!!!! The Inside Stories
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 visual arts residency with artist Shona McGillivray, teacher Michelle O’Halloran and the young people from the Sycamore, Poppy, and Buttercup classes, their class teachers, and support staff. The classes involved in this project are part of the specific ASD classes of the school and often the main challenge with children with ASD can be communication and expression of self. This project was an opportunity for the children to express their interests and individuality through art. Shona has built up a good relationship with the school’s community and has worked with Michelle and some of the children before thanks to the awards and support given for residencies by Clare Arts Office’s Embrace Programme and Artist in School.
We were all delighted to be able to have visitors again to the classrooms after the long restrictions and Shona started sessions in early January. The activities we were hoping to engage the young people with were open ended explorations of paint, print and collage. The resulting expressive pieces would then become the content of individual artist’s books. Participants were encouraged to express their own thematic interests, and we then provided them with relevant resources, ideas and material choices. Tunnel books are inspired by theatrical stage sets and Shona identified this format as a suitable backdrop to their creative stories. An end product that could also be handled, played with, and a visual prompt for further storytelling or written work within the classroom. Shona has been considering ways to engage audiences of visual art in a more tactile and meaningful way through the direct handling of the art. These physical books are designed to get close to, to peer into, just as you might gaze into the miniature staged life within a doll’s house, with curiosity and imagination. They create a 3-dimensional scene that tells a story.
How were the ideas developed and how did the young people, artist and teacher work together?
We began with a choice of different tactile tools, found objects, papers, paint and a heavy board surface to work on. This starting point became the back page of many of the books as well as acting as the getting to know each other stage. Shona could inquire about participants’ interests and this sparked some individual divergences of theme and approach for the following sessions. Those with verbal skills could communicate their own interests, and for some it was prompted by the teacher’s close knowledge of the young person. Honing into specific individual interests, sensory needs and creative strengths appealed to the participants emotions and led to a deeper engagement of the task in hand.
To assist with visualizing the end product a tunnel book template was made, and also the book’s blank pages or panels for each participant to work directly on to. Shona constantly responded to the children and their sensory seeking needs, often anticipating. One child became excited by the paint brushes alone and Shona responded by incorporating the tangibility of the fibers of the paint brush into the process. It was this meeting of their sensory needs in such a structured and meaningful way that made this experience so learner friendly and enjoyable. It was early in the school year and teaching and support staff were still getting to know the children so it was an insightful learning opportunity for those who were focusing on the children’s individualised learning targets. Each child has Individualised Educational Targets that are specific to their learning and overall progression. This creative process fulfilled many of the targets. One child who uses a communication device being motivated to choose colour, fabric, theme etc. meant that he had meaningful opportunities to communicate. For another child the targets are specific to him engaging in a meaningful way at a table top activity, our target was 3 minutes he often engaged for 15 minutes or more with Shona. Not only did the project incorporate oral language opportunities but it really incorporated very focused and targeted learning opportunities for the children.
It was important to the success of this project that everyone involved had an idea of the various stages of the project, so we could all work together in supporting the young people to be as actively engaged as they wished to be. The teachers gauge the young people’s moods, attention limits, when a break was needed, and used communication methods individuals would respond to. For Shona the teacher is the guide as to whether the creative road we are about to go down is positive or appropriate for that particular individual to take. We made suitably chaotic mess alongside the artwork and support staff were very efficient at restoring the environment back to its comfortable atmosphere for everyone in the class.
The finished art books were all different from one another, a few had front closing pages, some moving (hiding) parts, some have accompanying written stories and poems. They are all mini stages for tiny stick puppets, photographs of the participants that interacted and acted out their own stories within the different scenes. In each book you can take yourself down to eye level, peer in and enter its miniature layers, illusion of depth and story.
What was your personal experience of the project in terms of successes and challenges?
Shona MacGillivray, Artist
I know never to walk into an art space with too many preconceived ideas, but with a bag full of prompts and an open mind, however I still I get amazed at the creative crossroads that present themselves and the new processes I find myself gleefully jumping into! The Buttercup class was brilliant at this. One lad, who thinks so wonderfully outside of the box, took off on a very unexpected direction and I just had to, quickly, find a way to capture and share his ephemeral and spontaneous art. He took a literal interpretation of what was being asked, and was thoroughly enjoying the process in a way we hadn’t yet seen. I found myself responding creatively to his actions, and collaborating with him on what eventually became a series of 5 professionally printed images, mounted under Perspex with hand painted frames. This series for me represents enquiries into verbal and non- verbal communication and the pure enjoyment of painting.
