can communicate about ideas and issues they may not have explored before. I think this aspect of our work relates to the importance Reggio places in children forming relationships with other people in order to learn. We are keen to make our programme as visible as possible in the gallery so that families and our programme can be seen and heard rather than tucked away in a studio space.

In my next blog post I’ll consider some specific examples of programming for early years audiences at Tate.

[1]   I always find a quote by artist Jeremy Deller useful when thinking about this – “A good collaboration is like going on a long journey without a map, never knowing quite where you will end up.”

http://www.tate.org.uk/about/our-work/learning-at-tate

Carmel Brennan is Head of Training and Practice with Early Childhood Ireland, with responsibility for the organisation’s work in developinDr. Carmel Brennan headshotg curriculum, improving practice and supporting services to work with the national frameworks. Their aim is to push the boundaries of our thinking and practice as we engage with the image of the competent, playful child. Carmel has also worked as an early childhood educator, mentor and researcher. Her research interests are in the areas of curriculum and particularly children’s play – the subject of her PhD thesis. More recently, she focusses on children’s co-construction of stories through play and the relationship between play and the arts in children’s lives. She edited the IPPA publication ‘Power of Play’ and has contributed chapters to ‘Early Childhood Education and Care’ (Mhic Mhathúna and Taylor (Eds), 2012), to the Pen Green publication ‘Using Evidence for Advocacy and Resistance in Early Years Services’ (McKinnon (Ed), 2014) and to two Kids Own reports on arts projects with young children, ‘Lullabies’ and ‘Being and  Belonging’. She is also author of the essay ‘Artistic Enquiry in Early childhood Education’ on this portal.

‘It is in playing, and only in playing, that the individual child or adult is able to be creative and to use the whole personality, and it is only in being creative that the individual discovers the self’

‘The strange human urge to shape and share fantasies of action and experience is with us from birth. It is innate, not acquired, but must grow in company’ (Trevarthen, 2001a, 2005, 2009a, 2011a).

The art of play is the art of living life to the full.

I’m a huge fan of Colwyn Trevarthen’s work.  I think he constantly brings us into the real world of the human drives and dynamics and reminds us just how amazing we humans are. I’ve grouped the above photo and quote together because the photo, for me, speaks to the art of sharing fantasies of action and experience. This huge tractor tyre is now the edge of a ravine and the children dare to plunge into its fearsome waters – sharing fantasies of action and experience. Their story draws on other stories, on experiences and possibilities. I’m reminded of what Alison Gopnik describes as the most uniquely human characteristic, the ability to imagine.  I’m thinking about Bruner’s contention that we imagine ourselves into being – that children are in the process of encountering and creating possible selves through the stories they create – possible mothers and fathers, possible big sisters, possible builders, astronauts, teachers, shopkeepers, doctors, dinosaurs and, here, ravine divers. And Carl Jung’s premise that the creation of something new is not achieved by the intellect but by the imagination.  And Winnicott’s (1971:54) who says that

‘It is in playing, and only in playing, that the individual child or adult is able to be creative and to use the whole personality, and it is only in being creative that the individual discovers the self’.  

Is it any wonder that play has survived evolution across all species?  Is it any wonder that humans have brought it to such a fine art? There you go – the words play and art in one sentence!  I’m interested in the relationship between play and art.

There is a recognition of this relationship in recent research in Ireland. The ESRI/Arts Council report (2016) ‘Arts and Cultural Participation among Children and Young People: Insights from the Growing Up in Ireland Study’ recognises ‘the mosaic of ways in which children and young people express themselves and interact with the world of culture’ and so their definition of art includes young children’s engagement in creative play and make believe games. There are some interesting findings.  Just as with literacy and numeracy and all forms of development, they find that make-believe play is a precursor to the development of an artistic and creative imagination. I welcome this recognition for play. I don’t like the term precursor – it belongs to that school of giving priority to adult forms of maturity. We need to remind ourselves that children do some things better than adults, among them is play and the easy shift into the imaginary and creative world. Creativity is at its peak in early childhood – not a precursor to better things. Creativity is at its peak because children need to learn so much in such a short time and the innate creative drive makes it possible.

Another interesting finding is that, according to their parents, five year olds engage in pretend play while 3 year olds don’t. How could that be?  I have no doubt that all these parents play pretend games with their children from the moment they are born.  They pretend to be surprised, shocked, overjoyed, lost, found, toe eaters, belly guzzlers.  They look for their children’s lost heads and hands as they pull on a vest or encourage them to wriggle through sleeves.  They drive buggies with engine sounds. They pretend to be dogs and cats and any animal that makes a sound. They play hide and go seek.  They feed teddy and put him to bed.  They do all these things to help children to manage, and to engage, entertain and humour them because nature tells us that the dramatic, emotional, fun filled world of play is the way to bring children into the dynamics of human communication, into the rituals and routines of life, into cooperation and competence.  These are all art-full interactions, full of drama, emotion, movement, big gestures and, of course, creative meaning making.  That’s why people like Stern and Trevarthen call it a dance. It is an art form.

Of course, children do not engage in play to create art. The primary purpose of play, according to Sutton Smith (1997), is simply to enjoy and become better at playing. The baby’s exploratory body movements, exercising vocal cords, moving backwards and forwards, rolling and swinging are all done for their own sake, for the excitement and pleasure of movement itself. And the wonderful trick of nature is that the leap from a rock not only pleases but develops the body and, at the same time, teaches about gravity and, most importantly, exercises the brain so that it stays sharp, flexible and innovative.  Body and brain are being sculpted in play.

Drawing on another art form, children add story to their play.  Adding narrative brings children together and generates companionship, adds excitement, and sustains the play. Play narratives require certain creative skills – ideas, improvisation, role enacting, imagination, plot development, dialogue in keeping with the persona – all very demanding skills.  Players need to present as authentic, convincing, trustworthy as well as innovative and challenging. Being an active participant in play stories is important if your voice is to be included in the view of the world being constructed.  Children, as Stainton Rogers (1995) says, are creating the ‘narratives through which we render ourselves and our worlds intelligible’ – a shared frame for seeing the world. I’m a collector of those narratives and I wallow in them because they speak to me of children’s empathy and kindness, of their fears and consolations, of their experiences of the adult world and its rules, rituals and power struggles.  Gussin Paley tells us that play is like theatre with universal themes such as someone is lost and finds a friend, is unloved and finds love, confronts life and death, is weak and then strong. Think of these themes as you read this play story:

 A group of 5/6 children come running up to me screaming and laughing. I kneel and ask what’s happened. They talk about the Dragon living behind the shed. We go to have a look and once again they all run away screaming. Rob’s suggestion that they get swords and shields to fight the dragon meets with agreement so off they go in search of useful material. They come back with brushes, spades, buckets and bin lids to fight the dragon. Eventually they decide that the dragon is too powerful and they must find another way to fight him. 

Katie then puts her sword down and goes behind the shed, much to the shock and resistance of the others. She returns moments later explaining that “it was a mammy dragon” who was protecting her “baby dragons”. Everything changes. The children decide to keep the dragon as a pet. They name her “Arnold the Dragon”, and have great fun taking turns to fly around with her. Once inside, the children draw pictures of Arnold and even go to the gate at home time to say goodbye to her.  

It seems to me that these children are also working on a very important moral – and that is, that perspective changes everything.  Perspective can change an invincible dragon into a pet to be cared for. And Katie demonstrates that changing perspective takes leadership and courage – and caring is comforting for everyone.  The children have co-constructed an experience, generated strong feelings and developed a story – each element in itself is an artistic experience.

So, is play art?  Does it involve a desire for meaning, curiosity, wonder, feeling, thinking, imagining, relating, expressing?  Does it involve active participation in creating something new? Is it about finding joy? These, according to people such as Ann Pelo, Vea Vecchi and Deb Curtis, are the key indicators of an art experience – and children’s make-believe play ticks every box.   Don’t be fooled by the lure of teaching young children lessons that they can repeat and show off to adults. We can train children to do routine things –say hello, please and thank you, eat with a spoon, dress themselves, recite the ABC, sound out words, count to ten, learn multiple times tables etc. but.. for children to be alert, responsive and intelligent thinkers they must engage in the art of free play. Nothing is as important as the experience of play for the sake of play – for the fun of it – for the very fact that through play we learn the skills needed for play and we get better at them – such skills as the serve and return of interaction, the mind reading, the intersubjectivity, formulating ideas, running with the ideas of others, being fun to be with, being a cooperative, giving team player, generating energy and enthusiasm, problem solving on the hoof. The most important thing that children learn through play is how to play well -they are the traits that make for a healthy and successful life across the social, economic and health spectrums.  Like all the important things in life, they generally only get assessed when they’re missing!  Play is improvisation, drama, design, creative use of materials, symbolism, dance, story-creating and telling, characterisation, fantasy, imagination and real life enquiry. The art of play is the art of living life to the full.

art of play web

Dr. Carmel Brennan headshot

Carmel Brennan is Head of Training and Practice with Early Childhood Ireland, with responsibility for the organisation’s work in developing curriculum, improving practice and supporting services to work with the national frameworks. Their aim is to push the boundaries of our thinking and practice as we engage with the image of the competent, playful child. Carmel has also worked as an early childhood educator, mentor and researcher. Her research interests are in the areas of curriculum and particularly children’s play – the subject of her PhD thesis. More recently, she focusses on children’s co-construction of stories through play and the relationship between play and the arts in children’s lives. She edited the IPPA publication ‘Power of Play’ and has contributed chapters to ‘Early Childhood Education and Care’ (Mhic Mhathúna and Taylor (Eds), 2012), to the Pen Green publication ‘Using Evidence for Advocacy and Resistance in Early Years Services’ (McKinnon (Ed), 2014) and to two Kids Own reports on arts projects with young children, ‘Lullabies’ and ‘Being and  Belonging’. She is also author of the essay ‘Artistic Enquiry in Early childhood Education’ on this portal.

The Squashed Apple 2

Living Art with Young Children

‘Accepting – or at least acknowledging all the children offer is a real key into the endless realms of imagination that are only waiting for our bravery’. Martin Brunsden, Musician

We have long known that young children are intent observers of the workings of the world and compulsive meaning makers about everything they see around them but, somehow, we are only beginning to understand their capacity to teach us about life.

The painting tells a story of first encounter. It represents the squashed and decayed apple that he saw on his way to preschool with his mother, according to the artist. It speaks to me of wonder, of beauty, and of sadness – all of which gives food for thought, for some questions. Did the painter set out to paint what he saw? Or was it something that emerged in the encounter with the art materials that subsequently surfaced the story? Maybe his painting started life as another idea or just a series of brush movements and like so many children’s paintings, layered with paint, turns into a brown circle. Maybe the circle evokes a memory of something experienced, something observed. The question is where is the art in this whole experience? Is the art in the representation or in the first encounter with the decayed apple? Is the art in his wondering, in the conversation, in the enquiry with his mother, in that moment of connection, of sharing? We can easily imagine a lovely moment when his mother looks to his wondering – and explains, as you do, something of the cycle of life – apples fall and decay.  We can imagine the questioning and the dawning understanding in the child’s eyes – something significant has landed in his consciousness and leaves an impression that lingers there – so much so that he feels the need to express it with paint. He paints the story. Is the art in what is etched in his memory? Imagine an educator who stops to listen, feels the connection, experiences the beauty and joins in the wondering. Is this an aesthetic experience? The point is that depending on our capacity to see, or the lens we use, we can see art in almost everything children do – because children’s exploits have the key ingredients of enquiry, wonder, awe and emotional connection. The product is just a small part of the art process.

Young children, by the very nature of coming to know the world, live the creative life. They are meeting the world for the first time and creating new perspectives. They bring something new to the world.  Alison Gopnik calls early childhood ‘the research department’ of life, when children, untethered by information and obligations to get it right, are free to wonder and engage with multiple possibilities – not defined by end results. Working with the early years requires us to let go of prescribed expectations and traditional norms, milestones and measurements.  Instead we think of the encounters that allow the new personhood of each child to emerge and register itself in the community. As Educators, we are called on to exercise our sense of wonder, imagination and playfulness. It requires us to be present to – to listen with our eyes and ears and hearts to children’s explorations and discoveries – and with them to see the world anew. The learning is in the listening, the being with, the co-experiencing, the conversation, in the

‘the feeling of being present with one another’ (Trevarthen, 2001:20).

Vecchi’s (2010:5) says that art is  ‘an attitude of care and attention for the things we do, a desire for meaning; it is curiosity and wonder; it is the opposite of indifference and carelessness, of conformity, of absence of participation and feeling…..’.

In the end, that is why what children do is art – they bring a new perspective to the world – a new way of seeing things.

This all came home forcefully to me on a day that I spent with the artist, Maree Hensey and musician, Martin Brunsden on the Lullaby project, an art project with babies, a few years ago. It was all so simple. The scene was set by stacking all the plastic toys in a corner and creating a space in the middle of the room where beautiful materials were introduced, sand, ribbons, boxes, feathers, musical instruments. The children were invited to play with them.  Something descended on that space – an atmosphere that held the experience of a lullaby,

a stillness… this lull…this lullaby essence..…we have achieved it several times and sometimes with such force that the room becomes tender and emotional and yet still safe and supportive’ (Martin Brunsden)

Everything slowed down. We watched with keen interest – so interested in how these babies thought and felt and responded. Nothing was more important than the present moment – the looking, touching, feeling, tasting, wondering, questioning, pulling, pushing, listening, smiling, mouth opened, eyes agog, hands and legs vibrating, and the sounds of wonder, gurgling, hands clapping – just what happens in each moment.

As Educators, we commonly use the term ‘art’ to refer to static objects such as paintings, sculptures and songs but Vea Vecchi (2010) tells us that art can simply be a way of being in the world. Art is in the experience of encounter, the movement of the body, the narratives we create, the beauty we perceive, the eye of the beholder. In the early childhood sector, we think of art as a process to be lived – a process that includes to explore, sense, action, think, feel, express, communicate, create. It’s in the moment.

Were there moments in your experience today?

going through ribbon harp 2 copy

 

The Arts Council’s Creative Schools Initiative

The Arts Council is establishing a project team to lead Scoileanna Ildánacha/Creative Schools – a partnership initiative with the Department of Education and Skills. This initiative is being developed in the context of the Creative Ireland programme 2017–2022 and with the support of the Department of Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs.

Scoileanna Ildánacha/Creative Schools is an ambitious national initiative, which sets out to understand, develop and celebrate the arts in Irish schools, and to foster children and young people’s creativity and participation in the arts as an integral part of their education in Ireland.

The project team will be based in the Arts Council, 70 Merrion Square, Dublin 2.

The Project Lead will be procured by an EU public tender process and will be responsible for the development and implementation of the first phase of this important national initiative, and future phases, subject to agreement.

In addition, up to two Advisers will be recruited on a secondment basis from the Department of Education and Skills on an initial one year basis. These secondees will be qualified and registered teachers. A Primary and Early Childhood Education Adviser and a Post-Primary Education Adviser will work alongside the Project Lead and will contribute to the design and development of the Scoileanna Ildánacha/Creative Schools initiative as it relates to primary and early childhood education; and to post-primary education respectively.

Further information

For more information on the Project Lead tender and required services, please visit the Arts Council’s tenders page.

For more information on the roles of Primary and Early Childhood Education Adviser and Post-Primary Education Adviser please visit the Arts Council’s jobs page.

(Note: Scoileanna Ildánacha/Creative Schools is a working title. This initiative was formerly known as ARIS/Arts Rich Schools.)

Jean TormeyJean Tormey is Curator of the Early Years and Families programme of resources, events and projects at Tate Modern and Tate Britain for under 5s, 8-14s and intergenerational audiences. She has worked on Families’ programming in galleries since 2008. Her practice involves working with artists, audiences and colleagues at Tate to develop content and activity through which diverse children and families can be considered as equal and valued visitors to Tate. Jean has worked in gallery learning since 2005 as an intern in New York and as a learning curator in different galleries in Liverpool, Kilkenny and London

Inspiration for Tate’s EYF programme – the Reggio Emilia approach

“The child is not a citizen of the future; they are a citizen from the very first moment of life and also the most important citizen because they represent and bring the ‘possible’… a bearer, here and now of rights, of values, of culture… It is our historical responsibility not only to affirm this, but to create cultural, social, political and educational contexts which are able to receive children and dialogue with their potential for constructing human rights.” Carlina Rinaldi, In Dialogue with Reggio Emilia: Listening, Researching and Learning

 When I took up the post of Early Years and Families (EYF) Curator at Tate, most of my experience was with families’ programming aimed at 5-12 year olds, with under 5s included as part of an intergenerational group, or where activity was primarily aimed at parents with an understanding that early years are welcome.[i]

I was introduced to the theory influencing Tate’s EYF programme – the Reggio Emilia approach[ii] – by the Convenor of the programme, Susan Sheddan[iii], and through working on the programme have learnt about the potential of the gallery to be used as an important site of learning and communication specifically for this agegroup.

The infant and toddler schools of Reggio offer places to 0-6 year olds and consist of a mixture of municipal, state, public and private schools. The aims of the schools are to involve their community in participatory consultation in all aspects of their running, to be transparent and shared in this approach, to give substance and voice to the rights of children, parents and teachers, and to improve the quality of life of children in the city overall. Each centre has a pedagogista, teacher, atelierista and cook. Children and parents are involved in the running of each centre, which is closely connected to its context. The process of how people communicate and when is of utmost importance to the streamlined running of the centre.

The learning principles of Reggio are that children must have some control over the direction of their learning, be able to learn through experiences of touching, moving, listening, seeing and hearing; have a relationship with other children and with material items in the world that they must be allowed to explore, and have endless ways and opportunities to express themselves. I had the opportunity to visit Reggio Emilia for a study week in spring 2014 and came away with the following highlights relevant to my work at Tate. These are reflected in the EYF team’s current values or ‘non-negotiables’ of agency, curiosity, diversity and openness.

“The best we can be”: Carla Rinaldi, president of Reggio Children, talks about childhood as a quality (not just a stage of life), and about it representing ‘the best we can be’. She describes children as being in a constant state of searching for meaning and understanding in the world – interpreting their surroundings to find answers in life. The Reggio approach sees children as keen, sensitive observers with the  potential to fill flexible contexts and generative environments with meaning.

