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‘What Big Eyes You’ve Got…’
Tell us the story of your project – What was it about? Who was involved? How did you begin?
Jane Hayes, Artist
The ‘What Big Eyes You’ve Got…’ project is a programme for early years and their parents that focuses on the creative exploration of the five senses: taste, smell, touch, sound, and sight, and like all my projects was developed to enliven children’s disposition for wonderment, excitement, curiosity, and perseverance.
I designed and developed the programme for Scoil Chroí Íosa with the aim of engaging the children in an immersive, child-centred, art-rich learning environment that would aid their early learning and development, and complements the school’s Aistear and Síolta Frameworks.
Scoil Chroí Íosa is known in Galway for its commitment to delivering a rich creative arts programme and aiming to provide the children in the school with an education that is rich in creative thinking, learning and activity. They provide a holistic approach to education and give each child an opportunity to express themselves creatively through a range of arts activities and programmes. For these reasons I approached the school directly with the project, which was instantly received with enthusiasm.
Colin Barry, Principal
Scoil Chroí Íosa is a growing school of roughly 110 children who come from a variety of multi-cultural backgrounds. This gives our school a distinctly vibrant feel and makes it an important hub for the local community. We aim to provide for the holistic education of all our students through a variety of modern, research-based methodologies. One of the most effective teaching methodologies we have found is to teach children through the medium of the creative arts. We believe this transcends cultural differences, language barriers and academic aptitude. We, as a whole school community, decided to proactively move in this exciting new direction about 4 years ago.
In this challenging endeavour, we sought guidance and support from many fantastic arts organisations and individual creative practitioners based in and around Galway City. Jane Hayes was one such artist and educator who we were delighted to have work with our students. Jane’s project “What Big Eyes You’ve Got…” was designed specifically for our younger pupils to engage actively with over a sustained period. The children were not engaged with a template-based approach, but rather were encouraged and supportively facilitated to use their own ideas creatively to make wonderful visual art.
How were the ideas developed and how did the young people, artist and teacher work together?
Jane Hayes, Artist
The title was obviously inspired by the classic children’s story, ‘Little Red Riding Hood’, but the ideas for the project came from my experience of young children’s ability to see the world around them from such a unique perspective, for example how they explain sounds, how they draw smells, how they talk about textures. While introducing them to activities designed to stimulated their senses, I wanted to allow them the space to explore the theme of the senses in a very open way, that would facilitate their natural creativity.
Each week I would facilitate 50 minute workshops with the three youngest classes in the school, where teachers and parents of the children were also encouraged to participate. The weekly workshops involved a range of interesting indoor and outdoor arts experiences, many of which took place in the school’s unique garden classroom. I developed these activities as a means to channel the children’s attention to the world around them, to encourage them to recognise the power of their senses, and to help them explore those senses creatively.
Students were encouraged to actively explore their world, gain independence by working independently, and also develop a sense of team work through group projects. Some of the activities undertaken included; making “tools” to see and hear, sensory play in the garden, largescale projection for storytelling, creating collaborative large-scale paintings with unexpected tools, nature walks with observation and creative reporting, creating visual landscapes of the senses, and constructing “musical instruments”. Key to the process was encouraging children to take the lead and develop their own understanding of “the brief”. This was a little difficult at first, as children naturally turn to adults for instruction, especially in an educational setting. However, as the project progressed the young children became much more confident in making their own decisions.
There was an interesting dynamic between all the participants; the children, myself, parents and teachers. In the beginning teachers felt the need to guide the students, and parents the need to do things for the children, however, my role was to facilitate child-led engagement, and to model that interaction as a means to encouraging and enabling teachers and parents to do the same. It was a gradual process, with the adults needing time to adapt to a very open approach. The children on the other hand easily adapted to their role as ‘leaders’ and showing their parents how to do things. The role reversal really worked, and a partnership approach to the projects really began to develop.