Michelle O’Halloran, Teacher
Having worked in SEN for many years this was the first time I have worked specifically in an ASD setting with some older children. The age range in the class is 7 – 14 so catering for different levels of ability and making activities motivational and age appropriate can often be a challenge. Working with children who are challenged to express themselves in the “conventional sense” presents its own challenges, we are always seeking ways to engage with learners and share in their experience. The boys in Class Buttercup were so motivated and inspired by their project. The telling being the length of time spent engaged in the process itself. There are days when our class table top activities can present as a challenge but not when Shona arrived – the boys engaged in the sessions for the full length of time and not only were they engaged but extremely relaxed. Seeing the students initiate the lesson by getting what they needed for the project, for example baskets of animals when they saw Shona was really positive. It spoke volumes. It was amazing to see the associations and recognition of the project made as soon as Shona arrived. That was a success in itself.
To see the finished projects was so insightful too, each project was so individual and personal to each student and such a reflection of who they are. One of the greatest challenges of working with children who are deficient in the area of conventional communication is to enter their world, share their experience, understand their ways of thinking, the Inside Stories for me as a teacher became such an insight into each child it was amazing to get such a peek into each individual personality.
This project was so enjoyable from start to finish. Working with Shona is always really inspirational and she always informs my practice as a teacher. I just wish we had more opportunities to work together.
What was significant for you about the project that is worth sharing?
Shona MacGillivray, Artist
Coming into one of the classrooms on the fourth visit I saw one of the boys go into the side room and carry out the basket of toy farm animals, placing it on the table we were to work from. No one had asked him to do this, and his gesture was an unexpected acknowledgment of his understanding, his personal interest, excitement and his expectations for the activity to come. He was showing ownership of his project. I was delighted!
Each completed art book became more of a communication of a personal story than I had anticipated. In each book we get to see a little inside view of the young person’s passions, thoughts and humour. A view that can often go unseen.
Michelle O’Halloran, Teacher
For me it became about actually realizing the artist potential of one of my children, he never expressed interest in art up until this but I think that was because Shona recognized his creativity and that there was a process in what he was doing and she responded to this. I found that really inspirational so much so I challenged him in curricular learning and found he had more ability in other areas than I had first realized. He is now typing rather than writing and using ICT far more than I initially thought he could and this was down to seeing him engage in this project. He had only joined the class having been transferred from another and I didn’t really know him so to get to know him through this project was so insightful and such a positive experience for all of us. It also inspired my teaching and it was a different perspective as well so this for me was a massive learning experience.
Has anything changed in your work as a result of the project?
Shona MacGillivray, Artist
I am looking to develop directions of my own studio work into artist books. To create content that is more tangible and impactful through the format of a book and the handling and the “ reading “of it.
I would like there to be more physical connection to art through sensory and kinetic play. To look for book forms that will be opened by others led by their sense of curiosity, that they will puzzle over them, and find joy in discovering its hidden contents.
Michelle O’Halloran, Teacher
I am now more about the process than the product – as teachers we can often become focused on the outcome and having a uniformity when it comes to art. But this project presented the doing as being such a sensory and enjoyable experience for the children that I really saw the stripped back benefits of the process.
Also seeing Shona allowing the child to lead and going with them rather than directing them that has inspired my own teaching this year, it’s her artistic response. As I mentioned working with children that are challenged in a communicative sense we are trying to share their experience but following the child’s lead is an invitation to enter their world.
“It was really awesome… I got to use my favourite book Diary of a Wimpy kid.”
“It was so cool… Olaf is my favourite… It was amazing, so fun.”
“I love cooking… I loved the tunnel book.”
!!!! Opportunity for primary schools: My Bloomsday
Branar and the Museum of Literature Ireland (MoLI)
Date: Bloomsday Thursday, 16 June 2022
MoLI is asking young people from 2nd to 6th class to tell us all about a day in their life, this Bloomsday, on Thursday, 16 June. And teachers, it’s a schoolday – so they need your help!
As a follow-on activity from watching Branar’s wonderful You’ll See… film, we want to capture the diversity of lived experiences of young people from around the island of Ireland and put their voice and perspective at the heart of this day.
This is a simple and fun exercise that links imagination and biography, giving us a sense of what their days are like. Schools from across the country are taking part, and the submissions will be presented as an online archive later this year.
The closing date for submissions is Friday, 8 July 2022.
Date: Bloomsday Thursday, 16 June 2022
For more information on how to take part, see ulysses22.ie/mybloomsday
!!!! Workshop: Having Fun in the Outdoor Landscape
Date: 19 March, 2022
Burrenbeo Trust invites you to Having Fun in the Outdoor Landscape with Kate Lavender and Karen Van Drop, a workshop for anyone with an interest in place-based learning and/or learning more in the Burren. This workshop forms part of their 11th annual Learning Landscape Symposium that brings together leading change-makers and educators from 18 – 20 March 2022. The symposium takes place at the community centre in Kinvara, Co.Galway and outdoors in the Burren.