Diffused atelier: There is an atelier (studio) and atelierista (studio artist) in every Reggio school. Atelieristas are considered to have heightened awareness of contemporary culture, know how to interpret art, and have a unique perspective on learning. They work as co-constructors with teachers, students and parents to create contexts for learning a range of different subjects – the process for which can be compared to an artist developing work in their studio. The atelier, a metaphor for the Reggio approach as a whole, pervades the public space of the school so that everyone involved can influence the atelier and come together to co-construct meaning.

Co-researchers: The role of the teacher is as researcher alongside the children (with parents and artists). This might include exploring existing theories together, but also developing new theories and going to new places of learning as a result of exploration. Parents are involved as much as possible in the building of shared value.

Traces of learning: In order to research alongside children, observation (of and by children) is a key process used by Reggio teams – with drawing being used as a consistent tool for this, revealing traces of learning. Active listening, consulting with and talking to children about what they have noticed or observed develops critical thinking skills among children.

Exchange: The Reggio approach is highly influenced by Lev Vygotsky and the belief that psychological development occurs through interpersonal connections, actions and play in small groups. Children have a predisposal to creating relations and engaging in exchange. This is encouraged in Reggio schools by adults offering their point of view ready for children to offer theirs, using a range of the so called ‘100 languages’ Reggio deem children to have.

Education is political: Reggio is a political project, ultimately trying to change the status of EY schools nationally in Italy from service providers to education centres. They consistently refer to the rights of children and to some children as having ‘special rights’ (rather than special needs). In Reggio Emilia itself, the schools played an important role in welcoming and involving immigrant communities from Africa, the Middle East, Eastern Europe and China.

‘Shaped by the city but also shaping the city’: The city of Reggio plays a leading role in the school – it is referred to as a protagonist, with schools visibly present in the city/ their local areas. Bringing the school and children to the city and making the culture of children more public strengthens the school’s alliance with their context.

 In the next post I’ll explore how the Reggio Emilia approach influences the EYF programme at Tate.

[1] Examples of this activity are National Drawing Day at the Butler Gallery Kilkenny www.butlergallery.com/national-drawing-day-2016/ or Crib Notes at the Whitechapel www.whitechapelgallery.org/events/crib-notes-emma-hart-mamma-mia/.

[1] The Reggio Emilia approach emerged in the small northern Italian city of Reggio Emilia after it was badly affected by World War II. A visionary educator named Loris Malaguzzi (1920-1994) along with parents from the locality wanted  “… to bring change and create a new, more just world, free from oppression” urging people to “gather their strength and build with their own hands schools for their young children.” Influenced by early childhood psychologists and philosophers such as Dewey, Piaget, Vygotsky, Gardner and Bruner, the educators of Reggio Emilia, inspired by their already existing community-centred culture, went about setting up a new form of early years learning for the children of the city.

In 1963, with great economic and social development taking place across Italy, the first municipal preschool was opened. In the late 1960s the schools were transferred to the city government for operation and financing. There was a feminist focus to the setting up of the schools as it enabled women to go back to work and tried to garner more respect for early years educators, usually the responsibility of women (formally/ informally). By the 1980s the Malaguzzi method was known and appreciated by many educators including thanks to an exhibition at the Modern Museet in Stockholm. At this time, the National Group for Work and Study on Infant Toddler Centres was formed in Italy.

In 2003 the municipality of Reggio Emilia chose to manage the system and the network of school services and toddler centres by forming the Istituzione Scuole e Nidi d’Infanzia. Municipal schools and preschools had their own independent programs and activities, but were supported by the public sector. The political roots of the approach and its continued political engagement in campaigning for the importance of governmental support for early years education is important to acknowledge.

In February 2006, the Loris Malaguzzi International Centre opened in Reggio Emilia for professional development and research of the philosophy. The foundation was officially established in 2011 with the aim of “Education and research to improve the lives of people and communities, in Reggio Emilia and in the world”.

[1] More can be learnt in Transforming Tate Leaning about the influence of Reggio Emilia on the programme at this time – http://www.tate.org.uk/download/file/fid/30243.

 

 

 


                                                                                                                                           

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[i] Examples of this activity are National Drawing Day at the Butler Gallery Kilkenny http://www.butlergallery.com/national-drawing-day-2016/ or Crib Notes at the Whitechapel http://www.whitechapelgallery.org/events/crib-notes-emma-hart-mamma-mia/.

[ii] The Reggio Emilia approach emerged in the small northern Italian city of Reggio Emilia after it was badly affected by World War II. A visionary educator named Loris Malaguzzi (1920-1994) along with parents from the locality wanted  “… to bring change and create a new, more just world, free from oppression” urging people to “gather their strength and build with their own hands schools for their young children.” Influenced by early childhood psychologists and philosophers such as Dewey, Piaget, Vygotsky, Gardner and Bruner, the educators of Reggio Emilia, inspired by their already existing community-centred culture, went about setting up a new form of early years learning for the children of the city.

 

In 1963, with great economic and social development taking place across Italy, the first municipal preschool was opened. In the late 1960s the schools were transferred to the city government for operation and financing. There was a feminist focus to the setting up of the schools as it enabled women to go back to work and tried to garner more respect for early years educators, usually the responsibility of women (formally/ informally). By the 1980s the Malaguzzi method was known and appreciated by many educators including thanks to an exhibition at the Modern Museet in Stockholm. At this time, the National Group for Work and Study on Infant Toddler Centres was formed in Italy.

 

In 2003 the municipality of Reggio Emilia chose to manage the system and the network of school services and toddler centres by forming the Istituzione Scuole e Nidi d’Infanzia. Municipal schools and preschools had their own independent programs and activities, but were supported by the public sector. The political roots of the approach and its continued political engagement in campaigning for the importance of governmental support for early years education is important to acknowledge.

 

In February 2006, the Loris Malaguzzi International Centre opened in Reggio Emilia for professional development and research of the philosophy. The foundation was officially established in 2011 with the aim of “Education and research to improve the lives of people and communities, in Reggio Emilia and in the world”.

 

[iii] More can be learnt in Transforming Tate Leaning about the influence of Reggio Emilia on the programme at this time – http://www.tate.org.uk/download/file/fid/30243.

“The arts transformed my love of learning and are the reason I’m standing before you today” Prof. Anne Bamford

On May 6th the second arts in education portal national took place at St Patrick’s Campus, DCU. The portal national day is building momentum as a very significant event in the arts and education calendar in Ireland. Just under 200 people registered to attend the event with 17 workshops and lectures, an inspiring keynote from Prof Anne Bamford and a policy update from the Arts Council and Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional and Gaeltacht Affairs, Heather Humphreys. We are already excited about next years event. Have a look here to see the video from the day. Thanks to all involved in making day a huge success!

 

Tell us the story of your project – What was the impetus? What was it about? Who was involved? How did you begin?

This project was a collaboration between early childhood educators at Woodland Park preschool in Westport; Karen O’Brien, Mary Skillington, Joanna Kuruc, Kasia Rymarczyk, Bridgit McNamara, Ciara MacNally, Erszi Whyte and resident visual artist Lucy Hill. The collaboration between artist and early years setting began in 2007. The early years setting was located in a building that was previously a primary school and so had a large site with an excess of classrooms. An arrangement was made to use one of the classrooms as a studio space in exchange for collaborating on visual art projects including creating temporary play environments for the children with materials sourced from the Creative Resource Centre.

This particular documentation project grew out of many conversations. There was a strong desire to try to highlight the very many ephemeral moments at preschool where children display positive learning dispositions that could easily be invisible to adults or even understood as ‘mis-behaviour’. The project was grounded in the belief that very young children are competent, capable learners who demonstrate an explorative attitude as they ‘re/present’ their ideas, thoughts and feelings with multiple mediums. Much of the learning, discoveries, creativity and innovations of very young children happen in front of our eyes but need to be framed in understandable ways in order for adults to fully grasp the power and impact of what is unfolding. So for this project, there was no theme, no direction, no grand plan other than this question of how to capture children’s agency in the tiniest everyday moments that may be deeply impactful as an education tool for adults if framed in an understandable way and so the idea for a book document developed. The book would then provide a reflective tool for children where they could visit and revisit their creations in partnership with peers, educators and their parents.

How were the ideas developed and how did the young people, artist and teacher work together?

The children followed the everyday routines of work and play within the preschool day. During free play children made choices as they selected materials and explored the affordances of these materials. The artist and educators together captured many photographs, conversations and children’s everyday activities over several months. There were weekly meetings which explored children’s lines of enquiry and observed interests. These were followed with discussion on how the documentation was developing, what was being captured, what could be found through knowledge of individual children and the particular schema they may be working within. The relational foundation between educators and children was fundamental to revealing the value of the moments being captured where knowledge of individual children’s interests, personalities and competencies was crucial. The artist as documenter was able to take a ‘bird’s eye’ view of the everyday. The main headings within the document emerged slowly through the editing and discussion process. It felt important to allow sufficient time for the project and so it happened in a very unhurried way over several months. An exhibition was planned for Westport library in order to celebrate the children’s artwork and provide visibility of their learning to the wider community. Key competencies were highlighted and dispositions such as involvement, persistence, problem solving and creativity were exemplified through a display of poster pages.

What was your personal experience of the project in terms of successes and challenges?

Artist: My personal experience of the project was an awareness of the delicacy and responsibility implicit in documenting young children’s work and play practices. At all costs we wanted to avoid moments that might frame children from an adult’s aesthetic or that could be seen as a promotional tool. The purpose was to try to get to the core of what was occurring for the children, often using the children’s voice. In the end, the photographs used were all taken by the educators themselves, and included the messiness of the working space, the un-staged every-day. I helped with the design of the document and putting it together but each of the educators also had full access to the editing process and there was much discussion around what should go where and there was no time deadline imposed. Mary took responsibility for the main body of text in the book and Joanna took responsibility for the exhibition design and layout.

Educators: This project provided us with an opportunity to reflect on the learning which took place as children engaged with each other and the environment. Through observation we began to recognise the affordances the environment offered as children engaged with a wide variety of materials. Decisions about what to document was a challenge as there was an abundance of images and narratives collected.
What was significant for you about the project that is worth sharing?

Long term collaborations between artists and educators are hugely useful, interesting and valuable scenarios from which children and adults equally stand to benefit and learn.

Has anything changed in your work as a result of the project?

Artist: This project had a significant impact on my practice. It has led to us collaborating on my current PhD project. Within the research, the focus on what is unfolding for the children can be accessed in a very privileged way, due to the trust and respect that has been established over the past ten years. I am very grateful for the continuous openness, generosity and opportunities to learn.

Educator: The artist provided alternative perspectives on children’s creative and communicative potentials as we worked together to promote children’s developing ability to symbolically represent their ideas with clay, constructions, drawings, and paintings. The artist opened us up to the tools and the need to communicate children’s understandings through various media. As we collected and contemplated transcripts of children’s conversations and detailed renderings of their developing understandings, we also began to refine our own form of symbolic representation. Working with an artist prompted us to advocate for more reciprocal adult–child conversations. Over time, documentation became more integral to our practice, illustrating the principle that culturally constructed ways of life depend on “shared modes of discourse for negotiating differences in meaning and interpretation” (Bruner, 1990, p. 13).

As part of a review of the Artists~Schools Guidelines conducted by the Arts Council on behalf of the High Level Implementation Group of the Arts in Education Charter, this video has been developed to capture stakeholders’ observations regarding the key principles and information of most relevance to artists and/or schools interested in developing best practice in this area.

Watch the video here.

Tell us the story of your project – What was it about? Who was involved? How did you begin? How did it develop?

Artful Dodgers is a unique early years arts education programme that commenced in September 2013 and continues to evolve today in two community crèche services in Fingal, north county Dublin. The programme is pioneered by Artist Jackie Maguire and Naomi Draper with Julie Clarke of Fingal County Council Arts Office, Fingal County Childcare Committee, Ros Eo and Little Learners Community Crèche and Prof. Carmel O’Sullivan and Prof. Noirin Hayes of the Arts Education Research Group, Trinity College Dublin (AERG).

The programme aims to provide an exploratory, creative and playful artistic space for children to develop and grow. To investigate the impact of this engagement on the children’s early development with particular focus on literacy and numeracy skills; and to build the capacity of the early years educators to embed music and visual arts in their settings. The project team adopted an artist is residence model for Phase 1 where both artists were located in the services on a weekly basis over a twelve week period. Each week they delivered a music and visual arts workshop in partnership with the staff of both settings. The artist in residence model was significant in that the artists were embedded within the settings allowing the artists, early years teachers and children to build relationships and to get to know each other over time. Over the period of the residency the artists worked closely with the children and early years teachers in both settings, where they explored the world of music and visual arts together.

The evaluation of Phase 1 (2013) indicated changes in pedagogical planning and style in the early years teachers over the twelve weeks period. Their language became more reflective and their practice incorporated a wider and richer range of materials; there was greater evidence of more child-led activities and unstructured play opportunities over the duration of the study. The data suggests that children’s social, cooperative and communication skills were enhanced. There was evidence over time of improved self-regulation, recall and recollection, and attention to activities. In addition, children’s curiosity and exploration was encouraged leading to enhanced vocabulary and greater persistence at activities. To assist the sustainability of the learning and practices developed during phase one the partnership provided the required resources to establish second phase. During this phase the teachers were encouraged to continue with the arts in their practice and the artists came to work with staff in both settings once a month. This kept the momentum of the project going without interruption. The focus of Phase 2 (2014-2015) was to develop ‘creative exchange’ between both the artists and early years teachers through a co-mentoring process. It was designed to consolidate arts practice within the early years settings, build a creative environment and strengthen relationships between the participants (artists and early years teachers) through reflecting on practice and children’s engagement.

A key element of phase two was the introduction of the ORID framework by the artists with the early years teachers to evaluate and reflect on the process. This framework facilitates focused conversation between participants in order to reach some point of agreement or clarify differences. ORID is as an evaluation framework developed at the Canadian Institute of Cultural Affairs. The framework gave everyone a voice and provided sound evidence to direct and inform future delivery.

A preliminary evaluation of Phase 2 suggests that changes occurred in early years practice, in terms of curriculum planning, relationships with children, staff and parents. Co-mentoring across different disciplines is very powerful particularly when it is experiential and all parties, in this case artists and early years teachers, are actively involved. The artists highlighted the value of the co-mentoring approach, which informed their planning for each setting visits. The early years teachers reported better understandings of children’s learning and sensitivity to the uniqueness of every child. They also reported a deepening understanding of Aistear, the early childhood curriculum framework and a greater appreciation of the importance of ‘tuning in’ and responding to the children’s behaviour. As the project evolved the partnership grew stronger and a third phase, the ‘parental involvement programme’, was created. This work is ongoing.

Ash Ryan of Little Learners Community Crèche, Mulhuddart
What aspects of the project made you smile? What aspects of the project made you feel challenged?

The Children, staff and parents’ engagement made me smile. I would glance around the room, which looked chaotic – paint everywhere, children’s faces and hands a multitude of colours, parents on the floor weaving, staff laughing with the children – and smile! However there were plenty of challenges. I had to rethink my teaching practice, both in terms of how much I controlled the outcomes of art projects with the children and my own feelings on ‘messy play’.

What insights from the project are worth sharing? Has anything changed as a result of the project?

Both the parents and staff have a different view on how the children engage with art materials, originally dirty clothes were a problem, but now parents expect the children to leave looking like they’ve been involved in activities during the day, and they always oblige with a change of clothes when necessary. My whole practice has changed. I have a far better understanding of creative play and its links to Aistear. Children have more of a say in the activities we provide and they have the freedom to choose materials and ideas for their own artwork. Parents have become more involved in the service as a result of their direct involvement. Children are generally having great fun while learning. We have stopped group activities where twenty children are making the same thing from a template. Templates are no longer used in the service. Artful Dodgers has managed to put an ethos in place that no college course for early years teachers has been able to achieve to date. The artists’ hands on engagement showed how a different approach works in practice; the staff could see the methods and begin to use them easily in a supported way.

Debbie Donnelly & Mary Farrell of Ros Eo Community Crèche, Rush
What aspects of the project made you smile? What aspects of the project made you feel challenged?

Seeing the enjoyment shining through the children throughout their involvement in the project made us all smile a lot. Jackie would break into song unexpectedly and both Jackie and Naomi’s personalities brought warmth and positivity into the classroom, which was a huge factor in the enjoyment and success of the project.

As safety officer I worried about the safety of the children while working away from the desks, on the floor, using materials they hadn’t used before, especially when we had a large group of children together. At the beginning I felt a little out of my comfort zone, as I was familiar with working a particular way. I also worried about fitting all the new arts activities in with the already full curriculum. I doubted my own ability to be a worthy capable participant in the project as I am not an artist.

What insights from the project are worth sharing? Has anything changed as a result of the project?

A new lease of life was injected into staff as we learned new ways to teach. We now use props to enhance language skills and the children’s understanding of a particular story or activity. We learned to share the workload better among staff. We now make time to reflect on activities afterwards. We discuss the positives and negatives and question how to improve or deliver something that didn’t work so well differently the next time. The weekly reflection is a very informative experience and positive way to finish the week. As a staff team we are more open to trying new things with the children. We know that what we are doing compliments the curriculum so we are more confident about delivering the curriculum. I’m definitely not afraid to move out of my comfort zone now.

I realise that I don’t have to be ‘talented’ at art or music to use it in the classroom. I’m willing to try new things and learn alongside the children. We don’t dwell if something doesn’t go to plan, we move on and try it again another day with something different. My advice is to keep trying and be adventurous. You’re never too old to learn.

Artist Naomi Draper
What aspects of the project made you smile? What aspects of the project made you feel challenged?

