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Dublin City Council Arts Service
Throughout summer 2021

Over seven weeks of Summer, Dublin City Arts Office and Libraries are delighted to present Inside Out – a feast of free online and outdoor workshops and performances for children and families. Events are free but booking is required through Eventbrite.

Summer Programme includes:

Underwater Moves: Early Years Dance workshops with Monica Munoz
Dates: 27th July, 28th July or 29th July, 10.15 – 10.45 or 11.45 – 12.15

The Storybook Treasure Trail: Performance based, interactive, outdoor family friendly adventure with the Gaiety School of Acting
Dates: 24th July, 7th August, 14th August, 11-11.45am, 12.45-1.30pm or 2.30-3.15pm

CuriousB: A pop-up festival site that you and your family will dream up, design and play in with ReCreate.
Dates: 4th August, 11th August, 10.15 – 11.00 & 12:00 – 12: 45

Throughout summer 2021

For the full line-up of workshops and performances, see here: Inside_Out_Arts_and_Libraries_Summer_2021.pdf

Events are free but booking is required. Capacity is limited to ensure that this is a good experience for children. To book workshops, see here: www.dublincity.ie/events.

Music Generation 
Deadline: 23 April 2021

Dublin and Dun Laoghaire Education and Training Board (DDLETB) invites applications for the position of Music Generation Development Officer (Fingal). They will be responsible for managing a programme of performance music education on behalf of Fingal Local Music Education Partnership. This is a five-year fixed term contract.

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 young people in disadvantaged communities.

Music Generation is Ireland’s National Music Education Programme that gives children and young people access to high-quality, subsidised performance music education. Initiated by Music Network, Music Generation is co-funded by U2, The Ireland Funds, the Department of Education and Local Music Education Partnerships.

Deadline: 4pm Friday 23rd April 2021

For more information on how to apply, see: www.musicgeneration.ie/news/job-opportunity-music-generation-development-officer-fingal

 

Music Generation 
Deadline: 30 April 2021

Music Generation invites individual or groups of professional musicians to tender to lead and develop distinct Communities of Practice with musicians that deliver Music Generation programmes; and to lead, develop and create new work for children and young people with musicians involved in Music Generation Communities of Practice.

Music Generation is Ireland’s National Music Education Programme that gives children and young people access to high-quality, subsidised performance music education. Initiated by Music Network, Music Generation is co-funded by U2, The Ireland Funds, the Department of Education and Local Music Education Partnerships.

Deadline: 5pm Friday 30th April 2021

For more information on how to apply, see: www.musicgeneration.ie/news/request-for-tenders-professional-musicians-provision-of-services

 

 

Draíocht & Fingal Arts Office

Deadline: 5pm, 18th September 2020

Fingal Arts Office, in collaboration with Draíocht, is delighted to announce an Open Call for HOMEGROUND: Art, People, Place, Identity, five new Research and Development (with mentoring) Awards for artists working in socially engaged and collaborative practice and/or artists working with children and young people.

The call is open to artists from all disciplines across the visual and performing arts.

The artists will demonstrably be either:
(a) currently involved in socially engaged, collaborative project or a project with/for  children and young people in Dublin 15 or the wider Fingal county
OR
(b) have the idea, the capacity and the existing relationships to initiate a socially engaged, collaborative project or a project with children and young people in Dublin 15 or the wider Fingal county .

The Award will support the research and development of a pertinent project with attendant mentoring support.  The Award does not cover the realisation of a project at this point.  In undertaking the researching and development of a project at this point, its realisation may however be envisaged for a gallery, theatre or site-specific space  in Dublin 15/Fingal.  Subject to resources, Fingal Art Office and/or Draíocht may consider future support for the realisation of one or more of the projects developed through a HOMEGROUND Award.

There are five Research and Development Awards (with mentoring). One award of which will be available specifically for an artist from a minority ethnic or migrant background.

The timeframe of the HOMEGROUND Award is November 2020 – April  2021.

For further information and application details go to www.draiocht.ie/blog/entry/homeground_open_call_fingal_arts_office_draiocht

Mermaid Arts Centre, The Civic & Riverbank Arts Centre

August 2020

Due to tour to hydropools this July and September, this magical watery adventure is now scheduled to tour in August in collaboration with Mermaid Arts Centre, The Civic and Riverbank Arts Centre. Rather than cancel the tour, Anna Newell Theatre Adventures and the partner venues were determined to bring high quality live art experiences to this very particular audience and so the ‘dry land’ ‘at-home’ version was invented. The “at-home” version is specifically for children/young people with PMLD.

Taking the responsiveness of the show to a whole new level, this re-imagined ‘dry land’ version will be performed in the gardens/drives/outside the windows of homes of families of children with complex needs. Still full of ethereal live harmony singing and gorgeous costumes (created by award-winning composer David Goodall and renowned costume designer Susan Scott), reflective silver balls, rainbow fish and water moving through colanders like waterfalls will all happen at an appropriate distance from our audience members, with their accompanying adults mirroring the action to add the up-close sensory element.

A process of a virtual pre-visit will take place to ensure that each different private ‘at-home’ adventure is magical, calm and, of course, safe.

Anna Newell is a Bray-based theatremaker who has been making theatre adventures for many different audiences since 1989. She was the first Irish-based theatremaker to create theatre designed especially for children and young people with PMLD and her work for Early Years audiences has been seen on 6 continents and off-Broadway.

Contact your nearest partner venue for booking details – click on the relevant link below:

SING ME TO THE SEA is co-produced by The Civic, Tallaght and funded by the venues, Wicklow County Council and Sunbeam Trust with additional funding from Arts Council of Ireland

Calling Young People, Musicians and Educators!

Have Your Say! A Survey on Music Education Opportunities for Children and Young People in Fingal.

Fingal County Council, in partnership with the Dublin and Dún Laoghaire Education and Training Board, invite you to complete a survey that will help us understand your views regarding access to performance music education for children and young people in the county.

This research will support a submission to Music Generation, the national performance music education programme, to extend and enrich the partners’ commitment to children & young people in Fingal.

This step taken by the partners emphasises the importance of retaining support for arts and education initiatives now and in the times ahead as we build connections with one another and ignite hope and inspiration.

Your views are important to this process and will enable the partners to develop and deliver music education programmes that suit the needs of those aged 0 – 18 years, now and into the future.

There are three surveys to choose from:

We invite Children & Young People to complete this survey: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/FingalMusicYoungPeople

We invite Schools, Music Education Providers & Musicians to complete this survey: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/FingalMusicProivders

We invite the General Public to complete this survey: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/FingalMusicGeneralPublic

Should you require assistance or alternative mechanisms to complete a survey please email Fingal County Council’s Youth & Education Officer julie.clarke@fingal.ie

Be in with a chance to win!

Children and Young People are invited to enter a draw to win a gift voucher for one of Fingal’s Arts Centres – Draíocht and the Séamus Ennis Arts Centre, upon survey completion. See information within Children &Young People survey link.

 

 

Deadline for survey submission: Thursday 30th of April 2020.

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

In February 2018 Landmark Productions and Everyman Theatre Cork approached us to ask what ancillary activities would we be organizing around the production of ‘Asking For It’ they were planning to stage in June and which would subsequently transfer to the Abbey in November.

We all saw the necessity to involve young people in the story and so aside from the Abbey’s usual provision of post-show talks and podcasts we decided to take the work into schools as directly as possible. We planned a structure of pre and post show workshops to support any school who was going to see the play. We also committed to the creation of a teachers study pack which could appeal to many levels of ability.

After speaking about schools visits to Louise O’Neill, the author of the novel on which the play was based, it became clear that we needed specific training in dealing with this project. Louise’s disturbing experience had been that in nearly every school she had visited herself at least one young woman had disclosed she had experienced sexual assault.

On 24th July we hosted a workshop by Tender UK a theatre company that specializes in exploring issues of abuse with post primary students. On their advice we changed the original plan of having a sole female facilitator to having workshops run by both a male and female so they could model healthy gender relationships. That’s when I stopped just managing the project and stepped in as co-facilitator.

Based on her previous work with the Abbey we contacted actor and facilitator Aoibheann McCaul and she and I planned the post-show workshop together. Aoibheann also attended a training session at the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre.

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

Aoibheann and Phil started visiting schools in October using applied drama to explore the students’ sense of the characters involved in the story and any links they had to students’ own sense of gender roles, friendship dynamics and sexual consent. These pre-show workshops were introductory and often didn’t go into the ethics of consent or even the plot of the play if the students’ weren’t already aware of the story. We wanted the students to experience it theatrically. For those that were aware of the book though, we found that for some the issues of assault were still unclear, “Well she took him into the room so she was asking for it, wasn’t she?”

The groups went to performances of ‘Asking For It’ at the Abbey Theatre and met a couple of the cast afterwards.  The actors had all volunteered to talk to the students and were eager to engage with their responses. These ranged from the shy and practical (“How do learn your lines?”) to more in depth enquiries “How do you play someone so nasty?” “Why did you choose to do this particular play?” “What’s it like having to play Emma over and over again?”. One all-girl’s school which had been skeptical about assault changed their view completely and demanded their teachers give them better sex education in future especially about consent.

Aiobheann and Phil then returned do the schools for a two hour long post show workshop that built on the previously introduced techniques of statues, tableaux and walking in character to explore how both the characters and the students themselves had changed over the course of the evening.

As with the pre-show workshops we used a basic drama technique to encourage recollection  of a lived moment e.g. “How did you feel at the interval of the play?” or “What moment do you remember most about the beginning of the show?” and then encouraged others to ‘read’ these and reflect upon them.  The majority of the workshop was taken up with creating tableaux of the most striking moments of play and then exploring what could have been going through the characters minds at the time. This meant we could explore many of the themes of the work –gender dynamics, peer pressure, sexual consent, family tension – from inside realistic illustrations of how these manifest in behavior. Some highlights of this were the complex dynamics of single gender friendship groups, what was going through the minds of the young men while they were assaulting Emma, how Emma’s father uses emotional blackmail to reinforce her decision to drop the charges.

We also looked at how characters’ lives were changed by the events of the play and again found quite a range of responses from those who thought e.g. Zoe would be 1/ glad that she could now “Take over Emma’s place as top girl.” to  “/ Zoe will be even more cowed by the knowledge her assailant, Dylan, has avoided prosecution for a second assault. It was in this section that the students really got to see the differences in their views.

There was quite a range of responses with the majority of students becoming more understanding and articulate about the circumstances that led to Emma’s choices and how she had been raped. Our touchstone was whether they saw Emma’s encounter with Paul at the party as consensual or not (Emma is plainly on drugs and asks him to wait which he ignores). Before the show this encounter separated out those who had considered the theme of consent in any depth from those who followed conventional option.

Generally the more depth of engagement with the story and characters resulted in a more sympathetic response to the play and more varied and satisfying discussion. One school was already putting on their own play about consent looking at an incident from different viewpoints and our work here became much more do do with teasing out the nuances of motivation in the subsidiary characters e.g. why the mother was drinking, or how the father was avoiding responsibility when asking Emma if she really wanted to drop the charges.  We were surprised to find in another school they still felt Emma had been “asking for it” because she had taken drugs and therefore implicitly consented. In this school there was less empathy for the characters and many of them talked about Emma as ‘a girl like that would’ indicating the distance they felt to her. The work here was harder because the students seemed entrenched in their positions and surprised and resistance to being asked to question them.

The most dramatic changed came with one all girls school who in the pre-show had felt Emma had encouraged Paul. By the end of the show and in the post show workshops they were clear that the sexual double standards evident in society and the lack of appropriate sex education in the field of content were unacceptable.