The symposium will comprise of a mixture of indoor workshops, outdoor fieldtrips, discussions, and networking events, and is open to anyone with an interest in communicating natural, built, or cultural heritage and sustainability to their audiences and inspiring action.
Date: 19 March, 2022
Learning Landscape Symposium runs from 18 – 20 March 2022 on the theme of From Learning to Action. For more information and to book tickets, see https://burrenbeo.com/lls/
!!!! Job Opportunity: Music Generation Development Officer Co. Clare
Music Generation Clare
Deadline: 12noon, 9 July 2021
Limerick and Clare Education and Training Board invites applications for the five year, fixed-term position of Music Generation Development Officer in Co Clare. The Music Generation Development Officer will be responsible for managing a programme of performance music education on behalf of County Clare Local Music Education Partnership.
The successful candidate will have a broad understanding of the diversity of effective, contemporary approaches across the diversity of performance music education – and will have the skills and experience to develop a programme that responds to the specific needs of children and young people.
Music Generation Clare is part of Music Generation – Ireland’s national music education programme, which is co-funded by U2, The Ireland Funds, the Department of Education and Local Music Education Partnerships.
Deadline: 12noon, 9th July 2021
Application form and full job description are available at www.lcetb.ie/mgce/ Completed application forms should be emailed to email@example.com. Please indicate in the subject line of your e-mail “Ref Number 21/12″.
!!!! Opportunity for Schools: Ennis Book Club Festival Workshops for Schools
Ennis Book Club Festival
Dates: 2 – 5 March
Ennis Book Club Festival invites post-primary school students and teachers in County Clare to a series of online workshops scheduled as part of their wider book club festival taking place from 2 – 7 March.
The workshops include:
- Fighting Words Creative Writing Workshop, Tues 2 March, 10am-12 noon or 1.45pm-3.45pm
- Songwriting and Music Production Workshop with Music Generation Clare, Wed 3 March, 9.30am-12pm or 1.30pm-4pm
- Secondary School Audience with author Louise O’Neill, Thurs 4 March, 10am-11am or 2.10pm-3.10pm
- Louise O’Neill in conversation with Sarah Moore Fitzgerald, 5 March, 11.30am
For more information on how to book, see https://www.ennisbookclubfestival.com/ebcf-2021-events
!!!! Opportunity: Call for Musicians / Music Tutors for Music Generation Clare
Deadline for Clare: 26th April 2019
Applications are currently being sought for the roles of musician/music tutor in Clare.
Music Generation Clare:
Limerick and Clare Education and Training Board is now inviting applications from suitably qualified persons to be placed on a panel for part-time tutors in the following areas of practice within Music Generation Clare –
- Guitar and Ukulele
- Music Technology
- Early Years Music Programme
- Music Therapy Programmes
- Leading Creativity and Composition in Primary and Post Primary Schools
Further post details and applicant information are available to download from: https://lcetb.ie/recruitment/
!!!! Job Opportunity: Music Generation Development Officer (Clare)
Deadline: 12 noon 15th October 2018
Limerick and Clare Education and Training Board (LCETB) is now inviting applications from suitably qualified persons for the post of Music Generation Development Officer, for Music Generation Clare.
The post is being offered on the basis of a fixed-term contract for a period of three years. The closing date for receipt of applications is 12 noon, Monday, 15 October 2018.
It is proposed to conduct interviews at the earliest opportunity following the closing date.
Please note that shortlisting may apply. Canvassing will disqualify. LCETB is an Equal Opportunities Employer.
About Music Generation Clare
Music Generation Clare is a performance music education service for children and young people in County Clare that provides opportunities for children and young people to access a range of vocal and instrumental tuition in their local area.
Established in 2014, it is among the 11 MEP Areas that were selected for participation in Phase 1 of Music Generation. Locally, Music Generation Clare is supported and funded by Limerick and Clare Education and Training Board, and Clare County Council. Visit www.musicgenerationclare.ie
For further information go to www.musicgeneration.ie/news/article/job-opportunity-music-generation-development-officer-clare/
!!!! Opportunities for musicians at Music Generation Clare
Music Generation Clare
Closing Date: 12 noon, Wednesday 29th August, 2018
Limerick and Clare Education and Training Board invites applications from suitably qualified persons to be placed on a panel for part-time tutors in the following areas:
- Uilleann Pipes
Post details and applicant requirements are available to download from www.lcetb.ie. The closing date for receipt of online applications is 12 noon, Wednesday 29 August 2018.
LCETB is an Equal Opportunities Employer
Music Generation Clare is part of Music Generation, Ireland’s national music education programme initiated by Music Network, co-funded by U2, The Ireland Funds, the Department of Education and Skills and Local Music Education Partnerships. Locally, Music Generation Clare is managed by Clare Music Education Partnership, led by Limerick and Clare Education and Training Board in partnership with Clare County Council, University of Limerick and Clare Education Centre.
!!!! 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!
•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.