The welcome we received on every visit made me smile. Every week we arrived to an atmosphere of excitement and anticipation from the children, their parents and the staff. They were always waiting for us to arrive, they knew we were coming. During this residency I really felt part of the setting, a part of their week, a part of the team! I do think that this came from the strength of the relationship we developed with the staff who made us feel welcome, valued and supported in our work there. We also had time to establish these connections, time for reflection together and when we could see that we had developed something worth holding on to, the arts office gave us more time to develop these partnerships, supporting one another through a shared learning exchange, and broadening our partnerships to engage parents in a parental involvement phase. Our approach was probably a challenge initially, as we completely took over every corner of the crèche. But you could see confidence growing with every visit and as new materials were presented or alternative spaces were used, no instruction was required, the children, staff and parents too were willing to play, experiment, and see where it would bring them. Watching everyone’s confidence grow and observing how our practices changed and developed was very exciting.

What insights from the project are worth sharing? Has anything changed as a result of the project?

Jackie introduced us to the ORID reflective tool, which became an important tool to critically reflect and change. ORID also played a huge part in the development of our relationships with one another. It enabled us to openly and honestly speak about what happened and what we observed. It provided a supportive environment for me to learn and develop a better understanding of working in this context. Another aspect of my work that I am interested in exploring is the physical spaces we are part of. The initial residency period of the AD programme allowed me to test and examine the potential of the spaces in terms of children’s learning and development. Together with the staff we realised new possibilities for spaces that were not used in the crèche and found ways to activate and utilise them further.

Professor Nóirín Hayes, on behalf of the research team:
“As an academic with a long history of research in early childhood the potential value of arts education in early education, for both children and staff, has always been an interest of mine – particularly the challenging link between arts education and the role of play and process in early learning.

A key attraction of working with Artful Dodgers has been the collaborative approach, the creation of a learning community comprising children, parents, educators, artists and academics. The project, throughout, endeavoured to create a context that encouraged careful attention to planning through a mutual respect for the expertise of both the artists and the early years educators. Reflection informing future actions was a central dimension of the project at all stages. The success of this approach was evident in the engagement of all participants and the outcomes for children. Throughout the project careful records were maintained and shared by the artists and the early years educators. This material, alongside observation records and documentation of practice in process, provide a rich source of data to inform practice, policy and further research. Over and above this the project has brought parents and early educators close together in the shared education of young children. It is a privilege to have become part of the team and I look forward to furthering the dissemination of this important action research arts education project.”

The story of our project from the teacher – Denise:

I approached Lynn in Nov 2014 to collaborate on developing an art class for ECCE in Ulla beag which would cover many art disciplines; painting, printing, working with 3 dimensional form and various craft skills to provide a more holistic teaching approach to pre-reading; pre-writing and pre-maths skills.

Collaborating with Lynn has been a great experience as we both started out with the same beliefs and ethos – We need to recycle more and look at using old materials. It is amazing how you can transform a raisin box into a robot, providing hours of fun and play for children. Through this process, children can create their own toys and the empowerment and confidence they get through using old materials is amazing.

The use of visual media as a teaching method to develop pre-reading; writing and maths skills has moved learning to a higher quality, more holistic approach at Úlla Beag.

The story of our project from the artist – Lynn:

As a group, the children worked on large pieces – printing, painting and collaging, and physically manoeuvred themselves around the piece, rather than just using their upper body, when painting. All activities gave them opportunities to strengthen their fine motor skills. They learned to work together as a group, which built up peer relationships and a joint ownership of the work they produced.

Other projects included clay modelling; and making pinch pots and papier mâché bowls, which focused on form-making, using their hands in a different way. We mono printed onto old baby wipes which was very effective and quick and explorative: some worked well, some didn’t.

We talked about the failed attempts and why this happened – too much paint, too little paint – and we tried again. Some were very keen to try stitching so we did simple long stitches through print and baby wipe. I was pleasantly surprised by how effective baby wipe material was and how easily it took the paint. It worked well with this age group as a surface to print on.

The story of our project from the children:

Through this project we experienced so many examples of children’s feedback:

I like this way of making letters.” (Mike) This was Mike’s feedback on creating Cars from Cs; Trees from Ts and Houses from Hs. Mike found learning and retaining letters difficult until we started creating associations with every day items in picture format. As an educator you know children learn in different ways and while mainstream teaching of phonics through song & rhyme may work for most children, it does not work for all. One of the critical areas as an educator is to acknowledge this and find a new method of teaching to enable the child.

I don’t like the way the glue makes my fingers sticky but I want to make my bowl so I will get sticky fingers and then I will have a bowl.” Mary’s feedback on papier mâché technique.

I don’t mind if I stick the needle on my finger I want to sew a cross and I am getting better at seeing where the needle comes out so I don’t catch my finger!” (Imogen)

I like using this as sometimes I drop my paintbrush” Oscar (aged 2 1/2) discussing his preference for using cotton buds when painting a picture.

I am really good at making robots.” (Charlie)

I made a hole in my picture and had to start again I put too much water on.” (Amelia)

I feel calm when I paint.” (Thaidhg)

I mix red and blue for purple. Sometimes I remember how to make orange too, that’s yellow and red, but sometimes I forget so I have to mix different colours together.” (Eibhe)

I like printing with toothbrushes its cool. They are old toothbrushes though, not new ones.” (Saoirse)

The flow of our art days included: Preparation of room and materials (Lynn); Group discussion with the children -remembering the last class; reviewing the work completed. (This is important for continuity and information processing for children at this age.) Getting ready – Aprons on and discussion with the children of what art lesson is taking place.

After learning techniques from Lynn, the children start to experiment and create, with assistance from Lynn and Denise where needed. Some children finish earlier so they then get to create their next adventure while the other children are given time or guidance to finish their work.

Closing discussions with the children reinforced lessons learned – what the children liked or would change for the next time. Again this is very important in supporting communication skills and information processing with children at a preschool level. This was followed by forward planning – including the children in a discussion of what will take place the following week. At the end, everyone tidies up together.

The biggest smile for both of us was the significant level of pride the children had in their group and individual work. It was amazing seeing the children develop into a strong unit that were as happy with their group projects as they were with their individual works – which really allowed them to feel a sense of identity and belonging within the group. The children are more inquisitive about everything around them – both in and out of school they are talking about their colours and making new things from old things.

The main challenge was keeping the projects age appropriate so the children were not over-dependent on us to intervene and help and really only needed to call on us in real emergencies – such as the glue sticking their fingers together!

Some insights:

•Group Art projects even at an early years level   promoted leadership within the group and fostered team work and empathy amongst the children.
•Art as a teaching process facilitates a safe environment to allow children to fail and start again – a valuable life lesson the children had to figure out with us why things did not always work out. (e.g. Not enough paint applied, Not leaning hard enough to print, yellow will not print out on the recycled wipes etc.)
•Learning to fail and recover / find new solutions is very important to instilling creativity and resilience in children. With print media the children very quickly saw what worked and did not work and the results were immediate.
•Art is a fantastic medium to foster child-led learning and child-led planning as it is such a creative process the children were completely open and could be masters of their own destiny!
•As a result of this collaboration through art with the children we display, discuss and review each others’ work together as part of the art classes. This allows the children to learn more from each other, praise each other, get praise from each other, empathise with each other when something does not work, help each other out more. This is very important in relation to wellbeing, identity and belonging and developing empathy and communication skills with peers, teachers and parents.

Changes and new developments from the project:

The project has resulted in the expansion of the group to include pre-ECCCE children. Art practice has been integrated within daily lessons at Úlla Beag.

There is now stronger and higher quality integration of art-based work into our An Taisce Green Flag Awards process. We are currently on our Water flag and have started gathering recycled materials to create a water lifecycle group exhibition in January, which will be published as part of our Green Flag presentation in March.

More time is allowed for creativity – previously we would have integrated a lot of art work with our children but now we have introduced an element of child-led choice.

We have moved from a reactive solution to a proactive learning environment. That is to say in Year 1 combining phonics and visual art printing allowed us to react to a situation where some children were really struggling to grasp phonetical learning – so we worked together to create a more visual understanding of C. This brought 3 of the more visual learners on a par with their peers and their love of phonics quickly developed. In Year 2 we are seeing very little disparity amongst the children as it is a more holistic and inclusive approach, so we are combining visual printing and other art techniques with phonetical learning.

We have collaborated on Easter  and  Summer camp art days and these are a great hit with the afterschool groups who come to Ulla Beag.


!!!! Blog 2 – Anna Newell, Theatre Maker for Early Years & Children with Complex Needs

How Spiderman Inspired Me Last Summer

In 2019 (which now feels like a decade ago), I made a new show for early years audiences called BigKidLittleKid.  It’s a wordless physical theatre piece for ages 3-6 years about the complicated world of sibling rivalry.  It opened at The Ark for Dublin Theatre Festival and toured to the Mermaid, the Civic and Draiocht.

Through the summer of 2020, I grew surer and surer about my commitment to finding a way to keep a live connection with my very particular audiences.

During what had become my weekly check-in with my wee brother, he was talking about some guy somewhere in England who’d dressed up as Spiderman and spidey-ed his way through his local streets to the utter delight of the children forced to stay at home in these first shut-in weeks of the first lockdown.

I’ve always been interested in making the ordinary extraordinary and believe that if you can literally change the landscape, you make visible the possibility of change and of hope.

So I hatched a plan.

Thanks to the Ready Steady Show programme run by my main producing partner the Civic, a wee pot of money was found to create a PopUp Play version of BigKidLittleKid which we played on a tennis court outside a summer camp, in a massive hall inside another summer camp and outside a nursery.

My favourite picture of the whole summer was the picture of the one pod sitting watching the extraordinary adventure that unfolded in their tiny playground with the second pod who weren’t allowed to share the same space as them, determinedly pressing their noses against the window intently watching the entire show.

For us as artists, being out there with our audiences again, hearing that very particular laughter of children delighted with a new story, a new connection, was extraordinary.  Our hearts soared and I’d be lying if I said we didn’t shed a tear or two of hard-won joy and hope.

 

!!!! Blog 1 – Anna Newell, Theatre Maker for Early Years & Children with Complex Needs

What. How. Why.

I remember really vividly where I was on 12th March 2020. I was visiting the cast at the end of their 3rd week of a 10 week tour of my show for babies ‘I AM BABA’ and our tiny gorgeous tent was set up in a rather grand hotel ballroom in Trim. We came out of the third show to the news of the announcement of lockdown. We threw the set and costumes back in my storage facility without masses of care – as we knew it was only going to be a couple of weeks.

I know.

For the next 2 months, I was lost, desperately trying to think what to do and how to do it.

And then I worked out that it wasn’t about the what or the how but rather about the why.

When creating ‘BLISS’, the first show I made specifically for audiences of children with complex needs, I was doing some creative consultation in a classroom and over the course of these few days these children revealed to me what I think theatre is – one human being connecting with another. That’s it. And that my job is to create the optimum conditions for that connection.

And for my audiences, the optimum conditions overwhelmingly are that it’s a live experience.

The work has always had at its very heart the live responsive connection and an inherent and crucial ability to nuance and change from moment to moment.  And I realised what I had to do was to take this built-in flexibility to a whole new level…

Thanks to the incredible support of funders, venues, audiences and artists and more than a little bit of luck, I managed to tour work live for 8 weeks in the summer, autumn and winter of 2020.

And in my next couple of blogs, I’ll tell you the how and the what.

 

!!!! This Is Art! Online Art Competition with RTÉ & Creative Ireland

RTÉ and Creative Ireland Programme

Deadline extended to Sunday 31 Jan 2021

RTÉ and Creative Ireland Programme have come together in partnership to create This Is Art! – a celebration of visual art through the creation of an exciting new online art competition aimed at young people across the island of Ireland.

The competition aims to promote artistic practice among young people and encourage and support creativity, originality and self-expression. Applicants can enter individually or they can enter as part of a group and all visual art disciplines are welcomed. The competition is open for anyone 18yrs and under.

All of the artwork will be included in a digital gallery and considered for the This Is Art! 2021 Grand Prix Award.

Deadline extended to Sunday 31 Jan 2021

For further information go to: https://www.thisisart.ie/

!!!! Opportunity: Early Childhood Exploring & Thinking Bursary Award 2020

The Four Dublin Local Authorities

Deadline: 5pm, 11 December 2020

The four Dublin Local Authorities (Fingal County Council, Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council, South Dublin County Council and Dublin City Council) are delighted to invite submissions for: Exploring & Thinking Bursary Award 2020.

The Bursary Award will support individual professional artists to develop their artistic practice working with and/or producing work for early childhood arts. It is open to individual professional artists who wish to develop their practice in early childhood arts, artists practicing in all artforms, artists resident in Ireland.

Bursary range: €500 – €5,000

The closing date: 5pm, 11th December 2020

Exploring and Thinking is a collaborative framework for early childhood arts in the Dublin region. It came about in 2016 when the four Dublin Local Authorities partnered for the first time to collectively consider early childhood arts provision in the Dublin region.

For more details please click on ‘Exploring & Thinking Bursary Award 2020 Criteria & Guidelines’.

 

 

!!!! Early Years Video Workshop: Shy Mouse & Show-Off Lion with The Ark

The Ark

Available until 31 December

Explore the importance of all creatures small and large in this video drama workshop from The Ark for ages 2-4 with their grown-ups led by Early Years Artist in Residency Joanna Parkes.

Mouse may be small and shy, but does that mean he can’t help the lion? Let’s see!

Using the Aesop’s Fable of The Mouse and The Lion as a starting point, pack your make-believe backpacks, set off to find the proud lion and see where your imaginations can take you.

If you like, you can bring a few things with you:

A cushion
A small bag or backpack
A soft toy (any favourite cuddly animal will do)
Wear an adventurer’s hat of any kind if you want!

Combining drama, story and play, this video workshop invites little ones and their grown-ups to enjoy imagining together. So if you’re a parent, grandparent, uncle, aunty, godparent or carer, join in with a 2 to 4 year old to discover, explore and create together in this delightful workshop adventure.

Recommended:

Watch Free Online – ark.ie/events/view/video-workshop-lion-mouse

For ages 2-4 and their grown-ups
Video duration: Approx. 15 mins, plus pauses for you to pretend and play in your own time at home

 

!!!! The Beautiful Beasts @ Home with The Ark

The Ark

Dates: Running until 21 August 2020

This summer, enjoy a range of delightful online events and experiences in visual art, drama and dance, inspired by creatures big and small, meek and mighty! Through new online workshops, video tutorials, at-home activities and inspiring experiences, children will be encouraged to look closely, listen, imagine and make!

A selection of events are listed below:

Flap, Glide and Soar like a Bird: Online Visual Art Workshop
Date: 17 July, 11am & 2pm
Ages 5 – 12

Under Water Moves: Online Early Years Dance Workshops
Date: 17 July, 10:15am & 11:45am
Ages 2 – 4

Animal Transformations: Online Visual Art Workshops
Dates: 31 July & 7 August, 11am & 2pm
Ages: 5 – 12

Forest of Fun: Online Early Years Dance Workshops
Date: 7 August, 10:15am & 11:45am
Ages 2 – 4

Beautiful Beasts: Early Years Visual Art Adventures
Date: Running until 12 August 2020
Ages: 2 – 4

For further information and booking go to ark.ie/season/beautiful-beasts-at-home

!!!! Branar Presents Pop-up poetry for lil’ peeps

Branar Téatar do Pháistí

A new multi-platform project presented by branar for children of all ages up to 6 years

Tales of teddies, moments of magic, comforting cuddles and worlds of wonder are celebrated in an exciting new collection of poems and nursery rhymes for young children.

Pop Up Poetry for Lil’ Peeps is a new multi-platform project presented by Branar for children of all ages up to 6 years. Irish writers and artists Inni-k, Mary Murphy, Tadhg Mac Dhonnagáin and Liz Weir have created new poems and nursery rhymes in Irish and English for this unique project. Audiences can enjoy this work online through vivid audio recordings and new animations by artist Maeve Clancy.

Originally commissioned by the Galway County Council, Creative Ireland Programme led by the Arts Office in partnership with Galway City Council and Roscommon County Council’s Creative Ireland programmes, in association with Children’s Books Ireland and Poetry Ireland.

Originally presented as part of the Criunniú na nÓg 2020 programme.

For further information to to access resources go to www.branar.ie/popup-poetry

 

!!!! Gaiety School of Acting brings a little drama to your home

Gaiety School of Acting

Recognising the struggle so many parents are currently facing as they broach the mountainous task of home schooling their children during the Coronavirus restrictions, the Gaiety School of Acting has released a series of comprehensive and fun lesson plans to inject a little creativity and some POSITIVE drama to your household.

With 34 years experience in drama training, the Gaiety School of Acting teaches over 2000 children across their Young Gaiety schools in Bray, Malahide and Temple Bar annually, in a range of classes from Parent and Toddler Drama to Musical Theatre Company, Acting for Camera to an eclectic offering of seasonal camps.

Our Home Drama Resources have been developed by the GSA’s education team, and in addition to creative drama, provide a selection of science, craft and film-making activities for you and your children to explore a variety of themes, have fun, and escape from reality!

Every Thursday a new resource is released with the following themes already available on the website: The Lion King, Harry Potter, Roald Dahl, Monsters from the Movies, We’re Going on a Bear Hunt.

For further information and to access downloadable resources go to gaietyschool.com/home-resources/

 

!!!! Early Years Arts & Play Education CPD Masterclass for Early Childhood Educators

CIT Crawford College of Art & Design

Dates: 29 February, 28 March, 9 May 2020

Early Years Arts & Play Education workshops, delivered by Artists/Educators, Rachel Doolin and George Hannover. CIT Crawford College of Art & Design, Grand Parade Campus, Cork.

This series of CPD Masterclasses at CIT Crawford College of Art & Design will focus on early years experiential and creative play methodologies, with each workshop exploring a different material theme such as: LIGHT Play, PAPER Play, CARDBOARD Play and POP UP Play. ‘Simplicity’ and ‘wonder in the ordinary’ are at the very core of this holistic series of workshops. Artists will guide, offer ideas and materials to inspire and ignite curiosity in a fun and relaxed atmosphere. Participants will be encouraged to activate their imaginations and to explore ‘ways to play’ that encourage and embrace spontaneity, open-ended exploration and unpredictable impulses!