At the time of writing this we have two more schools to visit. One, a private male only boarding school, will offer the most challenging work as some of the pupils were already defensive and dismissive of the whole premise of the story, believing it to be unrealistic and diverting the debate with arguments that some women lie, men get raped too etc….we were specifically asked to work here by an existing teacher because they felt attitudes towards women needed to be challenged.

For follow on work we created a Study Pack with an analysis of the play and its themes but also extra ancillary material on the history of consent in Ireland, plans of the pre and post show workshops, blogs by students form Cork who’d seen the original production and an example of a homegrown consent workshops. We also asked the pack’s main author, critic and activist Saoirse Anton, to contribute an essay on the connection between consumer culture and rape culture.

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

Phil Kingston, Community & Education Manager & Co-Facilitator

After speaking to Louise I had concerns about the work triggering traumatic experiences in the participants while remaining convinced it was essential young people be given a chance to engage with the issues directly; no amount of older generations talking about the topic of consent was going to make nearly as much difference as exploring it with their peers. I saw this clearly when attending a town hall meeting arranged by the Everyman Theatre and Land mark productions in Ballincollig where teacher Tim Burke arranged for his class to discuss the play with Louise O’Neil, Mary Crilly of the Cork Rape Crisis Centre. It was obvious the students previous discussions contributed to the depth and sympathy of their opinions as well as their intolerance of the lazy, self interested and vicious social forces that perpetuate rape culture.

So the visit of Tender UK was an eye opener about the depth of ignorance and indifference to young women’s agency they had encountered in schools already.  This prepared me for the casualness with which both young men and young women dismissed lead characters Emma’s behaviour as “asking for it”. It was still a challenge though especially when revisiting one inner city school after the play to find that many of the students opinions hadn’t changed and that “girls like that are half responsible”.

Methodologically all six schools proved so varied in responsiveness that we had to continually adapt our approach. This is more a highlight than a challenge because one of the pleasures of applied drama are those in-the-moment improvisations that help coax a non-responsive teenage into someone passionately arguing their point of view. It was also a pleasure to work closely with another facilitator, to be able to hand on to them and observe the different spin the took on what the young people were producing, to debrief and discuss afterwards and to have the space observe the students out of the main focus while your partner led.

All the groups became more responsive and engaged as the workshops went on, often prompting surprised teachers to exclaim how certain pupils were ‘coming out’ of themselves or asserting themselves more than usual. This may have been to do with the kinesthetic aspect of the work unlocking some student’s expressiveness ( a common enough result for applied drama) but also, especially with the young women, a reflection that the topic of gender inequality and consent was important enough to them to ‘raise their game’.

What was significant for you about the project that is worth sharing?

Seeing the play, which is very clear that the protagonist does not explicitly consent, wasn’t always enough to cut through the view that young women who take drugs, dress with sexual confidence and have sexual appetites must take responsibility if they are raped.

Every teacher we talked to was adamant their charges needed to be talking about this topic and as early in their school lives as possible.

There was one all boys schools that we were explicitly asked to visit because of the teachers’ concern about attitudes to women. The young men were indeed defensive and quick to offer counter examples of women lying about rape and we had to be clear the book and play of Asking For It are unequivocal in their depiction of an actual assault. The instinct to deflect the discussion then took an unusual route when they started to dismiss the story itself as unrealistic (“Those pictures would never have been left up there for so long”) and therefore not needing to be engaged with.

Despite having been worried, as mentioned previously, and prepared for the possibility that some participants might disclose that they had experienced assault the fast moving and generally fun nature of the workshops meant we never got to a space where this might have happened. We ensured that schools counsellors were aware of the work and many of them attended or kept in close communication. While the topics weren’t treated frivolously there was more a sense of the young people appreciated the respect shown by having them discuss them.

We were also worried that rules about reporting young people under 17 who revealed they had active sex lives would inhibit the discussion. This never happened and we managed to talk at length and in depth through the lens of the play and its characters without compromising any of the individuals involved.

Students Responses

‘The play had a huge effect on my awareness of my surroundings and really made me appreciate the life I have as the struggles portrayed in the play were devastating’. 

‘When the play was over it made me think how the word ‘rape’ is not being discussed as a problem. People are uneducated about the topic when they should’.

‘The play was very intense, the actors were very good at acting out their roles. By them doing this, it made the play very realistic’. 

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

A renewed enthusiasm to work with young people on ‘difficult’ topics.

A desire to continue to co-facilitate where resources allow.

A plan to use young people’s voice s more in the creation of study packs

Update from Phil Kingston, Community & Education Manager & Co-Facilitator

Facilitator Johanna Webb and I returned to the all boys school and were told a third of the class were in Australia on a school trip and this meant our two workshops would be smaller.

This was a very different encounter with these privileged and, mainly, self-confident young men. Before, with larger groups of 20-25, the atmosphere had been alternately raucous and resistant with obvious leaders asserting their authority and more introverted personalities being muted by the sheer size and testosterone levels.

This time there wasn’t any possibility of hiding and Joanna and I chose to take a very candid approach in the hope it would create openness all round. We told them how concerned we had been at the previous workshops, how genuinely interested in their responses we were and how we appreciated the difficult position they were in (that they had little contact with young women and that they might feel attacked by the topics we were discussing). After moving through some responses obviously designed to give us what we wanted they started to actually say what they thought, prefaced with such remarks as ” I know this is an unpopular opinion but..” Once they saw they weren’t getting jumped on the whole workshop took off.

(My thanks here to Louise O’Neill who sent me an article about sex education in America which prompted us to focus more on these young men’s ignorance than their antagonism.)

We kept to our existing structure of exercises which explored the play ( walking around as different characters at different points in the story, making tableaux of significant moments) and the commitment was as mixed as any group but really these were just a springboard to keep discussing the themes of the play. Some preoccupations emerged – how culpable are you for your actions if you are drunk, how inhibited by convention the parents were, how over the top the lads were presented. The turning point was asking them, if were they Conor, would they take advantage of Emma’s offer to have sex in the second half of the play. Their outraged refusals introduced the idea of conscience and by the end of each workshop they had all agreed that really you always ‘know’ if you are overstepping the bounds of respect for another person’s autonomy regardless of how drunk you are.

The final exercise is choosing lines from the play (spread out on the floor in front of them) and talking about why they are significant. Several of these are from Emma when she is doubting her own position “e.g. Maybe I am a slut”. They were all clear this was an example of someone betraying themselves out of a desire to ‘get back to normal’. They also talked about their own fears of how to approach the whole area of sex and when two exchange students from France and Spain talked with obvious experience of having reflected on these topics you could see, past the odd embarrassed titter, that the Irish boys were impressed less at the achievement and more at the maturity. They all acknowledged the urge to brag about sexual conquests and how difficult it was to talk with the sensitivity they were displaying now when in the company of other young men. We did point out they were doing it there and then.

They came across as frightened, confused and tender-hearted, with no problem individually understanding Emma’s situation but also subject to a culture that made this empathy almost impossible to act upon. They seemed glad to have had the chance to talk openly and were noticeably more honest in the first workshop when we were left unsupervised for the last ten minutes.

Out of a possible 30 we only worked with 20 but these included the young man who’d previously called one of the characters ‘a pregnant bitch’ ( showing not only casual misogyny but a complete misunderstanding of the play) and another who’d been disruptively cynical. Both these behaviours disappeared quickly in the atmosphere of seriousness that the topics demanded. The teachers were amazed by how responsive some of the boys were but I wasn’t surprised that once they were listened to they re-discovered this sense of responsibility.

Before, after first visiting this school, I felt I’d seen the breeding ground for not only the rugby players in the Belfast rape trial but also the barristers who so calmly used their privileged education to spin the events to their clients’ advantage. Now I saw young men who could be advocates for more compassionate attitudes. So long as they resist the pack mentality.

Fingal County Council Arts Office

Date: 29 October 2019

Artist Jane Fogarty will introduce primary school teachers to Estuary – an exhibition of artworks from Fingal County Council’s Municipal Art Collection, as a starting point for generating ideas for use with students back in the classroom.

Teachers will be supported to enhance their artistic skills and expand their approach to teaching in the classroom by exploring the potential of the gallery context as an educational resource for the primary school curriculum. There will be an emphasis on looking and responding to contemporary artworks, group discussion, and identifying curriculum links.

This event is Free to attend. Lunch will be included.

For further information and booking please contact:  julie.clarke@fingal.ie

There are limited places available.  Places will be allocated on a first come first served basis.

About Estuary, Sept 12th – Nov 16th at Draíocht

Fingal County Council presents this significant exhibition to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the establishment of the council and its Municipal Art Collection. Curated by Una Sealy (RHA), James English (RHA), Joshua Sex and Sanja Todorović, the selected artworks represent an evolving collection of painting, print, photography, literature and sculptural work by some of Ireland’s most prolific artists.  There is a strong theme of nature flowing through much of the selected works chosen by the curators specifically with Fingal’s landscape in mind. We hope that you enjoy the exhibition and participation in the public engagement programme.  www.fingalarts.ie

Date & Time:  

Tuesday 29 October 2019, 10am – 3pm

Location:

Draíocht, Blanchardstown

Facilitator:

Artist Jane Fogarty

Liz Coman is an Assistant Arts Officer with Dublin City Council.  She is a certified Visual Thinking Strategies facilitator with VTS/USA and has completed training to coaching level.  She is responsible for monitoring the quality of Erasmus+ Permission to Wonder – an EU project for Dublin City Council that is testing the VTS training pathway with educators in classroom and gallery settings. Liz has a background in History of Art and Museum Studies and fifteen years experience in designing innovative projects that support arts, education and learning.  She has led trainings in enquiry led approaches to mediating artwork for visual art facilitators in The Ark, A Cultural Centre for Children, The National Gallery of Ireland, and The Turner Prize, Derry and offers ongoing mentorship for individual artists, arts educators and teachers.

Stepping Back – Erasmus+ Permission to Wonder in a Post Primary School Art Room – Blog 2

A conversation with Anne Moylan, Art Teacher, Hartstown Community School, Clonsilla, Dubln15.

My experience with VTS has taught me that supporting authentic VTS practice, for our educators, our students, and myself is not a linear process.  It thrives on a spirit of collaboration, time, and some resources to access training and share understandings of the method.

In 2016, Dublin City Arts Office piloted a partnership approach with the NCCA to test the VTS training pathway with a group of Irish educators from different backgrounds –  professional educators who are from early years settings; primary school classroom teachers; secondary school (art) teachers; art educators (freelance museum and gallery educators, including teaching artists). It supported professional educators to train in Visual Thinking Strategies via Beginners and Advanced Practicums, with VTS/USA Programme Director, Yoon Kang O’Higgins. Erasmus+ Permission to Wonder extended this approach to six European partners, allowing us to deepen our understanding of the educators’ VTS practice journey through a research evaluation framework led by our partners, VTS Nederland.  The intended impact is that, through supporting educators, children and young people will have access to opportunities for critical thinking & thoughtful citizenship; will be actively encouraged to trust their own perceptions and be open to the thoughts of others; will feel their observations are valued and valuable when dealing with visual expression.

Change has been apace in secondary school curriculum re-design in Ireland in recent years. The ‘new’ Junior Cycle places an emphasis on students’ holistic development, linking subject areas, and turning a titanic history of ‘information giving’ towards scaffolding students’ life skills to equip them for a rapidly changing technological and global world.  This is a welcome change, and long awaited by us in the field that bridges arts, education and learning. It also invites challenging questions. I wonder what really happens in the classroom when we ‘step back’ and support our students to take the lead?  In my conversation with Anne Moylan, a secondary school art teacher, and educator participating in Permission to Wonder, we discuss how her training in VTS has supported a shift in her teaching practice and heightened her awareness of the value of “stepping-back” for her students.