Sue Doherty, Teacher
As a school, we had decided to promote all aspects of the creative arts in education and this project, ‘What Big Eyes You’ve Got…’, was a perfect match for our new direction.
The project centred on the involvement of parents in their own child’s experience of creating and participating in collaborative art. We encouraged parents to come in to the school during Jane’s visits so that they themselves could also participate in the creation of art and work with their own child, exploring their senses, their world, and their feelings about art.
The actual process was a hugely positive experience for all. It allowed parents and teachers to engage actively with the children’s imaginations and innate creative abilities, using immersive child-centred activities to create and explore art. Although the exhibition in June 2017 was an impressive celebration and showcase of the children’s work, the real success of the project was defined by the qualitative value of the social, emotional, educational and artistic aspects of the children’s experiences.
It was a wonderful opportunity to be involved in ‘What Big Eyes You’ve Got…’, such an approach to art in education cannot come more highly commended.
What was significant for you about the project that is worth sharing?
Jane Hayes, Artist
Central to my approach is educating parents, teachers and the community about the importance of creativity in our lives and the lives of our children. I work to remove the fear and feelings of inadequacy that many adults have around creativity, and so this programme also worked to encourage and empower parents and teachers to engage in creativity with their children by including them in the process. There were some really positive results.
I love the projects you have done with the children, they are actually quite easy, but I can see how much she enjoys this, and how much she loves when I work with her too.
As current research highlights, creative engagement from an early age is the most effective way to break down gender imbalance in creativity, is a powerful tool in improving children’s wellbeing, and helps aid personal development and build self-esteem. However, in the school system anecdotal evidence suggests to me that it is older children that are often those selected for participation in arts in education projects. As I am especially committed to working within the early years remit I was dedicated to focusing on the youngest students in Scoil Chroí Íosa something that Principle Colin Barry was very positive about.
Colin Barry, Principal
“We are lucky to have lots of opportunities to collaborate with artists here, however, oftentimes when artists work in collaboration with schools they gravitate towards the older classes, 3rd and 4th for example. The younger groups are often not as well catered for, so this is exactly what we need”.
It was clear that being gifted a significant time period to deliver the project resulted in a very rich experience for students, parents, teachers and myself the artist. The fact that the workshops ran over an 11-week period meant that trust could be formed, greater understanding gained and richer engagement accomplished. It was noted by the principle that having projects that allow for more meaningful engagement has greater long term effects, and that this approach allowed Teachers themselves to learn activities and approaches that they would be able to implement in the classroom themselves.
Ailbhe O’Donnell, Teacher
Jane was a great facilitator and allowed the children to experiment independently as much as possible, which they love to do. What was most exciting for the children is that their parents were invited along. Watching the children interact with parents was very interesting, as you usually only get to see them in the classroom environment. It was lovely to see parents getting stuck in helping, and also creating some Artwork themselves.
It was great to see the class work on collaborative pieces in a respectful, encouraging and creative way. The children had so much fun creating the large scale pieces together. Having the children focus on process rather than product kept them engaged and in control over their own work. I particularly liked the length of this project, which ran for 11 weeks in total. The children got into a creative routine every Thursday morning, which was great. They really took control over their own creativity. So much so, in fact, that they would be planning a week ahead in their minds what it was they would be creating the following Thursday.
Has anything changed in your work as a result of the project?
Jane Hayes, Artist
One of my key objectives of “What Big Eyes You’ve Got…” was to prioritise process over product. It can be challenging to shift teachers’ and parents’ focus away from finished pieces of art, but this project was successful in demonstrating how powerful, and creative, simply letting children explore, discover and enjoy the process can be. As a compromise to an exhibition of the children’s work, we ended the series with a Showcase, which was supported by the NUI Galway’s Community Knowledge Institute (CKI) and Arts Office. The Showcase, mainly feature photos documenting the children’s experience, but also included a small selection of finished and unfinished pieces and research material.