Dates & Times

For more information go to crawford.cit.ie/courses/masterclasses-for-early-childhood-educators-and-childcare-professionals/

!!!! Schools & Early Years Groups are invited to ‘Art in Action’ at Uillinn West Cork Arts Centre

Uillinn West Cork Arts Centre

Date: 11 – 20 February 

Uillinn West Cork Arts Centre invites toddler groups, playschools, junior and senior infants to a guided experience of Art in Action. An interactive exhibition where artists have used images, objects, actions to communicate with their surrounding world.

An interactive, multimedia exhibition for children with work by Basia Bańda + Tomasz Relewicz, Ewa Bone + Ewa Kozubal, Tomasz Madajczak, Krzysztof Matuszak, Aleksandra Ska and Hubert Wińczyk. Curated by Bartosz Nowak in collaboration with MOS: Municipal Art Centre, Gorzów Wielkopolsk, Poland. http://www.mosart.pl/ wystawy-2019/detail,nID,6164

This exhibition is a meeting of children and artists. The eight visual artists included in the exhibition have created interactive artworks that involve children in the co-creation of the works presented in the gallery. Encouraging children to participate in their construction and reconstruction allows them to experience artistic processes in action.

The exhibition and accompanying events are focused on enabling children to develop creativity, self-confidence and curiosity, explore the world, to communicate and to think critically, demonstrating that art is primarily a way of experiencing and building mutual relations with the environment, other people and oneself

Your group can book a guided experience led by one of the exhibiting artists Tomasz Madajczak. Group bookings are free of charge and can be made by telephone on 028 22090 or email info@westcorkartscentre.com

 

!!!! Early Years Seedlings Workshops at The Ark: If at first you don’t succeed…

The Ark

10 – 11 January 2020

As the fun of the festive season fades and the new year sets in, this early years drama workshop for little ones aged 2-4 will explore how to cope when things go wrong. Part of First Fortnight festival and led by The Ark’s Early Years Artist in Residence, Joanna Parkes.

Oh dear! Elliott the Dragon is having a bad day. It’s a cold, snowy day and he’s fed up. Everything’s going wrong and he doesn’t know what to do. He says he’s going to give up and not try anymore but… maybe we can help him? Maybe we encourage him to try again? Maybe we can help him bounce back?

Join in to discover, explore and find out if you can help Elliott figure out how to be resilient in this delightful workshop adventure.

Combining drama, story, play and props, this interactive drama workshop invites little ones and their grown-ups to enjoy imagining together. So if you’re a parent, grandparent, uncle, aunty, godparent or carer, come along with a 2 to 4 year old and join in the fun.

For further information and bookings go to ark.ie/events/view/seedlings-first-fortnight2020

!!!! Theatre for Early Years: Moon Woke Me Up by Little Bigtop

The Ark

Dates: 14 – 29 December 2019

Little Bigtop in Association with The Civic

Escape into space in this fantastic interactive theatrical adventure for ages 3-5 from Little Bigtop in association with The Civic.

Moon Woke Me Up Nine times
It was still 4am
So I built a rocket with my friends
And went on a journey that never ends

Come up and away with us. Come and play with us.

You are invited to come and build a rocket that will BLAST OFF and take us on a magical adventure. Once inside their homemade rocket children are treated to a magical shadow show as they journey to the moon! Come with us all the way, up there, into outer space!

I wonder if it smells of cheese?
I wonder if it will make me sneeze?

Let’s find out!

Inspired by a Haiku of the same title by Basho Matsuo, Moon Woke Me Up is an interactive theatrical adventure to space for ages 3-5, using a wonderful blend of performance and interactive drama, construction play and sensory explorations.

For further information and bookings go to https://ark.ie/events/view/moon-woke-me-up

 

 

!!!! Early Years Seedlings Workshops at The Ark: Who Loves the Whirly, Swirly Wind?

The Ark 

Date: 1 & 2 November 2019

Embrace the wonders of the wind in this fun drama workshop for little ones aged 2-4, led by The Ark’s Early Years Artist in Residence, Joanna Parkes.

It’s a whirly, swirly, windy day and the Wind Wizards are busy at work. Not everyone likes the wind though, as it whips up fallen leaves and tousles their hair. Can the wind wizards help people see how wonderful the wind can be?

Join in to explore, imagine and discover your own secret love for the whistle and whoosh of the whispering wind.

Combining drama, story, play and props, this interactive drama workshop invites little ones and their grown-ups to enjoy imagining together. So if you’re a parent, grandparent, uncle, aunty, godparent or carer, come along with a 2 to 4 year old and join in the fun.

Dates & Times: 

Friday 1st November, 10.15am & 2pm
Saturday 2nd November, 10.15am & 11.45am

For ages 2- 4

45 minutes

For more information and booking go to ark.ie/events/view/seedlings-whirly-swirly-wind

!!!! Early Years Seedlings Workshops at The Ark: Howie Hedgehog Needs a Home

The Ark 

Dates: 4 & 5 October 2019

Get cosy for the autumn in this early years drama workshop for little ones aged 2-4 led by The Ark’s Early Years Artist in Residence, Joanna Parkes.

Autumn is here, leaves are falling and the animals in the woods are preparing for their long winter sleep. But Howie Hedgehog is not ready. He has no food supplies and no shelter to sleep in. He will need some help from the wood elves to collect food and build himself a warm and cosy den.

Join in to discover, explore and find out if you can help Howie build his den in this delightful workshop adventure.

Combining drama, story, play and props, this interactive drama workshop invites little ones and their grown-ups to enjoy imagining together. So if you’re a parent, grandparent, uncle, aunty, godparent or carer, come along with a 2 to 4 year old and join in the fun.

Dates & Times: 

Friday 4th October, 10.15am & 2pm
Saturday 5th October, 10.15am & 11.45am

For ages 2- 4

45 minutes

For more information and booking go to ark.ie/events/view/seedlings-howie-the-hedgehog

!!!! Early Years Seedlings Workshops at The Ark: Saving Selma the Seal

The Ark 

Dates: 2 & 3 August 2019

The Ark continue our monthly early-years programme Seedlings with a special workshop perfect for children ages 2-4 to get creative with their older relatives.

We’re heading to the sea this August in this early years drama workshop for little ones led by The Ark’s Early Years Artist in Residence Joanna Parkes.

Come on an imaginative journey to the beach! It’s a fine sunny day and the children are having fun playing in the sand. Then some unexpected visitors arrive and seem to behaving in a suspicious manner.

What is going on? Join in and explore what happens in this delightful workshop adventure by the sea.

Combining drama, story, play and props, this interactive drama workshop invites little ones and their grown-ups to enjoy imagining together. So if you’re a parent, grandparent, uncle, aunty, godparent or carer, come along with a 2 to 4 year old and join in the fun.

Dates & Times

For further information and ticket bookings go toark.ie/events/view/seedlings-early-years-workshops-aug19

!!!! Early Years Seedlings Workshops at The Ark: The King’s Beautiful Garden

The Ark

Dates: 5 & 6 July 2019

Enjoy participating in this joyful early years (ages 2-4) drama workshop about a beautiful imagined garden led by our The Ark’s Early Years Artist in Residence Joanna Parkes.

In this workshop, little ones will meet a king who loves spending time in his gorgeous garden surrounded by flowers, bees and butterflies.

One day he learns that other kings have wardrobes full of shiny cloaks and crowns so he buys himself a new cloak, and another, and another. Soon he has lots of dazzling cloaks of many colours but what about the garden? He has no money left to pay the gardeners and the garden is overgrown, the flowers are dying and the bees have gone.

Maybe you can make the King see sense and save his garden before it’s too late!

Combining drama, story, play and props, this interactive drama workshop invites little ones and their grown-ups to enjoy imagining together.

Dates & Times 

Friday 5 July at 10.15am & 2pm
Saturday 6 July at 10.15am & 11.45am

For further information and booking go to ark.ie/events/view/seedlings-early-years-workshops-jul19

!!!! Grown Up Talk: A Year of Early Years Visual Art at The Ark

The Ark – Lucy Hill & Christina Macrae

Date: 28th March 2019

Join artist Lucy Hill, our inaugural John Coolahan Early Years Artist in Residence, and her residency mentor Dr. Christina Macrae from Manchester Metropolitan University to celebrate, reflect on and discuss their experiences together as Lucy’s residency draws to an end. The fascinating discussion will include illustrations of key moments and learnings during the residency, the mentoring process, as well as research and ideas in early years and visual arts practice more generally.

Thought-provoking for parents, preschool and primary teachers, artists, arts managers and anyone with an interest in art and children.

For more information and bookings go to ark.ie/events/view/talk-for-grown-ups-a-year-of-early-years-visual-art

!!!! Guest Blogger: Ciara Gallagher Creativity and Change programme participant – Blog No. 2

Ciara Gallagher Profile PicCiara has a PhD in English from Maynooth University. She has worked as researcher on the National Collection of Children’s Books (TCD) and “Gender Identity: Child Readers and Library Collections” at the Centre for Children’s Literature and Culture, DCU. She has taught English in various universities and currently works at Kids’ Own Publishing Partnership as office administrator.

Making Connections – Blog 2

The Creativity and Change programme meets once a month for one full weekend, each weekend bringing new experiences, challenges, and connections. These full weekends allow participants a depth of experience in learning, critical thinking, and creativity. There are also spaces for pause, reflection, and making connections woven into the structure of the course, and I begin to appreciate the space for reflection that the weeks between each course weekend allow too.

The idea that creative engagement is key in facilitating transformative learning experiences that might effect change in the way we see, exist, and act in the world is at the core of the Creativity and Change programme. With this focus, new possibility is discovered within seemingly simple, everyday acts. Listening, speaking, and observing, core components of many adult education courses, are first given renewed attention. For example, as part of our learning in a day dedicated to transformative learning and the creative process, participants pair up and take turns speaking and listening without interruption. The experience of listening intently and actively, and that of speaking uninterrupted demonstrates perhaps how often we take these acts of speaking and listening for granted in teaching, in facilitation, and in learning, and in simply communicating with others.

Consideration of communication and creativity is furthered in a weekend dedicated to the exploration of visual facilitation, which broadly refers to a process of facilitating meetings, seminars and other exchanges in visual form using images, words and symbols. As someone used to working only in the written word, this was a challenge for me. We began by visually representing sounds and playfully making marks on the page in groups. Once those daunting first marks were made on our paper canvases, the temptation to overthink into inaction was removed, at least temporarily. As we gradually built toward the challenge of visually documenting the conversations of other participants, the merit of incorporating creatively challenging work into my own facilitation and my learning became clear. A completely different part of my thinking and concentration was engaged. I gained new insight into the process of how I listen as well as how I order and create meaning. Just as the exercise on speaking and listening drew attention to the dynamics of dialogue, this act of visually representing the groups’ words brought a new attention to how I interpret and document, as well as a feeling of responsibility to accurately reflect and honour the group’s conversation.

Developing new ways of seeing and interpreting continued throughout the weekend on visual facilitation, which concluded with the class working in small groups, each tasked with creatively representing different sets of data. Groups worked on visualising data relating to the deficiencies of the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) scheme, the difficulties people with disabilities face when trying to access social housing, and on numbers of people on housing lists against the units of social housing available – important data that can become meaningless in spite of its devastating reality. From an assortment of seemingly random materials, groups created stop-motion animations, made clay models, assembled sets, and designed performances incorporating material to represent this data. What emerged from the varieties of modes and forms through which this data was visually represented was perhaps the force of that which could not be measured or visualised, the shock of what this data represented that could not be contained or incorporated numerically. Through this creative process, the groups began to find new ways to see and explore some of the most pressing justice issues in our contemporary moment.

!!!! Exploring And Thinking: Presentations On Early Childhood Arts Commissions

The Four Dublin Local Authorities in association with the NCH

Date: 24th January 2019

Exploring and Thinking is a collaborative framework for early childhood arts in the Dublin region. It came about in 2016 when the four Dublin Local Authorities partnered for the first time to collectively consider early childhood arts provision in the Dublin region.

The project partners made a successful application for Arts Council funding under the Invitation to Collaboration Scheme 2016. The joint proposal focused on commissioning and touring new artwork to the four Local Authority areas with local engagement programmes, in arts and non-traditional arts venues.

The Exploring and Thinking framework culminated in the commissioning of two unique projects:

Anna Newell, I Am Baba – A new immersive theatre piece for babies aged 0-12 months. A full commission for the development, creation and tour of I Am Baba to the four Local Authority areas.

Helen Barry and Eamon Sweeney, Sculptunes – A modular interactive music-producing sculpture. A research and development commission, which supported the artists to develop one piece of the original sixpiece Sculptunes proposal and test this musical sculpture with children and early childcare practitioners.

The Local Authority partnership in association with the National Concert Hall (NCH) now wish to share the commissioned work and invite you to hear from the commissioned artists. A publication capturing a review of the commissioning process, outputs and impacts of the collaborative framework, alongside additional research conducted among the artists and key personnel will be presented on the day. Dr. Michelle Downes has been invited as keynote speaker to share some of her insights and findings on brain and behaviour development in the first years of life.

The inclusion of a space for reflection and discussion is included in the day’s events in the form of a focus workshop. Attendees are invited to communicate their experience of working in the early childhood arts sector with the local authority partners.

for more information and to view the full event schedule go to www.nch.ie/ExploringandThinking/

This is a free event but booking is required.

Bookings through NCH boxoffice at www.nch.ie or phone +353 (0)1 417 0000

!!!! Early Years workshop at The Ark: The King Who Finds Feelings Confusing

The Ark 

Date: 19 January 2019

Meet the King who has banned feelings and colours from his Kingdom in this fun and interactive workshop for 3 to 5 years olds and their grown-ups at The Ark, Dublin. In partnership with First Fortnight.

The King finds feelings confusing so he says no one can laugh or cry when he’s around. Feelings of happiness, sadness or anger are not allowed. He wants everything and everyone to be grey and gloomy all day long – so he’s banished colours as well.

Be part of a group of brave, young adventurers who decide this can’t be right, so go an a mission to collect the missing feelings and colours and bring them back to the Kingdom.

About Joanna Parkes

Joanna Parkes is a freelance drama facilitator and theatre practitioner working in Primary Schools and Teacher Training Colleges. As well as devising and delivering drama programmes in schools she has also written a number of teacher’s resources packs and publications. She has been running workshops and teacher-training at The Ark since 2013.

About First Fortnight

First Fortnight is a charity that challenges mental health prejudice through arts and cultural action. The First Fortnight Festival creates a consistent space in the cultural calendar where citizens can be inspired through arts events and experiences to talk about mental health issues in a non-scripted manner. This year they are delighted to host the European Mental Health Arts & Culture Festival in Ireland. Find out more at www.firstfortnight.ie. 

For more information and bookings go to ark.ie/events/view/the-king-who-finds-feelings-confusing.

!!!! Early Years Seedlings Workshops at The Ark

The Ark

2 – 3 November, 2018

Early Years Artist in residence Lucy Hill presents ‘Seedlings’ a series of workshops for children as part of the The Ark’s John Coolahan Early Years Artist Residency. The Seedlings workshops offer opportunities to explore materials and the world around them through playful and engaging activities – ideal for getting little ones (and their grown-up!) imagining and creating together.

Join Lucy Hill for ‘Plaster Caster’

Plaster is amazing! Its transforms from powder to liquid to solid, it warms up as it transforms and it can take as many shapes and forms as we ask it to. It’s a messy but exciting business!

To start, we will press things into brown clay to leave an impression (toys, fingers, shells), then we mix the lovely powder plaster with water and pour it onto the clay.

The plaster warms and then ‘sets’ (goes hard), we then peel the clay away from the plaster, to find a new plaster impression of our objects to paint and to take home! We can also try using other things as ‘moulds’ like orange peel, avocado skins, chestnuts.

Lucy Hill is the inaugural recipient of The Ark’s John Coolahan Early Years Artist Residency and will be devising and delivering an exciting workshop programme for children in the early years at The Ark from May 2018 until April 2019.

For further information and bookings go to ark.ie/events/view/seedlings-early-years-workshops-november

 

!!!! Opportunity for Artists: John Coolahan Early Years Artist Residency 2019/20 at The Ark

The Ark

Deadline: 5pm on Tuesday 30th October 2018

The Ark is delighted to invite professional artists from the fields of dance, theatre or music to apply for their second 12 month Early Years Artist Residency, running from May 2019-April 2020.

This artist residency opportunity has been established in honour of John Coolahan, who sadly passed away earlier this year. John was a longstanding member of The Ark board and a leading champion for arts education in Ireland.

Beginning in 2018, this residency aims to honour the legacy of Professor Coolahan by providing the selected artist with a yearlong opportunity to develop his/her early years arts practice in association with The Ark.

This opportunity recognises the importance of the arts in early childhood and aims to nurture and support the development of professional artists working in this emerging sector of arts practice.

The inaugural John Coolahan Early Years Artist in Residence at The Ark is visual artist Lucy Hill who will be in post until April 2019. As The Ark wishes to establish the residency as an annual opportunity, we are now seeking a new artist from the fields of dance, theatre or music who will take up the residency for a year from May 2019 when Lucy’s tenure comes to an end.

The selected artist will have a strong vision for how they would like to deepen the range of their experience, knowledge and practice with this age group through the unique context of this residency in collaboration with The Ark.

For further information including application guidelines and to access the online application go to ark.ie/news/post/open-call-john-coolahan-early-years-artist-residency-2019-20.

Completed applications must be received by 5pm on Tuesday 30th October 2018

!!!! Early Years Artist in Residence Opportunity at The Ark

The Ark

Deadline: 5pm, 20th March 2018

The Ark are delighted to announce a new early years residency opportunity established in honour of John Coolahan, a long-standing member of The Ark’s board, to celebrate his outstanding contribution to education in Ireland during his long and rich career.

This year long residency recognises the importance of the arts in early childhood and aims to nurture and support the development of professional artists working in this emerging sector of arts practice. The first residency will start in 2018 with the aim to establish this as an annual opportunity with a different artist being selected to take up the residency each year.

This opportunity is suitable for professional artists of any discipline with an existing early years practice who are interested in the opportunities and benefits of a long-term residency to develop their career and deepen the range of their experience, knowledge and practice with this age group. A key part of the residency will involve the chosen artist developing and leading of a series of early years workshops through monthly engagements (first weekend of the month) at The Ark.

Aspects of the residency will be delivered in association/partnership with Dublin City Council Arts Office.