How does VTS inform your teaching practice?

For me, the method is very much about stepping back.  It has definitely simplified down the process of looking at a painting, an object, a sculpture, piece of assemblage, for the first time.  To ask the question – what is going on in this work? – and then to actually hear what the students can see and what they are thinking about it. You always come with your own knowledge but in a VTS image discussion you have to step back out of that.  It is about allowing them to take you on any sort of a journey with their observations.

It is surprising when they point out something that you haven’t thought about or know already. You have to be prepared to go with the flow and therefore, your role completely changes with your students. You can make connections, bridge comments and themes, always developing the journey of their observation of the artwork. At the beginning, I found this difficult. Sometimes, as teenagers, you will find they are quiet or are afraid they are going to make a mistake.  That really gets easier with experience and practice as the students get used to the process over time.

We are not looking at images on the art history course. These are images from the VTS/USA website or the Permission to Wonder project, chosen specifically for use in a VTS image discussion. They are images that I am not familiar with myself. So, I am out of my comfort zone. I find this invigorating.

*Permission to Wonder partners are building and testing a European based image bank specifically for use within the project by the educators.  This will be available shortly on the project website www.permissiontowonder.com. Other images we have practiced with are drawn from the VTS/USA image curriculum for specific age groups available on https://vtshome.org/

What have you noticed happening for your students in a VTS image discussion?

Often, in a VTS session, you will find that students, who are very quiet usually, will begin to have a lot to say about a work. Some of these students would never talk, even in a practical art class. Then you show them an image, something will strike them in that image, and they really want to let you know what they see in it.

I have a number of students whose first language is not English. They have difficulty trying to say what they are looking at in their second language. Yet VTS gives them the space to do this.  The atmosphere is very calm. That is the shift for me.  Instead of giving them facts, dates and information about artwork, you are waiting to find out what they want to say about it, first and foremost.

With VTS, you really are connecting with their world. VTS allows the space for their world to connect with an artwork and indeed with me, as somebody from a different generation. You just see into their minds. Therefore, you could show them an image and the theme of mental health or family issues might come through from them. Of course you have to be careful and manage the discussion, not to flinch or be surprised.  You might be flummoxed by what might come out of them.  So holding your neutrality, and keeping the space safe for students, is important. VTS training helps you learn to do this effectively.  You sometimes think they might be talking about their own lives, and yet they are not, they are talking about an artwork.

Your role becomes very much the facilitator of the discussion. Often I would have students, saying to me ‘When can we do this again?

Have you practiced VTS with images that are on the art history course?

Yes, for example, with Jan Van Eyck’s Arnolfini Wedding. When you ask the first question – what is going on in this work?-  you get “I know all about this, we studied this in religion / we studied this in history”. This is an image that is a little bit recognisable to them. They are able to share what they have been taught. However, when you manage the discussion with conditional paraphrasing and ‘What more can we find?’ it deepens their engagement with the work. Even though they think they know as much as there is to know about it, it refocuses their attention back on the image. It deepens their concentration and gets their eyes back on the key elements of the picture.

‘The Arnolfini Wedding’ by Jan Van Eyck
https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/jan-van-eyck-the-arnolfini-portrait

As part of teaching art history, I take the opportunity to bring the students into galleries in Dublin.  The guides tend to lead the tour with one voice- the guides voice. As an art teacher, I just want them to know you can walk into a gallery in any city, you do not have to pay, you can go in, see two pieces, and go back out again. With VTS and the three questions, it is a framework for them to use for looking at artwork, no matter where they are or what artwork they are looking at.

Can you recall a favourite VTS image discussion?

I have used VTS with all the year groups. However, I particularly remember a VTS discussion with a group of sixth years, at the end of the year, in May. We were finished the practical side of the preparation for the exam. With sixth years, you do not want to make anybody have to speak. It is fine if they don’t want to say anything.  However, in this session, there was one boy from China. He had so much to say about a particular image. He related it back to his own country. It was a painting, with a bright yellow palette and all the children depicted had these red neckerchiefs. The Irish children read them as the scouts, or being members of a group, or a club. This boy went in a completely different direction. He described that this is what it is like in China, in school. He talked about his own experience. He spoke for a few minutes and got a round of applause from the other students. A girl in the group said to him ‘in all the years that you have been in the school, that is the most, I’ve ever heard you say’.  So that is the kind of profound experience I remember coming from my VTS image discussions.

‘Mask Series No. 6’ by Zeng Fanzhi,
https://muse.union.edu/aah194-wi19/2019/01/30/zeng-fanzhi-mask-series-no-6/

How do you think VTS complements the Junior Cycle art curriculum?

In the new junior cycle art curriculum, student voice is very important.  It means stepping back and letting the student do the work, lead their learning process.  This does not mean that your job is easier. Within the structure of classroom-based assessment, a lot of reflecting, verbalizing and building the visual vocabulary for teachers and the students, is required.  The change is that you are putting the ownership for their learning and describing their learning process back on the student.  Therefore, you need to facilitate the classroom environment more in order to achieve that.

What we are all nervous about is that it this is difficult to assess. For students and parents it is difficult to understand this change in emphasis. I gave my students a VTS image discussion as a piece of homework to try out with their parents.  They took the framework and used it to look at any artwork or any piece of visual information with their family. The students were surprised with their parent’s observations and the conversations about the art work at home. I use it with my own family and it works very well!

How did Erasmus+ Permission to Wonder help you develop your VTS practice?

I really value that I have been involved in Permission to Wonder. As an art teacher in a school, you might be the only art teacher. You could be on your own, in your creative world.  You are so busy day to day with project work. It is amazing to step out of it with VTS and to have an opportunity to meet other educators-to look at artwork with them using a different format. It is really quite enlightening and refreshing. There are four of us educators from Dublin and we are all coming from completely different backgrounds – gallery, artist, primary school and secondary school. Being involved in our own Irish group was brilliant. We helped each other to explore our own context and look at theirs. I really enjoyed the collaboration and it was invigorating to explore art with others.

The training practicums were very well paced out. In the Beginners Practicum, you had the three questions. But you have to get them right, and in the right order, remember the exact wording, and that was tricky for me in the beginning.  It was also a challenge to learn to paraphrase accurately.  That requires a lot of skill. In the Advanced Practicum, I loved learning about linking and framing comments. How you, as facilitator, can connect comments and really build the learning in the group. I enjoyed the training and understand that it is also up to me to support my own practice and keep  motivated in using VTS.

What would you like to work on next in your VTS practice?

I did a VTS session with a society and politics class. None of these students were art students. We looked at images I selected specifically looking at politics and society – race, childhood issues, gender etc. VTS worked so well in this class. Students had so much to say and the images stimulated insightful conversations. I am interested in how VTS could be used in other subject areas and how I might help other teachers integrate VTS into their subjects in our school.

Music Generation 

Deadline: Thursday, 20 June 2019

South Dublin County Council (SDCC) is now inviting applications for the position of Music Generation Development Officer.

A Music Generation Development Officer will be appointed by SDCC and will be responsible for managing an extensive performance music education programme on behalf of South Dublin Local Music Education Partnership. Music Generation South Dublin 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 Skills and Local Music Education Partnerships.

Specific Purpose Contract (Maternity Cover) (Salary range: €46,771 – €57,157 per annum)

Application form, job description and person specification available online at – www.sdcc.ie

Closing date for receipt of completed application forms: Thursday, 20 June 2019

Late applications will not be accepted.
Based on the volume of applications received short-listing may apply. Short-listing will take place on the basis of the information provided in the application form. Depending on the qualifications and experience of applicants, short-listing thresholds may be significantly higher than the minimum standards set out. SDCC is an equal opportunities employer.

A partnership project by Fingal County Council & Superprojects

Date: 1st – 5th July 2019

The Artful Classroom is facilitated by Aoife Banim, Anne Bradley, Clare Breen, Catriona Leahy and Beth O’Halloran

This CPD programme The Artful Classroom facilitates primary school teachers to enrich their work in the classroom by exploring contemporary art and architecture, as fascinating resources ripe for use as inspiration and departure points for creative enquiry. Together, the group will explore the national and international practices of artists and architects, through imagery and discussion, and playfully consider how they can be applied to the primary school classroom. Workshop sessions will take place in Draíocht Arts Centre Blanchardstown and The Irish Museum of Modern Art Kilmainham where participants will have an opportunity to explore the work of exciting contemporary artists.

The learning focus will be on processand creative thinking; rather than producing fixed outcomes. Facilitated by Clare Breen, Catriona Leahy, Beth O’Halloran, Anne Bradley and Aoife Banim, the course draws on the expertise of both teachers (with experience of art/architecture) and artists (with experience of education). Each day will be led by a different course facilitator who will share their experience of working creatively with children and demonstrate how they translate their own creative/artistic interests into classroom practice in visual art, and other areas across the curriculum. Participants will creatively explore these practices daily, through a diverse range of hands-on activities.

Schedule and session descriptions

Dates: Monday 1st – Friday 5th of July 2019
Time:  10am – 3pm daily

Locations:
Mon/Thur/Fri: Draíocht Arts Centre, Blanchardstown, Dublin 15.
Tues/Wed: The Irish Museum of Modern Art, Kilmainham, Dublin 8.

To book go to www.eventbrite.ie/e/the-artful-classroom-tickets-46498361852
There are only 20 places so please book early to avoid disappointment!

Cost €45 plus booking fee
This programme is financially supported by Fingal County Council’s Arts Office & Superprojects.

 

Fingal County Council

Deadline: 8th March 2019

Fingal County Council is announcing a new opportunity titled Musician-in-Residence Programme 2019 ~ and is inviting expressions of interest from Musicians who wish to be included on a Musicians’ Panel, with a view to delivering high quality music lessons to children in primary schools during the academic year 2019 – 2020. The application deadline is March 8th 2019.

For further information go to www.fingalarts.ie/education to download the Application Guidelines & Criteria and Application Form.

 

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

Kids’ Own has published a brand new book by children experiencing homelessness. The book was launched in partnership with Focus Ireland on Friday 9th November, and offers a rich resource for teachers and schools to explore themes of social justice, children’s rights and SPHE topics. The book was developed by 15 children, aged 8–12, during the summer – through a creative process with writer Mary Branley and artist Maree Hensey –and includes a beautiful mixture of artwork, photography, poetry and personal stories.

To buy a copy, visit Kids’ Own’s website.

Arts in Education Portal

The Arts in Education Portal’s tour of regions continued last Saturday, October 6, with a jam-packed day of activities and presentations at the LexIcon in Dún Laoghaire.

Artist and early years practitioner Helen Barry and creche manager Rosheen Kemple presented on their work using movement and music with early years children and babies in Monkstown. Principal of the Central Model Senior School Deirdre Gartland and artist Claire Halpin demonstrated Visual Thinking Strategies in the LexIcon’s Art Gallery and spoke on the numerous teaching applications for the VTS method across the curriculum. The day was topped off by a hands-on activity using natural materials foraged by artist Liz McMahon who shared her depth of experience with Forest School approaches. Thanks to all involved in making day a success!

Look out for our next Regional Day, planned for early spring 2019 for the Northwest. More details coming soon!

Arts in Education Portal

Date: Saturday, October 6th 2018

The Portal Team are delighted to announce the full programme for the Autumn Arts in Education Portal Regional Day which takes place in Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown at the dlr LexIcon on Saturday, October 6th. We invite teachers, artists, arts managers and anyone with an interest in arts in education to join us for this free event. Ticket bookings now open!