Since completing the project I am more cognisant of how rich and valuable the process of making art can be, and have been working to shift my focus away from what the end product might be or do. I have commenced a new series, which is inspired by the “What Big Eyes You’ve Got…” project and working with the children of Scoil Chroí Íosa, and am dedicating more time to exploring, discovering and enjoying. I am also working in a variety of settings, getting outside more, having seen what a positive impact that had on the children of Scoil Chroí Íosa and their creativity.
It’s just fun to play around, I really like this kind of art!
I love looking for flowers in the garden, it’s fun out here, it makes me happy.
I never knew you could make pictures with stones, that’s cool.
I love how the rice feels, it makes me feel relaxed
Jane Hayes is an artist and educator who, on graduating with a Degree in Painting from Edinburgh College of Art in 2013, moved to Madrid to establish her practice there. Recently returned to Ireland, Jane is now working to develop her practice in Galway.
In her work Jane explores the connections between objects through playful sculptures that often involve found objects, large-scale paintings, and her favourite pieces; small watercolours that she calls drawings. She also has a strong background in printmaking and artist bookmaking, and has shown work in the UK, the USA & Spain.
While in Madrid Jane joined forces with other international artists in a number of artist run spaces and studios, including The Windor, which she co-founded as an artist-run space promoting multidisciplinary art and experimentation. Building on over 10 years’ experience of teaching art to young people, there she saw a real synergy develop between both aspects of her practice; teaching and making.
Over the last 4 years Jane has worked with numerous organisations to deliver creative engagement projects for children, including; the Department of Education, Youth and Sport Madrid, Galway City Museum, Limerick Hunt Museum, Baboró international Arts Festival for Children, and the European Small Size Project.
Jane is especially committed to working within the early years remit, and aims to create engaging, innovative and age appropriate workshops and programmes, which are inclusive and as much about educating parents and teachers as empowering children.
For more information, visit www.janehayescreative.com.
Colin Barry, Principal
My name is Colin Barry and I’m principal of Scoil Chroi Iosa primary school in Newcastle, Galway City. We are a growing school of roughly 110 children who come from a variety of multi-cultural backgrounds. This gives our school a distinctly vibrant feel and makes it an important hub for the local community. We aim to provide for the holistic education of all our students through a variety of modern, research-based methodologies. One of the most effective teaching methodologies we have found is to teach children through the medium of the creative arts. We believe this transcends cultural differences, language barriers and academic aptitude. We, as a whole school community, decided to proactively move in this exciting new direction about 4 years ago. In this challenging endeavour, we sought guidance and support from many fantastic arts organisations and individual creative practitioners based in and around Galway City.
Sue Doherty, Teacher
My name is Sue Doherty and during the course of this project I was Home School Community Liaison Co-ordinator in Scoil Chroi Iosa. The role of HSCL in the school required me to liaise with various community partners that could enhance and enrich the children’s experience of education and also to involve parents as much as practicable in this.
We have a long tradition of welcoming local artists and community organisations to work with all age groups in our school, and parental involvement is actively encouraged and promoted. As a school, we had decided to promote all aspects of the creative arts in education and this project, ‘What Big Eyes You’ve Got…’, was a perfect match for our new direction.
Ailbhe O'Donnell, Teacher
My name is Ailbhe O'Donnell, from Galway City. I taught Senior Infants when Jane was facilitating this project. I now teach 1st and 2nd Class in Scoil Chroí Íosa, Newcastle, Galway. I have a particular interest in the creative Arts, so I was thrilled to be involved in this initiative.
Jane Hayes, artist and educator
Scoil Chroí Íosa, Galway
Junior, Senior & 1st Class
January - March 2017
Key themes/ lines of enquiry
The creative exploration of the five senses: taste, smell, touch, sound, and sight
The real success of the project was defined by the qualitative value of the social, emotional, educational and artistic aspects of the children’s experiences.Sue Doherty, Teacher