For more information go to ark.ie/projects/details/john-coolahan-early-years-artist-residency

Deadline for application is 5pm, 20th March 2018. 

 

!!!! ‘Wide Eyes’ European Celebration of Performing Arts for the very young

Baboró International Arts Festival for Children

1 – 4 February, 2018

Baboró International Arts Festival for Children will host an exciting and imaginative programme of theatre and dance shows for babies and children aged 0 – 6 years, presented by Irish and international artists. Wide Eyes is a one-off four-day European celebration of Performing Arts for very young children that will take place in Galway from 1 – 4 February, 2018.

As well as an extensive workshop and performance programme for schools and early years groups, Wide Eyes will feature a range of talks and workshops for early years professionals, including a talk for early years educators and artists, Celebrating the Creative Arts in Early Years Setting, presented in collaboration with Early Childhood Ireland. There are also a limited number of delegate packages available for the event.

Wide Eyes is the culmination of a four-year ‘Small size, Performing Arts for Early Years’ project with European partners from Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Romania, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, UK and Ireland.

Wide Eyes will see 140 arts professionals from 17 organisations and 15 countries gather in Galway to present an extravaganza of new dance and theatre shows for 0-6 year olds developed specifically under the project’s overarching theme of ‘Wide Eyes’. The concept for Wide Eyes, developed by Project Leader, Roberto Frabetti of La Baracca – Testoni Ragazzi in Italy, is rooted in the belief that children are never too young to quite literally have their eyes opened wide in amazement while they experience the performing arts. The programme will feature performances for schools, crèches and families, produced by some of Europe’s finest creators of Early Years work, as well as professional development workshops and industry symposia.

For more information and to view the full programme of events go to www.baboro.ie/wide-eyes

Schools performances will take place on Thursday, 1 February and Friday, 2 February. We welcome bookings from early years groups such as; preschools, crèche and Montessori, junior and senior infants and those with additional needs.

!!!! Creative Ireland launches the ‘Creative Youth Plan’

Creative Ireland

On the 7th December Creative Ireland delivered on one of it’s key promises by publishing Creative Youth: a Plan to enable the Creative Potential of Every Child and Young Person.  This now represents the core work programme for Pillar 1 of the Creative Ireland Programme. Michael O’Reilly from Creative Ireland discusses the plan development and implementation.

Michael O’Reilly – Creative Ireland 

Developing the plan was an interesting and not entirely pain-free process: it is no secret that the 2018 budget didn’t allow as much scope for new investment as had been hoped.  But in the end, a creative engagement between the Department of Culture Heritage and the Gaeltacht, the Department of Education and Skills and the Department of Children and Youth Affairs produced a plan with a long-term vision – cultural and creative education for all – a strategic approach to the further development of pillar 1, and 18 implementation actions.

The two headline actions are implementation of Scoileanna Ildánacha / Creative Schools – an Arts Council led project, which is a development of the Arts in Education Charter initiative, Arts Rich Schools – ARIS, and the extension of Music Generation countrywide during the lifetime of the Programme.

There are several entirely new ideas in the plan but in the main it builds on existing initiatives.  For example there will be a significant research project, and a culture and creativity-mapping project, but both will build on existing work.

From our point of view the most encouraging aspect of the plan is the acceptance of the long term vision of cultural and creative education for all: Cultural education that enables young people to explore and understand their own and other people’s cultural assumptions, viewpoints, beliefs and values, and Creative education that uses the innate creative skills of children and young people as a powerful instrument of learning.

The plan is not static.  A Pillar 1 expert advisory group will be appointed shortly which will guide the further development of pillar 1 and also monitor the implementation of Creative Youth.  A cross-departmental working group and a senior officials group will ensure that implementation stays on track.

We now have a clear agenda and cross-government support for its implemenation.  The next few years will be both testing and exciting.

Click here to download the full report

!!!! Guest Blogger Milica Atanackovic, Training & Practice Manager Early Childhood Ireland – Blog 4

Milica HeadshotMilica (Mili) Atanackovic is a Practice and Training Manager with Early Childhood Ireland. Her background in the early years is rooted within a passionate interest in Creative Arts. Mili originally studied Design Communication before moving into Early Childhood Care and Education in Australia.  Considering training and mentoring as a key element of quality in the early years, Mili has worked as an Educator, Service Manager and Trainer, she also combines experience from a range of creative disciplines to her work.

The Art of Storytelling

“People think that stories are shaped by people. In fact, it’s the other way around.” Terry Pratchett

The art of storytelling allows children and adults to express themselves. A written story, an illustration and the spoken word can provoke an immediate connection. For very young children stories can have no words, a story might have clear meaning, but a story may also remain unclear – their play is the story. A teacher needs to tune in and listen to how even the youngest child is expressing their story, through for example their voice, actions, interactions, and hands-on experiences. The child needs tools to provoke a story, opportunity and time to share their thoughts. For older children exploring deeper questioning, their inquiry can be helped by the child and adult enquiring together.

Like a writer telling a story when a child can represent their ideas and words through creative processes, they can express thought and emotion. Expressing these emotions in a symbolic or abstract way. We do not have to draw, paint or photograph for children. Older children can be shown a variety of illustrative techniques that can inspire and provoke a representation of their individual ideas, but it is not a necessity.  By providing the tools, we support children to explore and contextualise their thought processes independently.  Through hands-on investigation and illustrative techniques children can develop an understanding of themselves and the world around them. Children can challenge and extend their own thinking, create new knowledge and engage individually or collaboratively in processes.

The creative child is encouraged when materials are presented for free uninterrupted exploration. By using art to tell stories, children are given the opportunity to problem solve, share, explore and communicate through the arts. Active involvement changes what they know and can do, developing creativity and storytelling concepts enables children to participate in and give voice to their thoughts, transferring and adapting what they have learned from one context to another.

One way Early Childhood Ireland encourages early childhood teachers to share children’s stories, is through our Book Club, the aim is to create a space where stories are shared with other children, teachers and families. We store them in our online Children’s Library, encouraging children as authors and illustrators. The book club is not about a product it is about seeing the beauty in what children say, think and create.  A child’s story does not need to be planned, it does not need to follow a sequence, children have an innate ability to take us on such amazing unexpected and inspiring adventures.

To be inspired by children’s stories or to submit a child’s story please visit https://www.earlychildhoodireland.ie/?s=book+club

!!!! Children’s voices: Are we listening? – Kids’ Own celebrate 20 years with 2 days of events

Kids’ Own Publishing Partnership

8th & 9th November 2017

Kids’ Own Publishing Partnership, as part of its 20-year anniversary celebrations, will host 2 days of sectoral activities, in partnership with Dublin Book Festival and The Ark, exploring the value of publishing with children, and interrogating how we can support children to be seen and heard within our literature, culture and society. With the ambitious vision of current policy to reach all children through cultural tuition by 2022, Kids’ Own seeks to ask how we make space for quality and depth of engagement to support children as cultural makers and creators in their own right.

8th November 2017
Round table discussion (10.30am – 4pm)
Chaired by Martin Drury

Through a series of presentations and discussions hosted by Kids’ Own Creative Director, Orla Kenny and Kids’ Own co-founder Victoria Ryle, the day will involve explorations and case studies of the Kids’ Own archive, followed by discussions involving a chaired panel of guest speakers, and focused conversations, where participants will be invited to explore and interrogate how we make space for quality and depth of engagement, the role of the professional artist working with children and young people, and how we give children’s work greater visibility and recognition within mainstream culture.

This event is free but booking is essential.

9th November 2017

A day of practical exploration and creativity
Workshops for artists, teachers and arts education practitioners

11am – 1pm
All That We Are: An artist-led public participatory workshop with Simon Spain (Australia)
Kids’ Own co-founder and artist Simon Spain returns to Ireland to share his practice with Irish artists, teachers and practitioners. Through this practical workshop where participants will make figures from wood and plaster that will be joined to create a gathering, Simon will discuss key elements of his current practice-based PhD enquiry about working as a socially engaged artist. The work is centred around a strong theory of collaborative making environments that create liminal spaces for individual input while leading to a shared outcome celebrating difference.

Workshop fee: €10

2pm – 5pm
Print and book-making workshop with Alain Regnier (Belgium)
In this workshop, printmaker and art teacher (and founder of Motamo International Biennial of Children’s Books) Alain Regnier shares his way of working and will support participants to make books that include print and text, inspired by the work of his second-level students in Belgium. Copies of the books made during this workshop will be taken back to Belgium to be shared with a European audience.

Workshop fee: €10

For all bookings go to ark.ie/events/view/childrens-voices-are-we-listening.

For more information go to kidsown.ie/childrens-voices-listening/

!!!! Blog 4: Jean Tormey: Interview with Assistant Curator Lucy McDonald

Jean Tormey is Curator of the Early Years and Families programme of resources, Jean Tormeyevents and projects at Tate Modern and Tate Britain for under 5s, 8-14s and intergenerational audiences. She has worked on Families’ programming in galleries since 2008. Her practice involves working with artists, audiences and colleagues at Tate to develop content and activity through which diverse children and families can be considered as equal and valued visitors to Tate. Jean has worked in gallery learning since 2005 as an intern in New York and as a learning curator in different galleries in Liverpool, Kilkenny and London. 

Blog 4: Interview with Assistant Curator Lucy McDonald

In my final blog post I’d like to focus on the most recent addition to Tate’s Early Years and Families’ programme offer – Under 5s Explore the Gallery – an artist-led, monthly event for under 5s and their families held in the collection galleries of Tate Britain. http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-britain/workshop/under-fives-explore-gallery.

To introduce another voice to this series of blogs, I asked Assistant Curator Lucy McDonald [1] (the lead curator on the under 5s programme strand) to reflect on her involvement in the development of this programme.

Where did the idea for ‘Under 5s Explore the Gallery’ come from?


The impetus came from an institutional objective to increase the family offer at Tate Britain – to improve attendance, but also visibility of this audience. It felt very important for the sessions to be held in the galleries – openly exploring the spaces and artworks as opposed to out of sight in a studio space. The presence of other gallery visitors in the sessions supports the building of families’ confidence to find their own individual way of being in the gallery as a family.



What are the key elements of this programme for you?


Key elements include the role of the artist, who are briefed carefully about their position in the sessions and invited to find ways of supporting families’ journeys through the galleries. Within this, children are encouraged to lead – deciding what to look at, where to go and setting the pace. The artist shares ideas they are exploring in their own practice to provide strategies that families can use to experience the spaces and artworks in their own way. These strategies can include, but are not exclusive to, ways of looking, ideas to promote discussion about art and/ or encourage physical exploration of the galleries. This is usually done with a selected range of materials that are introduced at carefully considered moments.

The structuring of the sessions is also key. Being in and moving around the galleries is core to the programme, so limiting the number of visitors that can join is important. Maximum group size is 30 including adults, ensuring the sessions do not become overwhelming for the participants or other visitors. This works towards the families being integrated into the everyday landscape of the gallery, so it doesn’t feel like a ‘special event’ as such, and families can feel empowered to return independently. The structure includes careful consideration of timing and pace, with the two hour duration allowing a relaxed, unrushed atmosphere.

Another key aspect of the programme is having a dedicated space to gather for the introduction, where the tone and some key ideas are first introduced. This space also acts as a place to return to during the sessions should families need to, as well as somewhere to re-group at the end to reflect on what has happened – encouraging families to recognise the learning that has taken place.

Reflection is core to Under 5s Explore, and it is encouraged to take place during the session and at the end, where families are invited to consider what is happening and what it means for them. Participants have access to digital cameras, where they can capture what they notice or something that happens within their family unit that they feel is of value. Images are projected at the end of the session, and families are invited to observe and chat about what they and other families notice, giving value to what they have done and learning further ways of exploring the gallery from other families.



What kind of artists’ practices are you interested in exploring, and how have artists used their practices to facilitate activity?

I am interested in practices that encourage a gentle approach to exploring new ideas, and artists that are skilled in supporting families to develop an understanding of artworks on their own terms – so that sessions are accessible to all visitors including new ones. For me, artists who have been particularly successful in facilitating the sessions in the past are those who are open to seeing them as a series of experiments or possibilities, and are confident in allowing unexpected happenings to unfold and emerge.

What has been the audience response to this event?

It has been really positive, with parents and carers reporting a real shortage of gallery/ museum programme specifically for this age group, especially ones that encourage children to lead and value the unpredictability they can bring to these environments. Through interviews with families during the first few months of the programme, I discovered that many have preconceptions about Tate Britain being less welcoming of families than Tate Modern, and less appropriate for under fives in particular. Happily, feedback gathered indicates that families greatly value the sessions, enjoy experiencing the galleries together and show an interest in returning.

How do you think this strand might develop in future?

I have been particularly struck by how families (especially young children) very intrinsically and naturally explore the space of the gallery with their whole bodies through movement. I would like to work with more artists who work with movement to experiment with this further, as I feel movement as a practice is a positive way to address the negative ideas about gallery behaviours and etiquette that many families have. This would need to be done carefully with the right artist to ensure it didn’t become too performative or intimidating in nature. 

I would love to see all families feeling like they no longer needed the support of the sessions to visit and be in the galleries, and that through the sessions a network of families could emerge, who become advocates for under 5s in galleries and museums more broadly.

[end of interview]

I think Lucy’s viewpoint in this concluding post reiterates some of the Reggio Emilia philosophy, as well as our non-negotiables discussed previously, and hope that the series as a whole have given a sense of the inspiration, thinking around and development of the early years programme at Tate.

[1] Lucy McDonald has been Assistant Curator on the Early Years and Families programme for the last 2 years with a special emphasis on early years, and has recently taken over as Curator (jointly with Jessie McLaughlin) to cover my maternity leave 2017/18. Lucy also worked as an Assistant Curator on the final year of the Big and Small programme in 2013/ 2014 and as project manager on a number of BP Family Festivals in  2014 and 2015.

!!!! Theatre for schools this term at Roscommon Arts Centre

The month of October at Roscommon Arts Centre means it’s Lollipops Children’s Festival time! We’ve planned a host of children’s events here at the arts centre for families, schools and crèches to enjoy. From theatre performances, music events, workshops, and exhibitions, the month of October is all about our youngest audience members! We hope you will come along and join us in some Lollipops fun!

Four Go Wild In Wellies –  A whimsical adventure featuring bobble hats, scarves, tents that have a life of their own and, of course, lots of fun in wellies! FRIDAY 6th OCTOBER 10am, €5, Ages 3 – 5

The Locksmiths Song – Set in the dusty world of an old locksmith’s shop in this tale is full of action and adventure. TUESDAY 17th OCTOBER, 10am, €5 Ages: 7+

They Called Her Vivaldi – Family favourites Theatre Lovett return with this upbeat comedy-adventure. WEDNESDAY 25th OCTOBER, 10am & 12pm, €5, Ages: 7+ and Adults of All Ages

And coming up in November!

The Ugly Duckling – In a nest at the edge of a pond a flock of baby ducklings find an enormous egg in their midst and here our story begins…. of the most unusual duckling the pond has ever seen. TUESDAY 28th NOVEMBER, 10am & 11.45am, €5, Ages 3+

For more information on shows, click here 

 

!!!! Blog 3: Jean Tormey, Curator Early Years & Families at Tate Modern & Tate Britain

Jean TormeyJean Tormey is Curator of the Early Years and Families programme of resources, events and projects at Tate Modern and Tate Britain for under 5s, 8-14s and intergenerational audiences. She has worked on Families’ programming in galleries since 2008. Her practice involves working with artists, audiences and colleagues at Tate to develop content and activity through which diverse children and families can be considered as equal and valued visitors to Tate. Jean has worked in gallery learning since 2005 as an intern in New York and as a learning curator in different galleries in Liverpool, Kilkenny and London.

Blog 3 – EYF programme

In this penultimate blog post I’d like to talk about what we currently programme for early years audiences at Tate Modern and Tate Britain, reflecting on the history of the programme and its current ‘non-negotiables’ of agency, curiosity, diversity and openness – which reflect the influence of the Reggio Emilia philosophy.[1]

By designing an open programme with artists, we aim to encourage the agency of a diverse group of children and carers to use their curiosity to explore the social space of the gallery together – inclusive of art and architecture – to co-construct meaning relevant to their lives.

Children of an early years’ age come to Tate with parents or guardians if they are in a family unit or early years’ practitioners if they are with their nursery, and our programme needs to speak to these adults as much as to the children. We are keen to acknowledge the expertise and inherent knowledge these adults hold in relation to the children in their care, and for our resources and events to draw this out and build on it. We offer a range of self-led resources that can be used independently for people to use in their own time and in their own way. Through their openness, our self-led resources aim to evoke the unique interests, abilities and motivations of visitors under 5.

An example of one of these resources at Tate Britain is ‘Swatch’.[2] Swatch takes its name from a colour swatch and is a palm-sized collection of cardboard pieces with images of details of the gallery (one of which has a raised texture, another a hole through which to look), a mirror piece and an orange-coloured perspex piece. Developed by artist Abigail Hunt [3] with the Early Years and Families’ team over 5 years ago, it has a long history with the programme.

Its language-free, sensory and tactile nature means it’s accessible to children with special education needs, and it has been used succesfully as part of projects for children with speech and language development needs as a communication tool in the gallery.[4] When facilitating the resource, we try and offer it to the child rather than the adult so that they can choose the images or materials that excite them to act as a catalyst for their collective experience of the gallery.

For many families a resource is not enough. An event, where parents/ carers know that other families will be present and more guidance will be offered, is far preferable. Our artist-led and staff-led events are aimed at either parents/ carers or early years’ practitioners and aim to support people to have confidence in using their own expertise and knowledge of the early year’s children in their care to support a very individual, child-led experience.