Places are limited – booking is essential 

Schedule

10:30am—registration & coffee

11:00am—Introduction – Alice Lyons, Kids’ Own Publishing Partnership (Portal Content Managers)

11:30am—Presentation – Visual Artist Helen Barry and co-presenter on Early Years Work with Childcare Facilities

12:15pm—Presenation – Visual Artist Claire Halpin and Deirdre Gartland, Principal, Central Model Senior School on Visual Thinking Strategies Project

1:00pm—Lunch & networking

1:30pm— Breakout & Creative Session – Liz McMahon, using natural materials/Forest School approaches

3:00pm—wrap up

To book your tickets for the Autumn event go to

https://www.eventbrite.ie/e/arts-in-education-portal-regional-day-dun-laoghaire-rathdown-tickets

 

Arts in Education Portal

Date: Saturday, October 6th 2018

Following on from the success of the Spring Regional Day for the Arts in Education Portal held at the Glucksman in Cork, we announce the Autumn Regional Day to take place in Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown at the dlr LexIcon on Saturday, October 6th from 10:45am to 3pm.

We invite regional audiences to connect with us during a series of events, where practitioners can learn more about the Portal and what it offers, tell us about their work, connect with the community at regional level, share practice and find out what opportunities or events are available in their local area. We welcome teachers, artists, arts managers and anyone with an interest in arts in education to join us for this free event.

Stay tuned for the full schedule and booking details which will be announced in the coming weeks.

 

 

dan_colley_headshot_editDan Colley is a director, dramaturg and programmer from Dublin. As Director of Collapsing Horse Theatre he has directed The Water Orchard (with Eoghan Quinn, co-produced by Project Arts Centre) The Aeneid, Bears in Space, Conor: at the end of the Universe, Human Child, Distance from the Event and Monster/Clock. With Collapsing Horse, Dan is Theatre Artist in Residence in Draíocht and co-Artistic Director of Kilkenny Cat Laughs Festival.  As a dramaturg Dan has worked with Macnas, Dublin Fringe Festival, WillFredd and Sugarglass Theatre among others. Dan has a degree in English and Philosophy from NUI Galway and studied Youth Theatre Facilitation with Youth Theatre Ireland. Dan was a recipient of the Next Generation Bursary in 2016.

Blog post 4: Rights Museum

The Rights Museum is a participatory art project that attempts to allow our objects to tell our story through the medium of a museum. Its subject is the lives of students in Larkin Community College and how the rights enshrined in the UNCRC intersect with their actual lived experience. Or don’t.

In my last blog post I detailed how I worked with a group of first year CSPE students and asked them to invest in the stories behind their rights – and learn about their rights in reality.

In our next session, I presented a simple everyday object to the group – I used a shoe. I like to gather the participants around the object in a circle. First I asked them to make objective observations: what can we say for certain just by looking at it? For example; “it’s a shoe”, “it’s got white laces”, “it’s black” “there’s dirt on it”. I kept this going, correcting them if they brought in any subjective observations (eg. “They look like they’ve been used to go running” or “They’re ugly”). Keep it to the facts that you can tell just by looking.

Once I’d just about exhausted this, I asked them to make subjective observations. I prompted them; who might have owned these shoes? What might they have used them for? Did they value them? And with each answer, I asked them to support their claim with evidence that they can see.

Then I placed the shoes on a raised platform (I used a bin but asked them to imagine it was a plinth in a museum!) and I asked them if that changed the way they saw it? Did it make it seem more important? Why? What could possibly be so important about this pair of shoes that they would be in a museum? I asked them to imagine that there was a label on it that said “Plastic and canvas shoes. Shoe size 5. 2017. Syria.” and then I asked them what they thought of them then. What would they think about the story of these shoes and who wore them?

I put the shoes away and then put another object on our “plinth”. This one was of personal importance to me – a pair of cufflinks displayed in their box. But I didn’t tell the participants anything about them yet. Again I asked them to make objective observations, then subjective observations (“is this important to the owner? Why do you say that?” “Are these expensive? Why do you say that?” “When were they made?” etc.) I then told them what they were, the story behind them and why they were important to me. Then I asked them all to bring in an object that was important to them, look at their UNHCR which we’d been working on, and relate what was important to them about the object back to an article in the charter.

Now we were facing the task of putting together an exhibition in the National Museum of Ireland at Collins Barracks. Our questions for this were; how do we represent the work and the participants’ learning in that space for members of the public to see? And how do we invite the public to actively engage with the ideas within it?

We decided to keep it simple; we photographed all the participants with their chosen object and asked them why it was important to them and what right(s) it related to. We then got Sarah Moloney, a graphic designer (although this could have been done by me or someone who had time to learn Photoshop) to lay out the photographs with quotations from the students laid over the image, along with the text from the UNCRC that were relevant. Each of these was printed on A2 card and was displayed on the walls of the exhibitions space. This allowed all of the students who had taken part to be represented in the exhibition.

There were three large windows in the space; the middle one we printed the text of the UNCRC and on the two sides windows we wrote “What would be in your Rights Museum?” and invited the public to write on the windows in liquid chalk pens which we provided. This allowed the public to actively engage in the ideas that the Right Museum was provoking.

The Museum kindly lent us a display case, for which I chose eight objects that were representative of the whole group, to be displayed for the duration of the exhibition. This was the centre piece of the Rights Museum and showed the seemingly everyday objects, contributed by young citizens, enjoying the prestige and equal importance that is given to the treasured objects in the National Museum’s collection.

The power of this statement seemed to resonate with those we told about it and we had an enthusiastic response to our invitation to the opening of the exhibition. The opening was attended by the Minister for Education Richard Bruton, Director of the National Museum Raghnall Ó Floinn and the Ombudsman for Children Niall Muldoon, as well as national media including RTE news and the Irish Times. Two students from Larkin Community College, Ciarán Hayden and Isabella Anthony, spoke about their experience of the process at the podium, alongside the Minister, Director, and Ombudsman for Children. A number of students led guided interpretive tours of the exhibition for our guests.

I’d count among the Rights Museums successes; the way that it was able to facilitate learning about children’s rights in an active and personal way, that it succeeded in placing, on equal footing, the objects and stories of the young people alongside the artefacts of the National Museum, and the wide reach that the Rights Museum had to the public, through the media and from those who visited it.

The main challenges were in finding time and space with the young people to work in a way that was outside of the curriculum – although there are important curricular subjects being addressed. I am eternally grateful to the staff of Larkin, particularly Máire O’Higgins for facilitating that. Another challenge I found was a lack of understanding, of and buy-in to, the idea of human rights by the young people that I worked with. I picked up on a prevailing perception, before I started working with them, that human rights were a

My takeaways from this projects are many but the main ones that jump to mind

1. That artists have a different approach to working that the students can benefit from that perspective. The artists way is often a more circuitous, process and enquiry based approach than students are used to in mainstream education. It’s one that’s comfortable with the state of ambiguity you find yourself in while you’re working, one that allows one to say “I don’t know what this is yet” and for that not to be a bad thing. That’s not to say artists are the only people who can demonstrate that way of working, but it is something that artists can do because of the way many of us work.

2. That as an artist working in a school, it’s important that that’s what I remain – an artist. My job is to be an artist, not an Art or CSPE teacher or anything else. The job is artist and that has value.

3. That the framing of work by young people has a profound impact on how it’s perceived by people, but most importantly themselves. The way their work (whether it be a copy book, or a sculpture or a story told in class) is handled by the people in the world around them, subconsciously tells them something about it’s value. And my feeling is there is a huge artistic and social potential in subverting expectations of that value – as we did in small way by displaying “ordinary” objects in a museum.
The Ombudsman for Children’s Office has commissioned an education pack that features a guide on how to create your own rights museum in your school or community, and it will be available from their website in the autumn 2018 term.

If I may, I’d like to thank the Arts in Education portal for offering me this chance to share the process; Rebecca Mclaughlin and Niall Muldoon in the OCO for their support and vision in making this happen; Helen Beaumont and Lorraine Cormer in the National Museum’s Education Department for all that they did in hosting the exhibition, giving it a platform and providing expert facilitation on museum curation to the students; Richard Bruton for officially opening the exhibition; the students at Larkin Community College, and staff Siobhán Mckenzie, Declan Quinn, Emma O’Reilly, and Principal Thomas Usher. In particular I would like to thank Assistant Principal Máire O’Higgins, without whose drive, vision and passion for education and art, this wouldn’t have started and would have fallen at the first hurdle.

 

CoisCéim BROADREACH

Primary Schools in the Dún Laoghaire – Rathdown area are invited to apply to participate in SHORELINE

A Choral Song And Contemporary Dance Project For People Aged 8 to 80+

Led by CoisCéim BROADREACH Director Philippa Donnellan and renowned composer Denis Clohessy, in association with the DLR LexIcon Library and Pavilion Theatre, SHORELINE invites people from Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown to embark on an oceanic journey of discovery – to share their stories and experiences about the sea.

The project begins in September 2018 in a creative dance/song workshop project that brings together children from 1 primary school, a local choir, and people aged 50+ and culminates in 3 sea-themed performances by participants at the DLR LexIcon Library on Saturday 25 November 2018 at 2pm, 3pm, and 4pm.

What’s Involved

The project begins at the end of September and includes:

 

Application Requirments

 

Selection Criteria

Selection will be made by CoisCéim BROADREACH and criteria are based on articulating a clear rationale as to why your school

would like to participate in SHORELINE – and a demonstrable ability that you are able to:

For further information and application form please go to coisceim.com/shoreline-2018/ or email philippa@coisceim.com

 

Dance Theatre of Ireland 

Deadline: 15th June 2018

Dance Theatre of Ireland seek applications for the positions of Programmes Manager and Centre and Outreach Coordinator to join their team in Dún Laoghaire.

Dance Theatre of Ireland is a professional contemporary dance company based in a beautiful, purpose-built Centre for Dance in Dún Laoghaire. With extensive Arts & Health, Community & Educational Outreach and Arts Participation programmes in dance,  DTI works locally, nationally and internationally.  Over 3500 people of all ages are engaged in participatory dance activities throughout the year, and the Company delivers over 200 Educational Outreach workshops annually.

Programmes Manager

DTI are looking for an experience and dynamic Programmes Manager to manage and develop the Company’s growing Dance & Health programmes, Community and Educational dance participation programmes and performance projects.  This is a new position, involving the overall business management and development of Dance Theatre of Ireland, working closely with the Artistic Directors, and core staff.

The Programmes Manager will have the responsibility to manage the business and financial development aspects of the Company’s activities, and progress the deepening and expanding Arts Participation direction of the Company. They will be responsible to devise and deliver a business growth plan for the Well-Dance for Seniors and other Dance & Health programmes, develop partnerships, seek performance opportunities for Vintage Youth Ensemble and work with DTI’s core staff in managing the Centre for Dance and Educational Outreach programmes, coordinating the complex moving parts and key relationships.  They will monitor and meet the financial and attendance targets, maintain financial diligence, diversify and secure new income streams, lead PR and Marketing, and report regularly to the Artistic Directors.

Centre and Outreach Coordinator

DTI are looking for an experienced and dynamic individual for a multi-faceted, full-time position, managing DTI’s Centre for Dance programme of classes and its nation-wide Educational Outreach programme. This role is very active and varied both in client facing and financial aspects.  The Centre Coordinator’s  primary responsibility is managing the enrollment / attendance/ financial  tracking of all activities and facility use, interfacing with classes participants and Outreach clients and agencies, liaising with DTI teachers, and managing a wide range of key relationships working closely with the Artistic Directors.