In the last year a new monthly event was launched by the Early Years and Families team at Tate Britain entitled Under 5s Explore the Gallery.[5] Taking the learning from the aforementioned Big and Small programme as well as borrowing a format similar to our 8-14s Studio programme at Tate Modern[6], this relatively new strand works with a different artist every 3 months and explores their practice in the galleries with families through different choices of artworks or spaces, materials and processes. This strand considers the environment of the gallery as educator, capitalises on the social experience of the gallery for families, and ensures early years audiences are visible and evident to other audiences.[7]

Another strand worth mentioning is our seasonal Early Exchange event for early years’ practitioners.[8] Building on previous experiences trying to work with partners in a reciprocal, equitable way through programmes like Big and Small and the Early Years Open Studio[9], this social event invites practitioners to come together, view an exhibition with early years audiences in mind, and engage in a discussion about the benefits and challenges of working with early years in the gallery. As well as being an opportunity for practitioners to find out what we do, it’s a great way for our team to find out about the challenges facing this audience and remain relevant to the sector. We invite these practitioners to return with groups of under 5s and lead their own visit of the galleries based on our advice and the learning from this event.

My next blog will consider the artists’ practicies being explored through our early years programme.

[1]  Up to date listings of what’s on for families at Tate can be found here –

http://www.tate.org.uk/visit/tate-modern/kids-and-families/tips-for-families

http://www.tate.org.uk/context-comment/articles/10-visiting-tips-tate-britain

[2]  Swatch is listed on the Tate website here after our Title resource which is a self-led paper-based resource aimed at visitors of all ages –

http://www.tate.org.uk/visit/tate-britain/pick-up-activities-2016

[3]  Abigail Hunt is an artist who we work with again and again on our early years programme and who has been pivotal in shaping what it is today. More information about her work can be found here –

http://www.abigailhunt.co.uk/a.statement

[4]  A major example of this is when it was used as part of projects for the Big Lottery funded Big and Small programme of long-term projects, veents and resources. More information and a film explaining the aims and different facets of this programme can be viewed here – http://www.tate.org.uk/about/projects/big-and-small.

[5]  More information about this event can be found here – http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-britain/workshop/under-fives-explore-gallery

[6]  More information about the 8-14s programme can be found here – http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-modern/workshop/8-14s-studio-performing-bodies.

[7]  Over the summer we worked with a PhD student who is looking into this area of practice in different arts organisations across the UK. http://www.tate.org.uk/research/research-centres/learning-research/in-progress/investigating-value-experiential-creative-play

[8]  More information about this event can be found here – http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-britain-tate-modern/courses-and-workshops/early-exchange-professional-development.

[9]  More information about this London Development Authority funded programme can be found here – http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-modern/courses-and-workshops/early-years-studio-programme-tate-modern

!!!! Guest Blogger Milica Atanackovic, Training & Practice Manager Early Childhood Ireland – Blog 1

Milica Headshot

Milica (Mili) Atanackovic is a Practice and Training Manager with Early Childhood Ireland. Her background in the early years is rooted within a passionate interest in Creative Arts. Mili originally studied Design Communication before moving into Early Childhood Care and Education in Australia.  Considering training and mentoring as a key element of quality in the early years, Mili has worked as an Educator, Service Manager and Trainer, she also combines experience from a range of creative disciplines to her work.

Creativity through materials, space and time 

‘There is no substitute for exploration, unconstrained by rules or expectations when it comes to generating creative solutions to our problems.’ Alison Gopnik

More and more research hints at simple, open-ended objects as ones that are most likely to be used continuously, over and over to stimulate the imagination of children regardless of their age. These are objects such as cups, tubes, fabric, natural elements including bark, sticks, stones, feathers. These are materials that can be used in multiple ways, and are activated and defined by the child’s exploration. Three settings – Creative Kids Walkinstown, Corduff Childcare and YMCA Childcare Kidsworld Creche – were selected to participate in a sensory project with ReCreate* and Early Childhood Ireland, and use open-ended materials within their existing environments. The project was based on the strategic approach of ReCreate and Early Childhood Ireland to support the arts in early childhood education, and focused on the marriage of the arts and pedagogy – the arts as a language of inquiry, a way of communicating, exploring and thinking (Aistear 2009) in early childhood.

The sensory project took reusable open-ended materials from ReCreate to engage children’s senses through play. The artist Deirdre Rogers from ReCreate set up each room with objects intended to spark curiosity, imagination and exploration. The focus was the process of exploration – allowing children to be with the materials, to create without seeking a result. It positioned the environment as the ‘third teacher’ – an ECE environment can bring hope and inspiration to the child and educator, or it can be lack lustre and leave them frustrated. Seeing the environment as a teacher reminds us that our spaces should provoke learning and stretch the mind.

Children need to be given the opportunity to realise their potential as thinkers and creators. Open-ended materials and unstructured play encourage them to devise their own challenges, problem-solve and be immersed in their thoughts. Children in the throngs of self-directed creative play are too often interrupted. Creativity is nurtured when adults master the skill of quiet observation, answering questions from children when requested to. In the sensory project, educators were positioned as observers and co-explorers, not instructors, to support each child’s creative spirit.

One goal was for children to use the materials to develop their own problem-solving abilities through trial and error. Through observation, the educators made additional sensory provocations available and incorporated these into the spaces as extensions of the children’s exploratory processes. Photography was used to document the processes children engaged in. Photographs help boost children’s memories by  revisiting their experiences and reminding them of the process. During the project, the children were confident, resembling scientists in the depths of problem solving and questioning. As Alison Gopnik has discovered, children are like ‘scientists testing theories’, expressing their intelligence through connections with the every day, with people and objects. Explicit teaching can interfere with what comes innately to young children.

By giving the children more time to exhibit their independence and engage with each provocation, and have a say in what was going on around them, they started to develop the sense that their own ideas and opinions matter. The children moved bubble wrap through the space, popping it using their hands and feet, the technique of jumping was applied and the couch was used as a prop to bring more height to the experience. They explored, for example, light and shadow using projectors, tasted the bitterness of lemons, constructed and deconstructed a wide variety of objects. The camaraderie oozed from each small group as experiences strengthened their play communities. Masterful negotiations were witnessed as the children’s play was extended.

We sometimes unintentionally limit children’s ideas and creativity by assuming they are aiming for a specific outcome or result. Our role is to offer encouragement, rather than instructions. The child’s sense of agency was encouraged by welcoming and responding thoughtfully and respectfully to their questions and ideas. One of the best aspects of inquiry-based approaches is that they often lead to unexpected surprises and extended ongoing investigations. One goal of the project was to support educators in using open-ended materials in their environments, to develop sensory spaces that extend beyond one-off activities. However, the overarching goal was to ensure each child is given the space to engage uninterrupted and unquestioned, tuned in to each precious moment in time.

*ReCreate: recreate.ie/Recreate is a thriving social enterprise making art materials and educational supplies affordable and accessible to every sector of the community.

!!!! Blog 2: Jean Tormey, Curator Early Years & Families at Tate Modern & Tate Britain

Jean TormeyJean Tormey is Curator of the Early Years and Families programme of resources, events and projects at Tate Modern and Tate Britain for under 5s, 8-14s and intergenerational audiences. She has worked on Families’ programming in galleries since 2008. Her practice involves working with artists, audiences and colleagues at Tate to develop content and activity through which diverse children and families can be considered as equal and valued visitors to Tate. Jean has worked in gallery learning since 2005 as an intern in New York and as a learning curator in different galleries in Liverpool, Kilkenny and London.

Blog Post 2:

This post looks at some of the key parallels between the Reggio Emilia philosophy and the ‘non-negotiables’ or values of Tate Learning’s Early Years and Families’ programme. It’s worth noting just how different the conditions of each context are before launching into this. While the early years’ schools of Reggio Emilia are formal educational settings, Tate offers an informal, flexible learning setting not restricted by the demands of curricula, but inextricably linked to the Tate collection (sometimes exhibitions) and the buildings artwork is housed within. In Reggio Emilia, the pedagogistas, atelieristas and others who run the schools have an opportunity to get to know children and families well, meeting them daily and going on a journey of at least an academic year with them. At Tate, the Early Years and Families’ team are usually dealing with a transient, fleeting audience who drop in to the programme occasionally – sometimes by accident. Despite this, there are many correlations that can be made between our approaches to learning.

Agency

In the Early Years and Families’ team, we are passionate about treating children as equal gallery visitors and as an audience of the here and now rather than a developmental audience of the future. Similar to Reggio, this is about treating every child as an individual and programming in a way that recognises their unique interests, abilities and motivations.

One of our key values as a team is agency. We aim to design a programme that invites families of all ages from many different backgrounds with a range of experiences and knowledge to participate and find their own personal route through the gallery via our programme. Our resources and events should be an opportunity for families to co-construct meaning together (which also relates to the Reggio approach). In order for this to be successful, activities need to speak to and attract both adults and children in a very open-ended way.

Art and artists

The status of artists on our programme and the way we work with them can be compared to the Reggio approach. When we engage artists in the work we do, it’s about agreeing on where we would like to get to in terms of audience engagement, without knowing exactly how we’re going to get there.[1] This makes it an exciting but often complex relationship that needs to be continually managed and reflected upon.

Like in Reggio, we view artists as experts in their own practice and as having a very particular view of the world which can be very different to ours, but we do not expect them to be experts in working with children or the Tate collection – which is where our expertise comes in. At the heart of this is a discussion about their studio practice and how the materials and processes might relate to engagement with the Tate collection and our audience.

Curiosity

When working with an artist, our approach to the framing of an activity and to the use of materials we employ can be compared to the Reggio approach too. We believe in using high quality materials that relate to artists’ studio practice, ones that cannot be found in conventional educational settings. We aim to present these materials in a way that engages children and families’ curiosity (another of our non-negotiable) and imagination through introducing materials and processes in layers that unfold, rather than introducing everything all at once. This relates to the Reggio Emilia belief in ‘environment as educator’, and we would include the setting and location of our activity in this – the galleries and architectural spaces of Tate.

A social space

By its very nature the gallery environment is a public, social space. It is a space where families have the potential to view each other in a very different light, where they can encounter (and sometimes collide with!) other visitors, and where they can communicate about ideas and issues they may not have explored before. I think this aspect of our work relates to the importance Reggio places in children forming relationships with other people in order to learn. We are keen to make our programme as visible as possible in the gallery so that families and our programme can be seen and heard rather than tucked away in a studio space.

In my next blog post I’ll consider some specific examples of programming for early years audiences at Tate.

[1]   I always find a quote by artist Jeremy Deller useful when thinking about this – “A good collaboration is like going on a long journey without a map, never knowing quite where you will end up.”

http://www.tate.org.uk/about/our-work/learning-at-tate

!!!! Guest Blogger: Carmel Brennan, Head of Practice Early Childhood Ireland – Blog 2

Carmel Brennan is Head of Training and Practice with Early Childhood Ireland, with responsibility for the organisation’s work in developinDr. Carmel Brennan headshotg curriculum, improving practice and supporting services to work with the national frameworks. Their aim is to push the boundaries of our thinking and practice as we engage with the image of the competent, playful child. Carmel has also worked as an early childhood educator, mentor and researcher. Her research interests are in the areas of curriculum and particularly children’s play – the subject of her PhD thesis. More recently, she focusses on children’s co-construction of stories through play and the relationship between play and the arts in children’s lives. She edited the IPPA publication ‘Power of Play’ and has contributed chapters to ‘Early Childhood Education and Care’ (Mhic Mhathúna and Taylor (Eds), 2012), to the Pen Green publication ‘Using Evidence for Advocacy and Resistance in Early Years Services’ (McKinnon (Ed), 2014) and to two Kids Own reports on arts projects with young children, ‘Lullabies’ and ‘Being and  Belonging’. She is also author of the essay ‘Artistic Enquiry in Early childhood Education’ on this portal.

‘It is in playing, and only in playing, that the individual child or adult is able to be creative and to use the whole personality, and it is only in being creative that the individual discovers the self’

‘The strange human urge to shape and share fantasies of action and experience is with us from birth. It is innate, not acquired, but must grow in company’ (Trevarthen, 2001a, 2005, 2009a, 2011a).

The art of play is the art of living life to the full.

I’m a huge fan of Colwyn Trevarthen’s work.  I think he constantly brings us into the real world of the human drives and dynamics and reminds us just how amazing we humans are. I’ve grouped the above photo and quote together because the photo, for me, speaks to the art of sharing fantasies of action and experience. This huge tractor tyre is now the edge of a ravine and the children dare to plunge into its fearsome waters – sharing fantasies of action and experience. Their story draws on other stories, on experiences and possibilities. I’m reminded of what Alison Gopnik describes as the most uniquely human characteristic, the ability to imagine.  I’m thinking about Bruner’s contention that we imagine ourselves into being – that children are in the process of encountering and creating possible selves through the stories they create – possible mothers and fathers, possible big sisters, possible builders, astronauts, teachers, shopkeepers, doctors, dinosaurs and, here, ravine divers. And Carl Jung’s premise that the creation of something new is not achieved by the intellect but by the imagination.  And Winnicott’s (1971:54) who says that

‘It is in playing, and only in playing, that the individual child or adult is able to be creative and to use the whole personality, and it is only in being creative that the individual discovers the self’.  

Is it any wonder that play has survived evolution across all species?  Is it any wonder that humans have brought it to such a fine art? There you go – the words play and art in one sentence!  I’m interested in the relationship between play and art.

There is a recognition of this relationship in recent research in Ireland. The ESRI/Arts Council report (2016) ‘Arts and Cultural Participation among Children and Young People: Insights from the Growing Up in Ireland Study’ recognises ‘the mosaic of ways in which children and young people express themselves and interact with the world of culture’ and so their definition of art includes young children’s engagement in creative play and make believe games. There are some interesting findings.  Just as with literacy and numeracy and all forms of development, they find that make-believe play is a precursor to the development of an artistic and creative imagination. I welcome this recognition for play. I don’t like the term precursor – it belongs to that school of giving priority to adult forms of maturity. We need to remind ourselves that children do some things better than adults, among them is play and the easy shift into the imaginary and creative world. Creativity is at its peak in early childhood – not a precursor to better things. Creativity is at its peak because children need to learn so much in such a short time and the innate creative drive makes it possible.

Another interesting finding is that, according to their parents, five year olds engage in pretend play while 3 year olds don’t. How could that be?  I have no doubt that all these parents play pretend games with their children from the moment they are born.  They pretend to be surprised, shocked, overjoyed, lost, found, toe eaters, belly guzzlers.  They look for their children’s lost heads and hands as they pull on a vest or encourage them to wriggle through sleeves.  They drive buggies with engine sounds. They pretend to be dogs and cats and any animal that makes a sound. They play hide and go seek.  They feed teddy and put him to bed.  They do all these things to help children to manage, and to engage, entertain and humour them because nature tells us that the dramatic, emotional, fun filled world of play is the way to bring children into the dynamics of human communication, into the rituals and routines of life, into cooperation and competence.  These are all art-full interactions, full of drama, emotion, movement, big gestures and, of course, creative meaning making.  That’s why people like Stern and Trevarthen call it a dance. It is an art form.

Of course, children do not engage in play to create art. The primary purpose of play, according to Sutton Smith (1997), is simply to enjoy and become better at playing. The baby’s exploratory body movements, exercising vocal cords, moving backwards and forwards, rolling and swinging are all done for their own sake, for the excitement and pleasure of movement itself. And the wonderful trick of nature is that the leap from a rock not only pleases but develops the body and, at the same time, teaches about gravity and, most importantly, exercises the brain so that it stays sharp, flexible and innovative.  Body and brain are being sculpted in play.

Drawing on another art form, children add story to their play.  Adding narrative brings children together and generates companionship, adds excitement, and sustains the play. Play narratives require certain creative skills – ideas, improvisation, role enacting, imagination, plot development, dialogue in keeping with the persona – all very demanding skills.  Players need to present as authentic, convincing, trustworthy as well as innovative and challenging. Being an active participant in play stories is important if your voice is to be included in the view of the world being constructed.  Children, as Stainton Rogers (1995) says, are creating the ‘narratives through which we render ourselves and our worlds intelligible’ – a shared frame for seeing the world. I’m a collector of those narratives and I wallow in them because they speak to me of children’s empathy and kindness, of their fears and consolations, of their experiences of the adult world and its rules, rituals and power struggles.  Gussin Paley tells us that play is like theatre with universal themes such as someone is lost and finds a friend, is unloved and finds love, confronts life and death, is weak and then strong. Think of these themes as you read this play story:

 A group of 5/6 children come running up to me screaming and laughing. I kneel and ask what’s happened. They talk about the Dragon living behind the shed. We go to have a look and once again they all run away screaming. Rob’s suggestion that they get swords and shields to fight the dragon meets with agreement so off they go in search of useful material. They come back with brushes, spades, buckets and bin lids to fight the dragon. Eventually they decide that the dragon is too powerful and they must find another way to fight him. 

Katie then puts her sword down and goes behind the shed, much to the shock and resistance of the others. She returns moments later explaining that “it was a mammy dragon” who was protecting her “baby dragons”. Everything changes. The children decide to keep the dragon as a pet. They name her “Arnold the Dragon”, and have great fun taking turns to fly around with her. Once inside, the children draw pictures of Arnold and even go to the gate at home time to say goodbye to her.  

It seems to me that these children are also working on a very important moral – and that is, that perspective changes everything.  Perspective can change an invincible dragon into a pet to be cared for. And Katie demonstrates that changing perspective takes leadership and courage – and caring is comforting for everyone.  The children have co-constructed an experience, generated strong feelings and developed a story – each element in itself is an artistic experience.