For more information and full job description go to www.dancetheatreireland.com/pages/opport.htm

Fingal Arts Office

Deadline: 5pm Friday 1st June

Fingal Arts Office invites you to have your views heard in the development of the next County Arts Plan in Fingal by this Friday! The County Arts Plan is the roadmap for developing the arts service in Fingal over the coming years.  As an advocate for Arts in Education / Children & Young People it’s important that you have your say.

Fingal Arts Office asks if you could please take ten minutes to complete the online Survey and have your voice heard.

You can go online and anonymously complete the short Survey which is live now.
Survey link:  https://consult.fingal.ie/en/content/have-your-say-arts-plan-survey

dan_colley_headshot_editDan Colley is a director, dramaturg and programmer from Dublin. As Director of Collapsing Horse Theatre he has directed The Water Orchard (with Eoghan Quinn, co-produced by Project Arts Centre) The Aeneid, Bears in Space, Conor: at the end of the Universe, Human Child, Distance from the Event and Monster/Clock. With Collapsing Horse, Dan is Theatre Artist in Residence in Draíocht and co-Artistic Director of Kilkenny Cat Laughs Festival.  As a dramaturg Dan has worked with Macnas, Dublin Fringe Festival, WillFredd and Sugarglass Theatre among others. Dan has a degree in English and Philosophy from NUI Galway and studied Youth Theatre Facilitation with Youth Theatre Ireland. Dan was a recipient of the Next Generation Bursary in 2016.

Blog post 3: Rights Museum

In my last blog post I detailed “Phase 1” of the process in which I facilitated drama and storytelling workshops with the 2nd year Art students at Larkin Community College, and the work-in-progress of the Rights Museum project which we presented in Croke Park for the OCO’s UNCRC25 Launch.

Although the presentation in Croke Park was supposed to be a “work-in-progress”, any readers who have done works-in-progress themselves will know there’s an inevitable sense of completion that sets in afterwards. Our challenge for “Phase 2” of the Rights Museum project was finding something new in executing the same idea. At the same time, the Art teachers Declan Quinn and Siobhán Mackenzie (who had been an essential energetic and creative force through the process from the beginning) started to feel the gravitational pull of the curriculum on their time, and thought that to continue with the process would be consume more time than they could afford to give. So, it was with some difficulty that we decided to draw a line under the phase 1 with the second year art students. This, I’m sure is a challenge and a decision many educators reading this will understand.

In order to continue, Máire O’Higgins, Deputy Principal and coordinator of artistic partnerships, needed to find an enthusiastic teacher and a group students who could benefit from the work. This she found in abundance in Emma O’Reilly and her first year CSPE class.

The task now was to recreate the process of phase one with a new group. This time, given that they were a CSPE class, we decided to find our way in through the UNCRC. Emma O’Reilly gave an introduction class to the United Nations Charter on the Rights of the Child, supported by me and Máire O’Higgins. Human Rights is one of the core pillar concepts of their CSPE course which they would normally cover in second year, so there was a curricular link there.

In our next session we asked the students to pick what they considered to be the most essential article in the UNCRC and to say why. We found their answers tended to cluster around the articles relating to family (and this was a theme we saw bare out in the objects they chose for the museum later). As the students told us which articles they thought were essential , my job as facilitator was to foment debate and dissent.

I used an exercise called “The Continuum” in which we cleared away the tables and chairs, nominated one end of the room to be “strongly agree” and the other side to be “strongly disagree” with “unsure” in the middle. When I said a statement, the students had to place themselves in the room, depending on how they felt about the statement. So, for example I might say “’Article 24; you have the right to healthcare’ is the most essential right” and the students would place themselves in the room depending on whether they agreed or strongly disagreed or somewhere in the middle. Then I would call on people who had taken the most extreme positions to say why. As they listened to the conversation and opposing points, students were encouraged to change their positions in the room as they changed their minds.

In this way, the students learned, from each other, the importance of their rights through the personal anecdotes they shared; they learned about their rights in reality. Choosing extreme statements to polarise opinion at the start and then allowing them to tease out the nuances among themselves.

In my next, and final, blog post I’ll describe how we applied this knowledge to museum curation; how one can tell stories and create meaning through selecting  and placing objects. I’ll describe the process of working with the National Museum of Ireland, the launch of our completed Rights Museum exhibition in the National Museum at Collins Barracks and the Education Pack being commissioned by the OCO based on the Rights Museum.

Improvised Music Company & The Ark

Deadline: Thursday 29th March

Fun Size Jazz – Performance and development opportunity for jazz and improvising musicians and ensembles from IMC in partnership with The Ark

Improvised Music Company in partnership with The Ark are looking for applications from professional artists and ensembles in jazz and improvised music for short ‘scratch’ performances aimed at young audiences. The chosen artists will have an opportunity to devise, create and deliver their short live performances for audiences of children at The Ark this summer 2018.

This new initiative, jointly presented by Improvised Music Company and The Ark, stems from an original production developed between 2014 & 2016, called Monster Music Improv, which toured across Ireland and the UK in 2016.

Applications should present considered, innovative and engaging approaches to creating memorable and enjoyable performances of between 15-20 minutes duration designed to specifically appeal to young audiences aged between 4 and 12 years.

Fun Size Jazz will result in 2 performances taking place on the May and August Bank Holiday Mondays respectively (7th May & 6th August 2018).

Further Information go to www.improvisedmusic.ie/news/fun-size-jazz-performance-and-development-opportunity-for-jazz-and-improvis

The Ark & The Dublin Dance Festival 

Schools Performances Fri 18 May @ 10.15am & 12.15pm.

The Ark and Dublin Dance Festival 2018 are delighted to present ‘Hocus Pocus’ – a magical performance for schools.

Created by Philippe Saire (Switzerland), this magical children’s show for ages 7+ explores how images conjure vivid emotions, sensations and experiences.

Taking the audience on a fantastical voyage, two brothers dive into dreamlike adventures: a contortionist’s escape from a spider’s web; a journey in a damaged flying machine; and underwater encounters with fabulous aquatic creatures.

The unique set design creates a playful game of appearance and disappearance. As light is painted across the stage to reveal everything it touches, the dancers’ bodies seem to emerge from a black hole before being swallowed up again. These visual mysteries cast a spell, suspending our disbelief and unleashing our imagination.

Suitable for 2nd – 6th Class

For more information go to ark.ie/events/view/hocus-pocus

dan_colley_headshot_editDan Colley is a director, dramaturg and programmer from Dublin. As Director of Collapsing Horse Theatre he has directed The Water Orchard (with Eoghan Quinn, co-produced by Project Arts Centre) The Aeneid, Bears in Space, Conor: at the end of the Universe, Human Child, Distance from the Event and Monster/Clock. With Collapsing Horse, Dan is Theatre Artist in Residence in Draíocht and co-Artistic Director of Kilkenny Cat Laughs Festival.  As a dramaturg Dan has worked with Macnas, Dublin Fringe Festival, WillFredd and Sugarglass Theatre among others. Dan has a degree in English and Philosophy from NUI Galway and studied Youth Theatre Facilitation with Youth Theatre Ireland. Dan was a recipient of the Next Generation Bursary in 2016.

Blog post 2: Rights Museum

The Rights Museum is a participatory art project that attempts to allow our objects do just that. Its subject is the lives of the second-year Art students in Larkin Community College and how the rights enshrined in the UNCRC intersect with their actual lived experience. Or don’t.

In the last post I described the beginnings of the project idea and the partners who came together to make in happen; Larkin Community College, The Ombudsman for Children’s Office and the National Museum of Ireland.

I began work on “Phase 1” of the project in September 2017 with two second-year Art classes, along with teachers Siobhán McKenzie and Declan Quinn. I facilitated four weekly hour-long workshops  on Wednesday afternoons outside of class time. I also worked with the students in their art classes with their teachers.

The workshops used drama and storytelling techniques to three main aims; to surprise and entertain, to get them cooperating as a group, not just individuals; and to introduce new forms of self-expression. That work included a simple ball throwing and catching exercise (acknowledging the stress that it causes, allowing ourselves to drop the ball, and focussing on the thing that mattered; that we were all working together calmly to the get the ball around the circle). We also stood in a circle and played what I call “Kung Foo” (of which there’s many variations including “zip, zap, boing”) We also played a game in which 5 participants sit in a row, and then take turns standing up and saying “My name is X” followed by something that’s true. The aim is to always have someone standing and sating something, to act on the impulse to fill a gap where it occurs and to say anything that’s true, however mundane, that come into your head. This exercise allows for back-and-forth conversations to emerge, (eg. “My name is Dan and I have two brothers” followed by “My name is Stacy and I also have two brothers”) and for the participants to get to know each other better and have a way of expressing themselves through the exercise.

In two Art classes a week, I focussed more directly on the task of creating a Rights Museum. That time was devoted to introducing the concepts of the UNCRC (supported by a workshop delivered by the Ombudsman for Children’s Office) and a focus on objects and what story they can tell (supported by a “If Objects Can Talk” workshop in National Museum of Ireland).

The students were asked to pick an object that was meaningful to them and to bring it in to class.

They were asked to “free-write” about it.

They were asked to stand up and share why it was meaningful to them and what articles in the UNCRC it referred to.

This process lead the students to share among the following objects with their class:

In their other session each week, Ms McKenzie’s class divided into 4 groups. Each group took a theme of the UNCRC and created a large mind-map illustrating that theme and the rights that it represented. Mr Quinn’s class also divided into 4 groups and created interactive paper fortune tellers which illustrated the four themes.

The culmination of phase 1 was a work-in-progress presentation of the Rights Museum took place in Croke Park as part of the OCO’s launch of the UNCRC25 celebrations in September 2017. It featured :

The participants reported their surprise and delight at how their objects and artwork were displayed just like in a professional museum. They also reported experiencing a thrill at seeing other people coming to view their objects and read their writing, and a great sense of achievement in what they’d produced.

The work-in-progress was intended to mark the end of phase 1 and the beginning of another, but we were soon to discover that it had the sense of an ending in and of itself. For phase 2 of the work, we would be starting again with a new set of students and finding a way to join the work that both groups had done.
 

Audi Dublin International Film Festival

21st February – 4th March 2018

Fantastic Flix, ADIFF’s strand for young people aged 4-16, returns for its third thrilling year with the support of Cheestrings and featuring an exciting programme of international films for school groups.

Director of Collapsing Horse Theatre, Dan Colley, will give post-screening talks at both At Eye Level (12+), a father and son reunion tale, and Liyana (12+), a beautiful Swazi documentary with animated elements about a girl who goes to great lengths to save her younger brothers from harm. Director Meikeminne Clinckspoor will attend two screenings of Cloudboy (9+), an enchanting film about Niilas, who is sent to visit his mother in the wonderful forests of Lapland and learns about the Sami people.

Nora Twomey, director of the much-anticipated The Breadwinner, will introduce a screening of children’s classic My Neighbour Totoro. Brown Bag Films’ Vampirina (4+) and the Fantastic Flix Shorts (4+) are sure to delight the youngest budding cinemagoers.  Actress Wilma Lundgren will attend the festival for her film, Room 213, a seriously spooky Swedish mystery. Other highlights include the terrific animations from France, The Big Bad Fox & Other Tales (6+), and Japan, Mary and the Witch’s Flower (6+).

The Fantastic Flix Children’s Jury, a collaboration with The Ark’s Children’s Council and the Irish Film Classification Office, returns for a second year, as do a fascinating choice of workshops in collaboration with The Ark.

Schools Programme

Primary Level

My Neighbour Totoro  – Thursday 22nd February – Light House 1 – 11am – Age Recommendation 5+

Cloudboy – Thursday 1st March – Omniplex Rathmines – 10am & Friday 2nd March – Light House 3 – 11.30am – Age Recommendation 9+

At Eye Level – Thursday 1st March – Movies @ Dundrum – 1pm – Age Recommendation 12+

Vampirina – Friday 2nd March – Light House 3 – 10am – Age Recommendation 4+

Room 213 – Friday 2nd March – Omniplex Rathmines – 11am – Age Recommendation 12+

Post – Primary Level

At Eye Level – Thursday 1st March – Movies@Dundrum – 1pm – Age Recommendation 12+

Room 213 – Friday 2nd March – Omniplex Rathmines – 11am – Age Recommendation 12+

Liyana – Friday 2nd March – Movies@Dundrum – 12.30pm – Age Recommendation 13+

Career’s Day – Thursday 1st March – IFI – 10am – Tickets €5 – Age Recommendation 14+

This one day event, aimed at Senior Year Secondary Level students will unpack some of the many di erent lm and television departments and skills required for a career in the lm industry. There will be insights from sparks and foley artists, script supervisors and VFX supervisors, and will feature some of the Irish lm industry’s most talented artists including Darragh O’Connell (Brown Bag Films), Louise Kiely (Casting Agent), Piers McGrail (Cinematographer), Steven Fanagan (Sound Editor & Composer).

The Career’s Day is a joint initiative from
Audi Dublin International Film Festival, the Irish Film Institute, Irish Film Board and Broadcasting Authority Ireland.

For more information go to www.diff.ie

 

 

 

 

dan_colley_headshot_editDan Colley is a director, dramaturg and programmer from Dublin. As Director of Collapsing Horse Theatre he has directed The Water Orchard (with Eoghan Quinn, co-produced by Project Arts Centre) The Aeneid, Bears in Space, Conor: at the end of the Universe, Human Child, Distance from the Event and Monster/Clock. With Collapsing Horse, Dan is Theatre Artist in Residence in Draíocht and co-Artistic Director of Kilkenny Cat Laughs Festival.  As a dramaturg Dan has worked with Macnas, Dublin Fringe Festival, WillFredd and Sugarglass Theatre among others. Dan has a degree in English and Philosophy from NUI Galway and studied Youth Theatre Facilitation with Youth Theatre Ireland. Dan was a recipient of the Next Generation Bursary in 2016.

Blog post 1: Rights Museum

Can our objects tell us about the state of our rights?

Can they show our rights upheld? The rights we’re denied?

The Rights Museum is a participatory art project that attempts to allow our objects do just that. Its subject is the lives of the second-year Art students in Larkin Community College and how the rights enshrined in the UNCRC intersect with their actual lived experience. Or don’t.

The project is led by me, in my capacity as Director of Collapsing Horse. I am an artist, a producer, director and writer for theatre. Collapsing Horse is a theatre and festival production company that makes work that arises out of collaboration and purposeful play. Sometimes the work we make is for and with young people.

It originated when I was approached by Máire O’Higgins, Assistant Principal at Larkin Community College and asked if I would be interested in working with the students there, if I had an idea of what I would do. She described examples of some of the remarkable work that had been created by the students with professional artists. I was familiar with Larkin from work I had done there with the Abbey Theatre’s Community and Education Department and had admired the school’s commitment to the arts as a key part of the holistic development of their students. This commitment is upheld in the face of frequent adversity. Máire made no bones about it – Larkin is a school that is on the front lines of a community that has experienced generations of lack of opportunity and neglect.

Around about the same time Rebecca McLaughlin, from the Ombudsman for Children’s Office (OCO), approached me with the idea of collaborating on something for the 25th anniversary of Ireland’s ratification of the UNCRC. It seemed serendipitous! It was obvious to put the two ideas together – I would lead the Rights Museum project in Larkin Community College, which would also serve as pilot programme that could be written about in an education pack and replicated in other schools and communities for the OCO’s 25th Anniversary celebrations. Later, the National Museum of Ireland came on board as enthusiastic supporters, making it clear they would help in whatever way we could.

The goal from the outset was clear. We would empower a group of young people to create an exhibition illustrating their experience of their rights enshrined in the UNCRC. What wasn’t clear, was how we were going to do it.

The Ark

Date: Saturday 10th March

Teachers are invited to enjoy a morning exploring a range of simple and accessible drama processes for the classroom using the Irish language. Using The Ark’s season theme of Me & the City and aspects of the primary curriculum as a bouncing off point, you will have the chance to develop confidence and skills in working thematically through drama in Irish. The workshop will focus on activities suitable for 2nd-6th class. It will be presented bilingually and is suitable for teachers at all levels of confidence in working through Irish.

Saturday 10 March @ 10:30 am to 1.30pm

For more information go to www.ark.ie/events/view/cpd-for-teachers-drama-sa-seomra-ranga-drama-in-the-classroom

The Ark

Date: 6th – 22nd March 2018

In Me & The City your class will discover and explore how a city is planned, created and developed. Working with artist Jole Bortoli, they will learn how architects work and look at artists who have created landmark sculptures and colourful big-scale street art.

On arrival your class will visit The Ark’s gallery, which will be full of displays that will explore the structure of cities, their architecture and diverse habitats. You will see plans that show the design process of urban spaces as well as architectural drawings and sketchbooks, photographs and 3D models. Inspired by what they have seen, the class will then take part in a practical mixed media workshop led by artist Jole Bortoli.

Me & The City is an ideal opportunity to explore the Looking and Responding unit of the Visual Arts curriculum and the workshop is strongly linked with the Construction, Fabric and Fibre, Drawing and Paint and Colour strands.

The workshop also has strong linkage with other curricula including Geography (in particular the Human Environments strand), Science, Mathematics and SPHE.

6th – 22nd March (Tue – Fri) at 10.15am & 12.15pm

For more information go to www.ark.ie/events/view/schools-me-the-city

The Civic Theatre, Tallaght

Schools Performances – Thursday 25th at 12 pm & Friday 26th January at 10am and 2pm

Original plays, written by 15/16 year old playwrights, provide a unique glimpse into the world of our young people; articulating their experience and their reality.

TENDERFOOT, meaning neophyte, newbie, greenhorn, is The Civic Theatre’s apprentice theatre programme for transition year students.  Now in its eleventh year the programme provides students from eight different schools in the South County Dublin region the opportunity to create and perform original work for the stage. From January 25th to 27th this work can be seen in The Civic Theatre.  Plays written by young people, telling their stories, presenting the world as they see it.  These diverse and exciting plays, the work of young theatre makers, include –

The End of the Beginning by Tadhg Slye, an exploration of male friendship in a world of exams and first girlfriends and exploding toasters.

Plastic by Jordan Lee, a supernatural chiller guaranteed to make you jump out of your seat.

Seaside Story by Aidan Kelly, a comedy about families, holidays and global warming.

And Just for the Cracked by Chloe O’Flaherty which takes a fly on the wall look at a group of young people who find their friend unconscious and unresponsive at a party.

Tenderfoot Performances 2018

Schools Performances Thursday 25th at 12 pm & Friday 26th January at 10am and 2pm

Admission €10 / €5 concession

Booking 01 4627477  www.civictheatre.ie/ whats-on/tenderfoot-new- writing-showcase-2018/

screen-shot-2016-11-30-at-14-36-32Máire O’Higgins is a teacher and an Assistant Principal at Larkin Community College Dublin 1. She also coordinates partnerships for the College and is the school Chaplain. Máire is 26 years working in the north east inner city. Before she became a teacher she worked as an actor and a Theatre Director.

Larkin Community College is a second level CDETB DEIS Band 1 school in the north east inner city of Dublin. It is a co-educational school with 430 students and a staff of 48. Students come from all over areas of socio-economic disadvantage in Dublin to attend the school. It is a mainstream school and offers Arts, Soccer, Basketball and Academic Scholarship Programmes.

Blog 4 – December 2017

It is six months since we finished the Reimagining Education showcase and exhibition with students and staff from Larkin Community College and the Gaiety School of Acting.

The showcase and exhibition were a great success. The discussions after each showcase were enlightening and exciting. It was heartening to hear what young people thought about their own education. It was poignant to hear what older adults remembered about their often limited creative engagement with education.

Did we succeed with this partnership project? Yes, on so many levels.

The work was a celebration of a year of hard work and focused engagement with the theme of reimagining education. It gave a voice to young and old and allowed them to express their opinions about education. Students developed skills in independent research, collaborative learning, planning an event, Theatre Making and curation. Students mirrored the world of work by modelling best practice in curation and theatre making.

However a lot of the good work that was done to ensure a strong aesthetic standard in performance and in curation, was done in teachers’ and facilitators’ own time. And that is not sustainable. This sad reality shines a light on what is currently the reality in our education systems at second level, in particular in second level DEIS schools (a DEIS school is a school that receives more funding from the Department of Education and Skills to deliver equality of opportunity in schools).

I hope that in naming what that reality is, we can help to reimagine a new and exciting DEIS model.

In the year of our partnership project with the Gaiety School of Acting, teachers and facilitators had two classes a week for one hour at a time, to research, devise, rehearse and produce a showcase about reimagining education. They also had two classes a week for one hour at a time to create exhibits and a catalogue for an exhibition. Outside of this time teachers met with each other and with facilitators from the Gaiety School of Acting in their own time, to plan and reflect on processes and prepare for the exhibition and showcase. We loved the experience but it took its toll.

The key to the project’s success was twofold:

We all bought into the vision for the project and we were able to check in with each other as we progressed, to make sure that we were all still clear on that vision.

This work as I have stated was done in our own time. We were happy to give of our time voluntarily but this way of working is not sustainable in a wise education system. Volunteering in a school community is important but it should not form the core work of creative engagement in education. If the core work relies on volunteerism it will quickly move to adhoc provision of best practice in education.

Sadly for this project, none of what the students did could be formally assessed in education last year. This year with the new Junior Cycle, we can thankfully now record similar processes and outcomes and formally acknowledge this type of work. That is great news.

However for us to continue to engage creatively in education with partners is challenging for a myriad reasons.

For instance, teachers are often now on year to year contracts. This makes it difficult to plan a project with a colleague until we know that they will be working with us the next year.

We cannot apply for funding until we know who may be engaging with the projects.

Funding then does not often come in to the school until the middle of the first term.

All of this means that is really hard to plan projects for the academic year.

An exciting model for education would be one where teachers and artists are supported and empowered to create a strategic direction for a school for five years. This would allow us to deepen practices and develop innovative programmes that can nurture creativity in education for stakeholders and for young people.

It is hugely time consuming trying to fundraise and plan and build experience amongst teachers so that we can best serve young people.

Working in a DEIS school, we work with young people from areas of socio-economic disadvantage. One of the factors that contribute to instability in the lives of the young people we work with is the often chaotic patters they encounter in their personal lives. These include constant changes in the home, breakdown of family relations as well as addiction outcomes such as unpredictable behaviour in the home. Change happens too frequently and causes instability for our young people.  It is a real pity then that they find that their school life mirrors this with a high turnover of staff annually due to employment structures in education. Offering five year contracts to those who work in DEIS schools would support wise planning and sustainable structures in DEIS schools and create stability for our young people. Teachers and partners could plan, fundraise, build research components and evaluations, reflect and reiterate best practices in creative engagement. I firmly believe that this would begin to address equity and equality in some of our most deprived communities in Ireland.