So, is play art?  Does it involve a desire for meaning, curiosity, wonder, feeling, thinking, imagining, relating, expressing?  Does it involve active participation in creating something new? Is it about finding joy? These, according to people such as Ann Pelo, Vea Vecchi and Deb Curtis, are the key indicators of an art experience – and children’s make-believe play ticks every box.   Don’t be fooled by the lure of teaching young children lessons that they can repeat and show off to adults. We can train children to do routine things –say hello, please and thank you, eat with a spoon, dress themselves, recite the ABC, sound out words, count to ten, learn multiple times tables etc. but.. for children to be alert, responsive and intelligent thinkers they must engage in the art of free play. Nothing is as important as the experience of play for the sake of play – for the fun of it – for the very fact that through play we learn the skills needed for play and we get better at them – such skills as the serve and return of interaction, the mind reading, the intersubjectivity, formulating ideas, running with the ideas of others, being fun to be with, being a cooperative, giving team player, generating energy and enthusiasm, problem solving on the hoof. The most important thing that children learn through play is how to play well -they are the traits that make for a healthy and successful life across the social, economic and health spectrums.  Like all the important things in life, they generally only get assessed when they’re missing!  Play is improvisation, drama, design, creative use of materials, symbolism, dance, story-creating and telling, characterisation, fantasy, imagination and real life enquiry. The art of play is the art of living life to the full.

art of play web

!!!! Guest Blogger: Carmel Brennan, Head of Practice Early Childhood Ireland – Blog 1

Dr. Carmel Brennan headshot

Carmel Brennan is Head of Training and Practice with Early Childhood Ireland, with responsibility for the organisation’s work in developing curriculum, improving practice and supporting services to work with the national frameworks. Their aim is to push the boundaries of our thinking and practice as we engage with the image of the competent, playful child. Carmel has also worked as an early childhood educator, mentor and researcher. Her research interests are in the areas of curriculum and particularly children’s play – the subject of her PhD thesis. More recently, she focusses on children’s co-construction of stories through play and the relationship between play and the arts in children’s lives. She edited the IPPA publication ‘Power of Play’ and has contributed chapters to ‘Early Childhood Education and Care’ (Mhic Mhathúna and Taylor (Eds), 2012), to the Pen Green publication ‘Using Evidence for Advocacy and Resistance in Early Years Services’ (McKinnon (Ed), 2014) and to two Kids Own reports on arts projects with young children, ‘Lullabies’ and ‘Being and  Belonging’. She is also author of the essay ‘Artistic Enquiry in Early childhood Education’ on this portal.

The Squashed Apple 2

Living Art with Young Children

‘Accepting – or at least acknowledging all the children offer is a real key into the endless realms of imagination that are only waiting for our bravery’. Martin Brunsden, Musician

We have long known that young children are intent observers of the workings of the world and compulsive meaning makers about everything they see around them but, somehow, we are only beginning to understand their capacity to teach us about life.

The painting tells a story of first encounter. It represents the squashed and decayed apple that he saw on his way to preschool with his mother, according to the artist. It speaks to me of wonder, of beauty, and of sadness – all of which gives food for thought, for some questions. Did the painter set out to paint what he saw? Or was it something that emerged in the encounter with the art materials that subsequently surfaced the story? Maybe his painting started life as another idea or just a series of brush movements and like so many children’s paintings, layered with paint, turns into a brown circle. Maybe the circle evokes a memory of something experienced, something observed. The question is where is the art in this whole experience? Is the art in the representation or in the first encounter with the decayed apple? Is the art in his wondering, in the conversation, in the enquiry with his mother, in that moment of connection, of sharing? We can easily imagine a lovely moment when his mother looks to his wondering – and explains, as you do, something of the cycle of life – apples fall and decay.  We can imagine the questioning and the dawning understanding in the child’s eyes – something significant has landed in his consciousness and leaves an impression that lingers there – so much so that he feels the need to express it with paint. He paints the story. Is the art in what is etched in his memory? Imagine an educator who stops to listen, feels the connection, experiences the beauty and joins in the wondering. Is this an aesthetic experience? The point is that depending on our capacity to see, or the lens we use, we can see art in almost everything children do – because children’s exploits have the key ingredients of enquiry, wonder, awe and emotional connection. The product is just a small part of the art process.

Young children, by the very nature of coming to know the world, live the creative life. They are meeting the world for the first time and creating new perspectives. They bring something new to the world.  Alison Gopnik calls early childhood ‘the research department’ of life, when children, untethered by information and obligations to get it right, are free to wonder and engage with multiple possibilities – not defined by end results. Working with the early years requires us to let go of prescribed expectations and traditional norms, milestones and measurements.  Instead we think of the encounters that allow the new personhood of each child to emerge and register itself in the community. As Educators, we are called on to exercise our sense of wonder, imagination and playfulness. It requires us to be present to – to listen with our eyes and ears and hearts to children’s explorations and discoveries – and with them to see the world anew. The learning is in the listening, the being with, the co-experiencing, the conversation, in the

‘the feeling of being present with one another’ (Trevarthen, 2001:20).

Vecchi’s (2010:5) says that art is  ‘an attitude of care and attention for the things we do, a desire for meaning; it is curiosity and wonder; it is the opposite of indifference and carelessness, of conformity, of absence of participation and feeling…..’.

In the end, that is why what children do is art – they bring a new perspective to the world – a new way of seeing things.

This all came home forcefully to me on a day that I spent with the artist, Maree Hensey and musician, Martin Brunsden on the Lullaby project, an art project with babies, a few years ago. It was all so simple. The scene was set by stacking all the plastic toys in a corner and creating a space in the middle of the room where beautiful materials were introduced, sand, ribbons, boxes, feathers, musical instruments. The children were invited to play with them.  Something descended on that space – an atmosphere that held the experience of a lullaby,

a stillness… this lull…this lullaby essence..…we have achieved it several times and sometimes with such force that the room becomes tender and emotional and yet still safe and supportive’ (Martin Brunsden)

Everything slowed down. We watched with keen interest – so interested in how these babies thought and felt and responded. Nothing was more important than the present moment – the looking, touching, feeling, tasting, wondering, questioning, pulling, pushing, listening, smiling, mouth opened, eyes agog, hands and legs vibrating, and the sounds of wonder, gurgling, hands clapping – just what happens in each moment.

As Educators, we commonly use the term ‘art’ to refer to static objects such as paintings, sculptures and songs but Vea Vecchi (2010) tells us that art can simply be a way of being in the world. Art is in the experience of encounter, the movement of the body, the narratives we create, the beauty we perceive, the eye of the beholder. In the early childhood sector, we think of art as a process to be lived – a process that includes to explore, sense, action, think, feel, express, communicate, create. It’s in the moment.

Were there moments in your experience today?

going through ribbon harp 2 copy

 

!!!! Arts Council call out – Creative Schools Project Team

The Arts Council’s Creative Schools Initiative

The Arts Council is establishing a project team to lead Scoileanna Ildánacha/Creative Schools – a partnership initiative with the Department of Education and Skills. This initiative is being developed in the context of the Creative Ireland programme 2017–2022 and with the support of the Department of Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs.

Scoileanna Ildánacha/Creative Schools is an ambitious national initiative, which sets out to understand, develop and celebrate the arts in Irish schools, and to foster children and young people’s creativity and participation in the arts as an integral part of their education in Ireland.

The project team will be based in the Arts Council, 70 Merrion Square, Dublin 2.

The Project Lead will be procured by an EU public tender process and will be responsible for the development and implementation of the first phase of this important national initiative, and future phases, subject to agreement.

In addition, up to two Advisers will be recruited on a secondment basis from the Department of Education and Skills on an initial one year basis. These secondees will be qualified and registered teachers. A Primary and Early Childhood Education Adviser and a Post-Primary Education Adviser will work alongside the Project Lead and will contribute to the design and development of the Scoileanna Ildánacha/Creative Schools initiative as it relates to primary and early childhood education; and to post-primary education respectively.

Further information

For more information on the Project Lead tender and required services, please visit the Arts Council’s tenders page.

For more information on the roles of Primary and Early Childhood Education Adviser and Post-Primary Education Adviser please visit the Arts Council’s jobs page.

(Note: Scoileanna Ildánacha/Creative Schools is a working title. This initiative was formerly known as ARIS/Arts Rich Schools.)

!!!! Blog 1: Jean Tormey, Curator Early Years & Families at Tate Modern & Tate Britain

Jean TormeyJean Tormey is Curator of the Early Years and Families programme of resources, events and projects at Tate Modern and Tate Britain for under 5s, 8-14s and intergenerational audiences. She has worked on Families’ programming in galleries since 2008. Her practice involves working with artists, audiences and colleagues at Tate to develop content and activity through which diverse children and families can be considered as equal and valued visitors to Tate. Jean has worked in gallery learning since 2005 as an intern in New York and as a learning curator in different galleries in Liverpool, Kilkenny and London

Inspiration for Tate’s EYF programme – the Reggio Emilia approach

“The child is not a citizen of the future; they are a citizen from the very first moment of life and also the most important citizen because they represent and bring the ‘possible’… a bearer, here and now of rights, of values, of culture… It is our historical responsibility not only to affirm this, but to create cultural, social, political and educational contexts which are able to receive children and dialogue with their potential for constructing human rights.” Carlina Rinaldi, In Dialogue with Reggio Emilia: Listening, Researching and Learning

 When I took up the post of Early Years and Families (EYF) Curator at Tate, most of my experience was with families’ programming aimed at 5-12 year olds, with under 5s included as part of an intergenerational group, or where activity was primarily aimed at parents with an understanding that early years are welcome.[i]

I was introduced to the theory influencing Tate’s EYF programme – the Reggio Emilia approach[ii] – by the Convenor of the programme, Susan Sheddan[iii], and through working on the programme have learnt about the potential of the gallery to be used as an important site of learning and communication specifically for this agegroup.

The infant and toddler schools of Reggio offer places to 0-6 year olds and consist of a mixture of municipal, state, public and private schools. The aims of the schools are to involve their community in participatory consultation in all aspects of their running, to be transparent and shared in this approach, to give substance and voice to the rights of children, parents and teachers, and to improve the quality of life of children in the city overall. Each centre has a pedagogista, teacher, atelierista and cook. Children and parents are involved in the running of each centre, which is closely connected to its context. The process of how people communicate and when is of utmost importance to the streamlined running of the centre.

The learning principles of Reggio are that children must have some control over the direction of their learning, be able to learn through experiences of touching, moving, listening, seeing and hearing; have a relationship with other children and with material items in the world that they must be allowed to explore, and have endless ways and opportunities to express themselves. I had the opportunity to visit Reggio Emilia for a study week in spring 2014 and came away with the following highlights relevant to my work at Tate. These are reflected in the EYF team’s current values or ‘non-negotiables’ of agency, curiosity, diversity and openness.

“The best we can be”: Carla Rinaldi, president of Reggio Children, talks about childhood as a quality (not just a stage of life), and about it representing ‘the best we can be’. She describes children as being in a constant state of searching for meaning and understanding in the world – interpreting their surroundings to find answers in life. The Reggio approach sees children as keen, sensitive observers with the  potential to fill flexible contexts and generative environments with meaning.

Diffused atelier: There is an atelier (studio) and atelierista (studio artist) in every Reggio school. Atelieristas are considered to have heightened awareness of contemporary culture, know how to interpret art, and have a unique perspective on learning. They work as co-constructors with teachers, students and parents to create contexts for learning a range of different subjects – the process for which can be compared to an artist developing work in their studio. The atelier, a metaphor for the Reggio approach as a whole, pervades the public space of the school so that everyone involved can influence the atelier and come together to co-construct meaning.

Co-researchers: The role of the teacher is as researcher alongside the children (with parents and artists). This might include exploring existing theories together, but also developing new theories and going to new places of learning as a result of exploration. Parents are involved as much as possible in the building of shared value.

Traces of learning: In order to research alongside children, observation (of and by children) is a key process used by Reggio teams – with drawing being used as a consistent tool for this, revealing traces of learning. Active listening, consulting with and talking to children about what they have noticed or observed develops critical thinking skills among children.

Exchange: The Reggio approach is highly influenced by Lev Vygotsky and the belief that psychological development occurs through interpersonal connections, actions and play in small groups. Children have a predisposal to creating relations and engaging in exchange. This is encouraged in Reggio schools by adults offering their point of view ready for children to offer theirs, using a range of the so called ‘100 languages’ Reggio deem children to have.

Education is political: Reggio is a political project, ultimately trying to change the status of EY schools nationally in Italy from service providers to education centres. They consistently refer to the rights of children and to some children as having ‘special rights’ (rather than special needs). In Reggio Emilia itself, the schools played an important role in welcoming and involving immigrant communities from Africa, the Middle East, Eastern Europe and China.

‘Shaped by the city but also shaping the city’: The city of Reggio plays a leading role in the school – it is referred to as a protagonist, with schools visibly present in the city/ their local areas. Bringing the school and children to the city and making the culture of children more public strengthens the school’s alliance with their context.

 In the next post I’ll explore how the Reggio Emilia approach influences the EYF programme at Tate.

[1] Examples of this activity are National Drawing Day at the Butler Gallery Kilkenny www.butlergallery.com/national-drawing-day-2016/ or Crib Notes at the Whitechapel www.whitechapelgallery.org/events/crib-notes-emma-hart-mamma-mia/.

[1] The Reggio Emilia approach emerged in the small northern Italian city of Reggio Emilia after it was badly affected by World War II. A visionary educator named Loris Malaguzzi (1920-1994) along with parents from the locality wanted  “… to bring change and create a new, more just world, free from oppression” urging people to “gather their strength and build with their own hands schools for their young children.” Influenced by early childhood psychologists and philosophers such as Dewey, Piaget, Vygotsky, Gardner and Bruner, the educators of Reggio Emilia, inspired by their already existing community-centred culture, went about setting up a new form of early years learning for the children of the city.

In 1963, with great economic and social development taking place across Italy, the first municipal preschool was opened. In the late 1960s the schools were transferred to the city government for operation and financing. There was a feminist focus to the setting up of the schools as it enabled women to go back to work and tried to garner more respect for early years educators, usually the responsibility of women (formally/ informally). By the 1980s the Malaguzzi method was known and appreciated by many educators including thanks to an exhibition at the Modern Museet in Stockholm. At this time, the National Group for Work and Study on Infant Toddler Centres was formed in Italy.

In 2003 the municipality of Reggio Emilia chose to manage the system and the network of school services and toddler centres by forming the Istituzione Scuole e Nidi d’Infanzia. Municipal schools and preschools had their own independent programs and activities, but were supported by the public sector. The political roots of the approach and its continued political engagement in campaigning for the importance of governmental support for early years education is important to acknowledge.

In February 2006, the Loris Malaguzzi International Centre opened in Reggio Emilia for professional development and research of the philosophy. The foundation was officially established in 2011 with the aim of “Education and research to improve the lives of people and communities, in Reggio Emilia and in the world”.

[1] More can be learnt in Transforming Tate Leaning about the influence of Reggio Emilia on the programme at this time – http://www.tate.org.uk/download/file/fid/30243.

 

 

 


                                                                                                                                           

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[i] Examples of this activity are National Drawing Day at the Butler Gallery Kilkenny http://www.butlergallery.com/national-drawing-day-2016/ or Crib Notes at the Whitechapel http://www.whitechapelgallery.org/events/crib-notes-emma-hart-mamma-mia/.

[ii] The Reggio Emilia approach emerged in the small northern Italian city of Reggio Emilia after it was badly affected by World War II. A visionary educator named Loris Malaguzzi (1920-1994) along with parents from the locality wanted  “… to bring change and create a new, more just world, free from oppression” urging people to “gather their strength and build with their own hands schools for their young children.” Influenced by early childhood psychologists and philosophers such as Dewey, Piaget, Vygotsky, Gardner and Bruner, the educators of Reggio Emilia, inspired by their already existing community-centred culture, went about setting up a new form of early years learning for the children of the city.

 

In 1963, with great economic and social development taking place across Italy, the first municipal preschool was opened. In the late 1960s the schools were transferred to the city government for operation and financing. There was a feminist focus to the setting up of the schools as it enabled women to go back to work and tried to garner more respect for early years educators, usually the responsibility of women (formally/ informally). By the 1980s the Malaguzzi method was known and appreciated by many educators including thanks to an exhibition at the Modern Museet in Stockholm. At this time, the National Group for Work and Study on Infant Toddler Centres was formed in Italy.

 

In 2003 the municipality of Reggio Emilia chose to manage the system and the network of school services and toddler centres by forming the Istituzione Scuole e Nidi d’Infanzia. Municipal schools and preschools had their own independent programs and activities, but were supported by the public sector. The political roots of the approach and its continued political engagement in campaigning for the importance of governmental support for early years education is important to acknowledge.

 

In February 2006, the Loris Malaguzzi International Centre opened in Reggio Emilia for professional development and research of the philosophy. The foundation was officially established in 2011 with the aim of “Education and research to improve the lives of people and communities, in Reggio Emilia and in the world”.

 

[iii] More can be learnt in Transforming Tate Leaning about the influence of Reggio Emilia on the programme at this time – http://www.tate.org.uk/download/file/fid/30243.

!!!! Arts in Education Portal National Day video is now live!

“The arts transformed my love of learning and are the reason I’m standing before you today” Prof. Anne Bamford

On May 6th the second arts in education portal national took place at St Patrick’s Campus, DCU. The portal national day is building momentum as a very significant event in the arts and education calendar in Ireland. Just under 200 people registered to attend the event with 17 workshops and lectures, an inspiring keynote from Prof Anne Bamford and a policy update from the Arts Council and Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional and Gaeltacht Affairs, Heather Humphreys. We are already excited about next years event. Have a look here to see the video from the day. Thanks to all involved in making day a huge success!

 

!!!! A Journey with our Children

Tell us the story of your project – What was the impetus? What was it about? Who was involved? How did you begin?

This project was a collaboration between early childhood educators at Woodland Park preschool in Westport; Karen O’Brien, Mary Skillington, Joanna Kuruc, Kasia Rymarczyk, Bridgit McNamara, Ciara MacNally, Erszi Whyte and resident visual artist Lucy Hill. The collaboration between artist and early years setting began in 2007. The early years setting was located in a building that was previously a primary school and so had a large site with an excess of classrooms. An arrangement was made to use one of the classrooms as a studio space in exchange for collaborating on visual art projects including creating temporary play environments for the children with materials sourced from the Creative Resource Centre.

This particular documentation project grew out of many conversations. There was a strong desire to try to highlight the very many ephemeral moments at preschool where children display positive learning dispositions that could easily be invisible to adults or even understood as ‘mis-behaviour’. The project was grounded in the belief that very young children are competent, capable learners who demonstrate an explorative attitude as they ‘re/present’ their ideas, thoughts and feelings with multiple mediums. Much of the learning, discoveries, creativity and innovations of very young children happen in front of our eyes but need to be framed in understandable ways in order for adults to fully grasp the power and impact of what is unfolding. So for this project, there was no theme, no direction, no grand plan other than this question of how to capture children’s agency in the tiniest everyday moments that may be deeply impactful as an education tool for adults if framed in an understandable way and so the idea for a book document developed. The book would then provide a reflective tool for children where they could visit and revisit their creations in partnership with peers, educators and their parents.