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

Mary Bennett, Teacher

Our project began by exploring self-portraits. It wasn’t long before this led us to the realisation that many of the pupils lacked confidence and self-esteem. We decided to try and tackle this through a creative avenue and to link in with SPHE. The pupils used a kaleidoscope camera to take unique pictures of themselves. From there we looked at describing words for ourselves and our peers. The pupils chose their favourite word and it was carved into their self-portrait. They then placed cellophane behind the word to make it stand out. All the pupils’ portraits were suspended from a grid system Helen had created in the classroom which we added to over the course of the year. The installation was very effective and it helped create a very positive atmosphere in the classroom. We also did a printing workshop. The children designed their own printing plate and they got to use a real printing press which was so exciting for them. As the materials Helen had provided were such good quality, the prints turned out beautifully and the pupils were so proud of their work.

Helen Barry, Artist

Our project grew from a week long Training of Trainers Programme, Summer 2016. A unique initiative with the Association of Teachers’/Education Centres in Ireland (ATECI), funded by the Department of Education and Skills (DES) and the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht (DAHG)/Department of Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs (DAHRRGA) that supports the Teacher-Artist Partnership as a Model of CPD – 22 artists nominated by arts organisations, and in my case it was IMMA (Irish Museum of Modern Art) and 22 teachers representing Education Centres nationwide. In our partnership the organisations were IMMA (Irish Museum of Modern Art) and Dublin West Education Centre.

During the week long Training of Trainers programme we had time to discuss and plan potential ideas that would link naturally to the curriculum. Mary had had this particular class in the earlier stage of their primary school education so she knew the girls quite well. As an artist I try to link the theme to areas of my own practice. A key component of my own inquiry is faith and belief, that I was keen to explore as most of them would be participating in a holy sacrament during their final year of primary school. As with many potential themes and ideas these are quickly abandoned when I actually meet the class and get to know the group

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

Mary Bennett, Teacher

Helen began by meeting the class and getting a feel for where their interests lay. She planned a lovely introductory session where the pupils got to know her. By the end of session one, the students felt at ease and were very excited about where the project would lead. Myself and Helen liaised with each other and were able to link our project into the curriculum. As it’s so overloaded, it was a great help to be able to integrate in such a creative manner. We initially decided to link in with SPHE in a bid to help build on the pupils’ confidence – a great bonus for pre-teen girls.

Helen Barry, Artist

The time in the summer had provided Mary and I with a good understanding of how we work and most importantly gave us an understanding of each other’s personalities. In my experience it is crucial for a successful artist in residence that the interaction between the artist and teacher is mutually respectful of each other’s professional practice. In this particular incidence it was imperative that I followed Mary’s knowledge of the class. It was evident on my initial meeting of the class that their confidence and self esteem seemed particularly low throughout the whole class. Mary and I had similar aesthetic tastes and though Mary had at times little confidence in her own artistic abilities her enjoyment, enthusiasm and new skills embraced everything we did and the children followed suit.

After my initial meeting with the class Mary and I were able to re-plan a creative programme that centred on building self-esteem that would grow throughout the year with the children.

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

Mary Bennett, Teacher

I learned so much from this experience and overall it was incredibly positive and rewarding for both myself as a teacher and the pupils. By the end, I felt much more confident in teaching the various art forms that we had explored. The pupils grew in confidence in their abilities and were so proud of the work that they had created.

My only challenge was in accepting the importance of, in a sense, allowing the project lead itself. Each week or so, we would re-evaluate and decide where we would be taken, either by something that the pupils spoke about/ enjoyed doing or something that struck us as professionals. As teachers, we tend to be quite regimented regarding our planning and we like to know what we’ll be doing weeks in advance, so it was lovely to allow the creativity to take over and to allow the pupils to play a major part in deciding what we would do.

Helen Barry, Artist

I really enjoyed working on this project and watching it grow and develop in parallel with the children’s growth in confidence and self-esteem. The project really benefited from the time provided for the teacher and artist to get to know each other. The main challenge was parking my specific idea at the classroom door.

What was significant for you about the project that is worth sharing?

Mary Bennett, Teacher

We created a really wonderful installation. It began with the installation of our portraits but that was just the beginning of a piece of work that we added to again and again as the year went on. It really stressed for me the importance of the process as opposed to the product. I was also stuck by how effective it can be to allow simple conversations with the pupils’ guide where a project goes. By keeping your ear to the ground, you can pick up on so much which will bring the project to a place that the children are interested in and will take so much pride in.

Helen Barry, Artist

The dynamic of every class is different and even if the artist can see a potential project that has strong links to his or her own studio enquiry it is imperative to pause and understand where the teacher and class are at. I can honestly say that the children led the direction of the project and enjoyed allowing it to go somewhere that I had to loosen my control of.

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

Mary Bennett, Teacher

I have become much better at not being so fixated on a plan and have learned to accept that when working on a long-term project, there are bound to be changes and that’s ok. I have learned from Helen that trial and error is all part of the creative process. It’s great for the children to see and experience this too. I’ve become better able to step out of my comfort zone as a result of working with Helen. It was a fantastic opportunity, one that I was so glad to have had the chance to participate in.

Helen Barry, Artist

I spend more time listening to the teacher before overloading them with ideas.

 

Music Generation

Closing date: 5pm, Friday 24 November, 2017

Music Generation is Ireland’s National Music Education Programme which helps children and young people access high quality music tuition in their local area. To support both its ongoing work and an ambitious new phase of expansion, applications are now being invited for the new role of Communications & Administration Officer.

This is an exciting opportunity for a team player who combines rigour, energy and ideas with a qualification in marketing/communications and/or arts/arts administration, and a minimum of one year’s professional experience.

For a job description and details of the application process, please contact:

John Deely, Pinpoint

Email: Recruit@pinpoint.ie

Phone: +353 1 642 5721)

Closing Date:  5pm, Friday 24 November, 2017.

A Music Network initiative, Music Generation is co-funded by U2, The Ireland Funds, the Department of Education and Skills and Local Music Education Partnerships.

For more information go to www.musicgeneration.ie/blog/article/job-opportunity-communications-and-administration-officer/

Claire is a visual artist, curator and arts educator based in Dublin. Over the last twenty years Claire has worked with a range of grouOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAps across many age groups from Primary School children through to Second and Third level students, teachers, community groups, intellectual disability groups and older people. These projects have taken place in a range of settings and contexts including museum gallery based, classroom, library, healthcare, local authority and community settings and over a range of timescales. Claire is represented by Olivier Cornet Gallery, Dublin and is currently curating Concerning the Other – an artist collaborative project with the gallery in September 2017.

Visual Thinking Strategies with DCC Neighbourhood Schools – St.Mary’s N.S, Fairview

In my last blog post I outlined the DCC Neighbourhood Schools Visual Thinking Strategies project with which I am co-ordinator and VTS Facilitator. The aim and structure of the VTS: Neighbourhood Schools project is to continue to use Visual Thinking Strategies to add to the knowledge of the arts and build on the sense of place and experience that the children in Central Model N.S have and to share that experience with their neighbours through working in close collaboration with two schools (St. Mary’s N.S, Fairview and St. Vincent’s B.N.S, Ballybough) with trained VTS practitioners in each of the schools.

As mentioned previously I completed the VTS Beginners Practicum Training in September 2016 and was very enthusiastic about trying out VTS facilitation with a class group over a number of sessions. With the support of DCC Arts Office I approached St.Mary’s N.S, Fairview. The aim of a series of sessions was for me to practice VTS in its pure form in St Mary’s N.S., Fairview – a school where I have been working as artist in residence for 5 years practicing art making with the children. The purpose of this was to model the VTS method for the class teacher and to evaluate how VTS works for me as practicing artist in education, the children, and the classroom teacher, in order to inform the school Principal and DCC Arts Office.

Eibhlín McGarry, Principal and Evita Coyle, 4th Class teacher were hugely supportive and enthusiastic about the project and from the outset we agreed that at least half of the sessions would be exhibition visits to The LAB, Hugh Lane Gallery and exhibitions of contemporary art.

In a lot of ways this project differs to how the VTS Programme’s are run in the US. And as the project is developing we are encountering these differences and complexities. A VTS Programme in the US with a beginners group would usually comprise six sessions with a class group over 6 months – ie. once a month. The VTS facilitator would work from the “curriculum” of carefully selected images that have been “tested” for VTS facilitation with groups in the classroom and would include just one museum or gallery visit.

With St.Mary’s N.S and the VTS Neighbourhood Schools Project, the emphasis is on exhibition visits and encountering the best of contemporary art by Irish artists and using VTS to look at this work. From the initial sessions where it felt more like a guessing game of “Did we get it right?” with observation and notation of imagery, subject in the artwork and little reading of the work beyond that to sessions now with engaged discussions around content, materials, scale and artists intent. From my initial introduction to Visual Thinking Strategies it was explained that people like to tell stories, people like to tell you what they know, their experiences. With a 4th Class group you might think that they would have limited experience and reference points. But bearing in mind this is a 4th Class group from Dublin 3, mainly living in Eastwall, Summerhill, Ballybough and the inner city with a demographic of 24 nationalities in the school – the social and cultural diversity and extent of their references and experience is far reaching.

As a practicing visual artist it has been hugely enlightening and enriching to experience exhibitions with a group through facilitating these VTS sessions. It has made me reflect on my own artworks in a different light and how I view artworks and exhibitions. I am intrigued by the observations, theorising and discussions that happen in the sessions. Also seeing the development within the classgroup – their oral language, articulation, observations as well as confidence. This has quite naturally spilled over into other subjects in the classroom. Evita (class teacher) has observed that the class are now very naturally using “I agree with” and “I think that because”. More importantly they are recognising acknowledging there can be more than one meaning, and multiple perspectives on a subject.

The wider impact of the VTS Project with this class group is a work in progress. The project is twofold – it is a Visual Thinking Strategies Project but also a project where the class are visiting, experiencing and familiarising themselves with the best of contemporary Irish art in contemporary galleries. They encounter artworks with an engagement and enquiry that is refreshing and inspiring. The exhibitions and works that we are viewing and experiencing are challenging and complex – the girls are undaunted by this and comfortable and confident in discussing works and visiting galleries and meeting artists and discussing their work as recently with Aideen Barry at The LAB.

We are looking forward to meeting with the other class groups, teachers and VTS Practitioners from St. Vincent’s BNS and Central Model Senior School to share and exchange experiences in the next stage of the project commencing in September 2017.

Links:

Dublin City Arts Office

DCC Project 2020

St.Mary’s N.S, Fairview

Claire Halpin

 

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.

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

 

screen-shot-2016-11-30-at-14-36-32Máire O’Higgins is a teacher and an Assistant Principal at Larkin Community College Dublin 1. She also coordinates partnerships for the College and is the school Chaplain. Máire is 26 years working in the north east inner city. Before she became a teacher she worked as an actor and a Theatre Director.

Larkin Community College is a second level CDETB DEIS Band 1 school in the north east inner city of Dublin. It is a co-educational school with 430 students and a staff of 48. Students come from all over areas of socio-economic disadvantage in Dublin to attend the school. It is a mainstream school and offers Arts, Soccer, Basketball and Academic Scholarship Programmes.

Thursday 26th January 2017

Planning is crucial when engaging with partners. However, to paraphrase the poet Robert Burns, ‘The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry!’ Flexibility is paramount.

As our project has progressed we have been mindful of how best we can deliver on our aims and objectives for the project while adapting to suit changing scenarios during the project.

To this regard, in the time that we have been working on the project a few things have happened.

We have had to say goodbye to one of the Gaiety School of Acting facilitators, Gillian Mc Carthy.