How were the ideas developed and how did the young people, artist and teacher work together?

The children followed the everyday routines of work and play within the preschool day. During free play children made choices as they selected materials and explored the affordances of these materials. The artist and educators together captured many photographs, conversations and children’s everyday activities over several months. There were weekly meetings which explored children’s lines of enquiry and observed interests. These were followed with discussion on how the documentation was developing, what was being captured, what could be found through knowledge of individual children and the particular schema they may be working within. The relational foundation between educators and children was fundamental to revealing the value of the moments being captured where knowledge of individual children’s interests, personalities and competencies was crucial. The artist as documenter was able to take a ‘bird’s eye’ view of the everyday. The main headings within the document emerged slowly through the editing and discussion process. It felt important to allow sufficient time for the project and so it happened in a very unhurried way over several months. An exhibition was planned for Westport library in order to celebrate the children’s artwork and provide visibility of their learning to the wider community. Key competencies were highlighted and dispositions such as involvement, persistence, problem solving and creativity were exemplified through a display of poster pages.

What was your personal experience of the project in terms of successes and challenges?

Artist: My personal experience of the project was an awareness of the delicacy and responsibility implicit in documenting young children’s work and play practices. At all costs we wanted to avoid moments that might frame children from an adult’s aesthetic or that could be seen as a promotional tool. The purpose was to try to get to the core of what was occurring for the children, often using the children’s voice. In the end, the photographs used were all taken by the educators themselves, and included the messiness of the working space, the un-staged every-day. I helped with the design of the document and putting it together but each of the educators also had full access to the editing process and there was much discussion around what should go where and there was no time deadline imposed. Mary took responsibility for the main body of text in the book and Joanna took responsibility for the exhibition design and layout.

Educators: This project provided us with an opportunity to reflect on the learning which took place as children engaged with each other and the environment. Through observation we began to recognise the affordances the environment offered as children engaged with a wide variety of materials. Decisions about what to document was a challenge as there was an abundance of images and narratives collected.
What was significant for you about the project that is worth sharing?

Long term collaborations between artists and educators are hugely useful, interesting and valuable scenarios from which children and adults equally stand to benefit and learn.

Has anything changed in your work as a result of the project?

Artist: This project had a significant impact on my practice. It has led to us collaborating on my current PhD project. Within the research, the focus on what is unfolding for the children can be accessed in a very privileged way, due to the trust and respect that has been established over the past ten years. I am very grateful for the continuous openness, generosity and opportunities to learn.

Educator: The artist provided alternative perspectives on children’s creative and communicative potentials as we worked together to promote children’s developing ability to symbolically represent their ideas with clay, constructions, drawings, and paintings. The artist opened us up to the tools and the need to communicate children’s understandings through various media. As we collected and contemplated transcripts of children’s conversations and detailed renderings of their developing understandings, we also began to refine our own form of symbolic representation. Working with an artist prompted us to advocate for more reciprocal adult–child conversations. Over time, documentation became more integral to our practice, illustrating the principle that culturally constructed ways of life depend on “shared modes of discourse for negotiating differences in meaning and interpretation” (Bruner, 1990, p. 13).

!!!! Artists~Schools Guidelines Video

As part of a review of the Artists~Schools Guidelines conducted by the Arts Council on behalf of the High Level Implementation Group of the Arts in Education Charter, this video has been developed to capture stakeholders’ observations regarding the key principles and information of most relevance to artists and/or schools interested in developing best practice in this area.

Watch the video here.

!!!! Artful Dodgers

Tell us the story of your project – What was it about? Who was involved? How did you begin? How did it develop?

Artful Dodgers is a unique early years arts education programme that commenced in September 2013 and continues to evolve today in two community crèche services in Fingal, north county Dublin. The programme is pioneered by Artist Jackie Maguire and Naomi Draper with Julie Clarke of Fingal County Council Arts Office, Fingal County Childcare Committee, Ros Eo and Little Learners Community Crèche and Prof. Carmel O’Sullivan and Prof. Noirin Hayes of the Arts Education Research Group, Trinity College Dublin (AERG).

The programme aims to provide an exploratory, creative and playful artistic space for children to develop and grow. To investigate the impact of this engagement on the children’s early development with particular focus on literacy and numeracy skills; and to build the capacity of the early years educators to embed music and visual arts in their settings. The project team adopted an artist is residence model for Phase 1 where both artists were located in the services on a weekly basis over a twelve week period. Each week they delivered a music and visual arts workshop in partnership with the staff of both settings. The artist in residence model was significant in that the artists were embedded within the settings allowing the artists, early years teachers and children to build relationships and to get to know each other over time. Over the period of the residency the artists worked closely with the children and early years teachers in both settings, where they explored the world of music and visual arts together.

The evaluation of Phase 1 (2013) indicated changes in pedagogical planning and style in the early years teachers over the twelve weeks period. Their language became more reflective and their practice incorporated a wider and richer range of materials; there was greater evidence of more child-led activities and unstructured play opportunities over the duration of the study. The data suggests that children’s social, cooperative and communication skills were enhanced. There was evidence over time of improved self-regulation, recall and recollection, and attention to activities. In addition, children’s curiosity and exploration was encouraged leading to enhanced vocabulary and greater persistence at activities. To assist the sustainability of the learning and practices developed during phase one the partnership provided the required resources to establish second phase. During this phase the teachers were encouraged to continue with the arts in their practice and the artists came to work with staff in both settings once a month. This kept the momentum of the project going without interruption. The focus of Phase 2 (2014-2015) was to develop ‘creative exchange’ between both the artists and early years teachers through a co-mentoring process. It was designed to consolidate arts practice within the early years settings, build a creative environment and strengthen relationships between the participants (artists and early years teachers) through reflecting on practice and children’s engagement.

A key element of phase two was the introduction of the ORID framework by the artists with the early years teachers to evaluate and reflect on the process. This framework facilitates focused conversation between participants in order to reach some point of agreement or clarify differences. ORID is as an evaluation framework developed at the Canadian Institute of Cultural Affairs. The framework gave everyone a voice and provided sound evidence to direct and inform future delivery.

A preliminary evaluation of Phase 2 suggests that changes occurred in early years practice, in terms of curriculum planning, relationships with children, staff and parents. Co-mentoring across different disciplines is very powerful particularly when it is experiential and all parties, in this case artists and early years teachers, are actively involved. The artists highlighted the value of the co-mentoring approach, which informed their planning for each setting visits. The early years teachers reported better understandings of children’s learning and sensitivity to the uniqueness of every child. They also reported a deepening understanding of Aistear, the early childhood curriculum framework and a greater appreciation of the importance of ‘tuning in’ and responding to the children’s behaviour. As the project evolved the partnership grew stronger and a third phase, the ‘parental involvement programme’, was created. This work is ongoing.

Ash Ryan of Little Learners Community Crèche, Mulhuddart
What aspects of the project made you smile? What aspects of the project made you feel challenged?

The Children, staff and parents’ engagement made me smile. I would glance around the room, which looked chaotic – paint everywhere, children’s faces and hands a multitude of colours, parents on the floor weaving, staff laughing with the children – and smile! However there were plenty of challenges. I had to rethink my teaching practice, both in terms of how much I controlled the outcomes of art projects with the children and my own feelings on ‘messy play’.

What insights from the project are worth sharing? Has anything changed as a result of the project?

Both the parents and staff have a different view on how the children engage with art materials, originally dirty clothes were a problem, but now parents expect the children to leave looking like they’ve been involved in activities during the day, and they always oblige with a change of clothes when necessary. My whole practice has changed. I have a far better understanding of creative play and its links to Aistear. Children have more of a say in the activities we provide and they have the freedom to choose materials and ideas for their own artwork. Parents have become more involved in the service as a result of their direct involvement. Children are generally having great fun while learning. We have stopped group activities where twenty children are making the same thing from a template. Templates are no longer used in the service. Artful Dodgers has managed to put an ethos in place that no college course for early years teachers has been able to achieve to date. The artists’ hands on engagement showed how a different approach works in practice; the staff could see the methods and begin to use them easily in a supported way.

Debbie Donnelly & Mary Farrell of Ros Eo Community Crèche, Rush
What aspects of the project made you smile? What aspects of the project made you feel challenged?

Seeing the enjoyment shining through the children throughout their involvement in the project made us all smile a lot. Jackie would break into song unexpectedly and both Jackie and Naomi’s personalities brought warmth and positivity into the classroom, which was a huge factor in the enjoyment and success of the project.

As safety officer I worried about the safety of the children while working away from the desks, on the floor, using materials they hadn’t used before, especially when we had a large group of children together. At the beginning I felt a little out of my comfort zone, as I was familiar with working a particular way. I also worried about fitting all the new arts activities in with the already full curriculum. I doubted my own ability to be a worthy capable participant in the project as I am not an artist.

What insights from the project are worth sharing? Has anything changed as a result of the project?

A new lease of life was injected into staff as we learned new ways to teach. We now use props to enhance language skills and the children’s understanding of a particular story or activity. We learned to share the workload better among staff. We now make time to reflect on activities afterwards. We discuss the positives and negatives and question how to improve or deliver something that didn’t work so well differently the next time. The weekly reflection is a very informative experience and positive way to finish the week. As a staff team we are more open to trying new things with the children. We know that what we are doing compliments the curriculum so we are more confident about delivering the curriculum. I’m definitely not afraid to move out of my comfort zone now.

I realise that I don’t have to be ‘talented’ at art or music to use it in the classroom. I’m willing to try new things and learn alongside the children. We don’t dwell if something doesn’t go to plan, we move on and try it again another day with something different. My advice is to keep trying and be adventurous. You’re never too old to learn.

Artist Naomi Draper
What aspects of the project made you smile? What aspects of the project made you feel challenged?

The welcome we received on every visit made me smile. Every week we arrived to an atmosphere of excitement and anticipation from the children, their parents and the staff. They were always waiting for us to arrive, they knew we were coming. During this residency I really felt part of the setting, a part of their week, a part of the team! I do think that this came from the strength of the relationship we developed with the staff who made us feel welcome, valued and supported in our work there. We also had time to establish these connections, time for reflection together and when we could see that we had developed something worth holding on to, the arts office gave us more time to develop these partnerships, supporting one another through a shared learning exchange, and broadening our partnerships to engage parents in a parental involvement phase. Our approach was probably a challenge initially, as we completely took over every corner of the crèche. But you could see confidence growing with every visit and as new materials were presented or alternative spaces were used, no instruction was required, the children, staff and parents too were willing to play, experiment, and see where it would bring them. Watching everyone’s confidence grow and observing how our practices changed and developed was very exciting.

What insights from the project are worth sharing? Has anything changed as a result of the project?

Jackie introduced us to the ORID reflective tool, which became an important tool to critically reflect and change. ORID also played a huge part in the development of our relationships with one another. It enabled us to openly and honestly speak about what happened and what we observed. It provided a supportive environment for me to learn and develop a better understanding of working in this context. Another aspect of my work that I am interested in exploring is the physical spaces we are part of. The initial residency period of the AD programme allowed me to test and examine the potential of the spaces in terms of children’s learning and development. Together with the staff we realised new possibilities for spaces that were not used in the crèche and found ways to activate and utilise them further.

Professor Nóirín Hayes, on behalf of the research team:
“As an academic with a long history of research in early childhood the potential value of arts education in early education, for both children and staff, has always been an interest of mine – particularly the challenging link between arts education and the role of play and process in early learning.

A key attraction of working with Artful Dodgers has been the collaborative approach, the creation of a learning community comprising children, parents, educators, artists and academics. The project, throughout, endeavoured to create a context that encouraged careful attention to planning through a mutual respect for the expertise of both the artists and the early years educators. Reflection informing future actions was a central dimension of the project at all stages. The success of this approach was evident in the engagement of all participants and the outcomes for children. Throughout the project careful records were maintained and shared by the artists and the early years educators. This material, alongside observation records and documentation of practice in process, provide a rich source of data to inform practice, policy and further research. Over and above this the project has brought parents and early educators close together in the shared education of young children. It is a privilege to have become part of the team and I look forward to furthering the dissemination of this important action research arts education project.”

!!!! Úlla Beag: Print media project

The story of our project from the teacher – Denise:

I approached Lynn in Nov 2014 to collaborate on developing an art class for ECCE in Ulla beag which would cover many art disciplines; painting, printing, working with 3 dimensional form and various craft skills to provide a more holistic teaching approach to pre-reading; pre-writing and pre-maths skills.

Collaborating with Lynn has been a great experience as we both started out with the same beliefs and ethos – We need to recycle more and look at using old materials. It is amazing how you can transform a raisin box into a robot, providing hours of fun and play for children. Through this process, children can create their own toys and the empowerment and confidence they get through using old materials is amazing.

The use of visual media as a teaching method to develop pre-reading; writing and maths skills has moved learning to a higher quality, more holistic approach at Úlla Beag.

The story of our project from the artist – Lynn:

As a group, the children worked on large pieces – printing, painting and collaging, and physically manoeuvred themselves around the piece, rather than just using their upper body, when painting. All activities gave them opportunities to strengthen their fine motor skills. They learned to work together as a group, which built up peer relationships and a joint ownership of the work they produced.

Other projects included clay modelling; and making pinch pots and papier mâché bowls, which focused on form-making, using their hands in a different way. We mono printed onto old baby wipes which was very effective and quick and explorative: some worked well, some didn’t.

We talked about the failed attempts and why this happened – too much paint, too little paint – and we tried again. Some were very keen to try stitching so we did simple long stitches through print and baby wipe. I was pleasantly surprised by how effective baby wipe material was and how easily it took the paint. It worked well with this age group as a surface to print on.

The story of our project from the children:

Through this project we experienced so many examples of children’s feedback:

I like this way of making letters.” (Mike) This was Mike’s feedback on creating Cars from Cs; Trees from Ts and Houses from Hs. Mike found learning and retaining letters difficult until we started creating associations with every day items in picture format. As an educator you know children learn in different ways and while mainstream teaching of phonics through song & rhyme may work for most children, it does not work for all. One of the critical areas as an educator is to acknowledge this and find a new method of teaching to enable the child.

I don’t like the way the glue makes my fingers sticky but I want to make my bowl so I will get sticky fingers and then I will have a bowl.” Mary’s feedback on papier mâché technique.

I don’t mind if I stick the needle on my finger I want to sew a cross and I am getting better at seeing where the needle comes out so I don’t catch my finger!” (Imogen)

I like using this as sometimes I drop my paintbrush” Oscar (aged 2 1/2) discussing his preference for using cotton buds when painting a picture.

I am really good at making robots.” (Charlie)

I made a hole in my picture and had to start again I put too much water on.” (Amelia)

I feel calm when I paint.” (Thaidhg)

I mix red and blue for purple. Sometimes I remember how to make orange too, that’s yellow and red, but sometimes I forget so I have to mix different colours together.” (Eibhe)

I like printing with toothbrushes its cool. They are old toothbrushes though, not new ones.” (Saoirse)

The flow of our art days included: Preparation of room and materials (Lynn); Group discussion with the children -remembering the last class; reviewing the work completed. (This is important for continuity and information processing for children at this age.) Getting ready – Aprons on and discussion with the children of what art lesson is taking place.

After learning techniques from Lynn, the children start to experiment and create, with assistance from Lynn and Denise where needed. Some children finish earlier so they then get to create their next adventure while the other children are given time or guidance to finish their work.

Closing discussions with the children reinforced lessons learned – what the children liked or would change for the next time. Again this is very important in supporting communication skills and information processing with children at a preschool level. This was followed by forward planning – including the children in a discussion of what will take place the following week. At the end, everyone tidies up together.

The biggest smile for both of us was the significant level of pride the children had in their group and individual work. It was amazing seeing the children develop into a strong unit that were as happy with their group projects as they were with their individual works – which really allowed them to feel a sense of identity and belonging within the group. The children are more inquisitive about everything around them – both in and out of school they are talking about their colours and making new things from old things.

The main challenge was keeping the projects age appropriate so the children were not over-dependent on us to intervene and help and really only needed to call on us in real emergencies – such as the glue sticking their fingers together!

Some insights:

•Group Art projects even at an early years level   promoted leadership within the group and fostered team work and empathy amongst the children.
•Art as a teaching process facilitates a safe environment to allow children to fail and start again – a valuable life lesson the children had to figure out with us why things did not always work out. (e.g. Not enough paint applied, Not leaning hard enough to print, yellow will not print out on the recycled wipes etc.)
•Learning to fail and recover / find new solutions is very important to instilling creativity and resilience in children. With print media the children very quickly saw what worked and did not work and the results were immediate.
•Art is a fantastic medium to foster child-led learning and child-led planning as it is such a creative process the children were completely open and could be masters of their own destiny!
•As a result of this collaboration through art with the children we display, discuss and review each others’ work together as part of the art classes. This allows the children to learn more from each other, praise each other, get praise from each other, empathise with each other when something does not work, help each other out more. This is very important in relation to wellbeing, identity and belonging and developing empathy and communication skills with peers, teachers and parents.

Changes and new developments from the project:

The project has resulted in the expansion of the group to include pre-ECCCE children. Art practice has been integrated within daily lessons at Úlla Beag.

There is now stronger and higher quality integration of art-based work into our An Taisce Green Flag Awards process. We are currently on our Water flag and have started gathering recycled materials to create a water lifecycle group exhibition in January, which will be published as part of our Green Flag presentation in March.

More time is allowed for creativity – previously we would have integrated a lot of art work with our children but now we have introduced an element of child-led choice.

We have moved from a reactive solution to a proactive learning environment. That is to say in Year 1 combining phonics and visual art printing allowed us to react to a situation where some children were really struggling to grasp phonetical learning – so we worked together to create a more visual understanding of C. This brought 3 of the more visual learners on a par with their peers and their love of phonics quickly developed. In Year 2 we are seeing very little disparity amongst the children as it is a more holistic and inclusive approach, so we are combining visual printing and other art techniques with phonetical learning.

We have collaborated on Easter  and  Summer camp art days and these are a great hit with the afterschool groups who come to Ulla Beag.