We have struggled to connect with the organisers of TED ED TALKS with whom we had hoped to record the manifestos for the project. We have decided to make our own video of manifestos. The Gaiety School of Acting have a resident photographer / videographer Tom Maher. Tom will lead the video making for the exhibition for the project.

Another development that has impacted on our project has been the announcement by the Government in December 2016 of a five-year initiative, from 2017 to 2022, which places creativity at the centre of public policy. In line with this exciting initiative, which is called Creative Ireland, we have refined the scope and the theme of our partnership project to the following:-
“Reflecting & Re-Imagining Creative Education for a Creative Ireland -One school’s perspective.      

Reflections and Blue Sky Thinking with students, staff, partners and friends of Larkin Community College in collaboration with the Gaiety School of Acting.”

Creating Manifestos

And so we are in the throes of preparing manifestos and performance pieces on this theme for presentation at the Mill Theatre in Dundrum on Thursday the 30th March.

Eighty 1st year students are working on drafts of their manifestos.

They have started by looking at what they dislike about the school system they are currently in.

Here is a flavour of their complaints:-

School furniture is bad for your back! Why can’t students spend more time outdoors during school time? Schoolbags are too heavy! Why do we do so much homework? Why is the school day so long? Why do we spend so much time at a desk writing?
The students have solutions: moveable walls that change colour to suit the lesson; green for storytelling, white for writing solutions to Maths conundrums, blue for meditation. Leather chairs on wheels. Green spaces to break out into every hour and so on…. 
Now that students have had an opportunity to voice their objections to the systems as they are in education, they are currently working on blue sky thinking to re-imagine an education that they would like for secondary students in Ireland.
The next phase of our work will be to edit, rehearse and combine their manifestos to create performances and presentations.

Devising performances

The Arts classes are working with Michelle Fallon to dramatise their perspectives on education – then, now and in future.

This is an extract from Michelle’s documentation of the process:-

In Tuesday’s classes, I asked students to create a monologue/speech around their own perception of education. To begin with I asked them to think of a hook to draw in the attention of an audience- so a funny personal anecdote/ statistic/personal opinion/rhetorical question or quotation etc..  A lot of interesting opinions about their own educational experience to this point, emanated from this discussion.                                                                                                    

Next, I asked the students to think about the education they received during their primary schooling and compare and contrast what they thought were most and least effective and what elements of primary could be easily adapted to their secondary schooling to make their experience less restricted.     

I then showed them the short video ‘I sued the school’ and this generated further discussion. One of the first years said it gave her goosebumps! 

Perhaps we could do something similar in this particular vein? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dqTTojTija8

Michelle went on to write:-
These are some of the issues that were highlighted by Tuesday’s classes:

Another new partner – the local Elderly Day Care Centre

Michelle took her 3rd year Arts class to the Lourdes Day Care Centre for the Elderly to conduct interviews around education in the past. The class will then compare and contrast the perceptions of now and then in other Arts classes.

And another new partner!

Two teachers from the Art Department in the school have now come on board with 1st year and Leaving Certificate Applied (LCA) students and they are preparing artworks to respond to blue sky thinking about what an ideal education might look like.

Early February 2017

The team of teachers and partners from the Gaiety School of Acting are meeting with Kate Canning who is the Manager of the Mill Theatre, to decide on layout, structure and design for our event.

The challenge for us for the next few weeks is to find cover for teachers so that they can continue to work together on this project. This is an ongoing challenge in education. Collaboration, team teaching and cross curricular learning are central tenets of good educational practice but in reality these are hard to manage and cost a lot of money as substitution has to be provided for teachers so that they can meet to collaborate and plan ahead. Our staff members are good at working this way and teachers are kind and generous with their time and willingness to facilitate these processes.

A voice for everyone

In the video we are hoping to include the voices of teachers, students, partners and friends of the school. We would like them to articulate their ideas for an ideal education.

An invitation will be sent by email to all staff, students and partners asking them to respond in 1 minute on camera, to the statement:-
“Reflecting & Re-Imagining Creative Education for a Creative Ireland -One school’s perspective.”    – my thoughts (1 minute)

They will also be asked if they might like to create a visual response to the theme.

We will include their responses in the exhibition in the Mill Theatre as part of our project outcomes. The exhibition and the performances will showcase our school’s perspective on the potential future of education.
 Save the date…. Thursday 30th March 2017 1pm in the Mill Theatre Dundrum….

screen-shot-2016-11-30-at-14-36-32Máire O’Higgins is a teacher and an Assistant Principal at Larkin Community College Dublin 1. She also coordinates partnerships for the College and is the school Chaplain. Máire is 26 years working in the north east inner city. Before she became a teacher she worked as an actor and a Theatre Director.

Larkin Community College is a second level CDETB DEIS Band 1 school in the north east inner city of Dublin. It is a co-educational school with 430 students and a staff of 48. Students come from all over areas of socio-economic disadvantage in Dublin to attend the school. We are a mainstream school. We offer Arts, Soccer, Basketball and Academic Scholarship Programmes.

Monday 7th November 2016

The project work in the classroom hadn’t started yet and I had a light bulb moment over the weekend. I whatsApped Anna and Michelle to suggest we turn the students’ Manifesto speeches into TED Talks for the final presentations in March 2017. They both loved the idea.

The beauty of working with a partner outside of the school is that the partner can sometimes have the time to research aspects of a project. Anna is going to investigate how a school can run a TED Talks. She will also talk to Kate Canning the Manager of the Mill Theatre to see if this idea sits well with her.

Gill from the Gaiety School of Acting starts her work with Michelle and the Arts classes this week.

Tuesday 8th November 

A potential new partner for our project – a writer in residence….

We have had a lot of bereavements in the local community where our school is. It has been a hard few months for students and teachers and other staff. In this sad context we have had a lovely development. Last year we set up a Youth Theatre with the help of the National Association for Youth Drama. Carol Rooney, one of our Drama Teachers, ran a small and exciting Youth Theatre group. They performed a poignant piece in the Sean O’Casey Theatre in East Wall Dublin 3. Tony Bates of Jigsaw and Phil Kingston of the Abbey Theatre came to see it and thought it was a powerful production. As did all of us who saw it. The devised piece dealt with young people and mental health. This year John Dunne, another Drama teacher, set up a second youth theatre group. Now we have two small thriving youth theatre groups. They meet after school on a Wednesday. Dublin City Council Arts Office gave us a start up grant to help us get up on our feet with the Youth Theatre. We set up a committee and an ArtsTrain graduate Ceri O’Hagan joined us to help us run the Youth Theatre. Yesterday I was speaking to the Dublin City Arts Officer Ray Yeates. He was delighted at the success and growth of the youth theatres. He suggested that our school might like to look at a residency for a writer. I thought it would be a great idea for us to welcome a writer into the school for a period so that he or she could observe how we are and who we are and then create a piece of work out of this. If we are successful in getting the funding from the Arts Office and in finding a suitable writer in residence, it will be an act of trust for staff to welcome the writer into their classes and into the staffroom. I think it would be great. I also think that if the writer was to keep in mind the Manifesto project we are doing with the Gaiety School of Acting the ideas that emerge for the writer may fit nicely into a performance piece as part of the conference on education in the Mill Theatre in March 2017. I will be meeting with Ray Yeates in the coming weeks.

Wednesday 9th November

Yesterday Gillian Mc Carthy from the GSoA had a good session with the 1st year Arts students. She did one hour with them. Michelle discovered that there was a misunderstanding around the class contact the artist would have with the class. Jill thought it was twice a week for an hour at a time. Michelle thought it was one hour a week at an hour at a time. This is why it is so important to have planning meetings as well as a liaison person to oversee the project in the school and a manager of the project externally. What I now need to do is go through the dates that Anna put on Google drive and check them and then at a senior management team meeting give these dates to the Principal for the school calendar. That way students are less likely to be taken out of class for other activities when the GSoA project is on.

Friday 18th November 

Anna has sent me a text update on the TED TALKS idea. She is waiting to hear from TED TALKS to find out how best to set up a TED TALKS EDUCATION event. Getting the text from Anna keeps me up to date on progress for the project.

Tuesday 22nd November

Gillian Mc Carthy sent an email asking Michelle Fallon and her Arts students to research the following questions and statements for the project. As requested at the start of the project all correspondence for the project goes to Michelle, Anna, the artists and myself. That way we are all aware of how things are progressing. The research questions and statements that Gillian sent are:-

1 The Irish education system from 1917 to present: the major changes that have taken place over the last hundred years.

2 The pros and cons of the current education system.

3 What is the Department of Education’s vision for the future? What would be the students’ vision of a brilliant education system? What changes would they make?

4 Questions for students who are interested in interviewing older relations and teachers about their experiences of school:-

In the same email Gillian asked if she and I could meet for a chat today. We didn’t get to do that. I have found out over the years that it is always better to agree a brief meeting to discuss the project rather than relying on ‘catching’ each other. So I will email Gillian and suggest a time to meet when she is next in the school.

screen-shot-2016-11-30-at-14-36-32Máire O’Higgins is a teacher and an Assistant Principal at Larkin Community College Dublin 1. She also coordinates partnerships for the College and is the school Chaplain. Máire is 26 years working in the north east inner city. Before she became a teacher she worked as an actor and a Theatre Director.

Larkin Community College is a second level CDETB DEIS Band 1 school in the north east inner city of Dublin. It is a co-educational school with 430 students and a staff of 48. Students come from all over areas of socio-economic disadvantage in Dublin to attend the school. We are a mainstream school. We offer Arts, Soccer, Basketball and Academic Scholarship Programmes.

In the first of her blog series Máire discusses funding, partnership and documentation as part of the Theatre Making and Citizenship Programme with the Abbey Theatre.

October 25th 2016

I have the good fortune of working in a variety of jobs within my permanent teaching post over twenty six years. I worked in theatre before I switched to teaching so I carried my love of the creative engagement with me into teaching.

The school I am currently in has excelled at creative engagement since its inception in 1999. We have done some terrific work and also made some spectacular mistakes. I am learning to call them iterations!  Isn’t that what educational entrepreneurship is all about, iterating and reiterating, planning, trying out, reflecting, trying again and on it goes. Isn’t that too what happens in the real world, the world after school ends?

From November this year to March 2017 we are working with the Gaiety School of Acting and the DLR Mill Theatre in Dundrum on a Theatre Making and Citizenship Manifesto Project. Larkin Community College has been doing Theatre Making and Citizenship programmes for three years now. The Theatre Making and Citizenship Programme model was developed with the College by Sarah Fitzgibbon and supported by Phil Kingston and his education team at the Abbey Theatre. This year we have a group doing the second part of the Theatre Making and Citizenship programme with the Abbey and a new Theatre Making Programme, which shares outcomes with the Abbey programme. This one is with the Gaiety School of Acting and the DLR Mill Theatre Dundrum.

Anna Kadzik-Bartoszewska of the Gaiety School of Acting has developed the project concept and guidelines. The project is called “The right to know”. It will look back at aspects of the education of young people from 1917. It will explore aspects of the education of young people in 2017. It will also look forward and imagine the future for education and young people in 2027. The project will focus on the creation of innovative play using the existing practice of “Manifesto”. Manifesto is an empowering style of theatre making that we hope will give our young people a voice to express their opinions and attitudes towards their own education that others have shaped for them. The project will be run by Michelle Fallon an English and History teacher in Larkin Community College. Michelle also coordinates the Arts Programmes for the College. I will support Michelle in her work and liaise with Anna and the Gaiety School of Acting, as well as other partners that may emerge as we work on the project.

The performances, developed by the students and teachers of Larkin Community College, the local community, older people from the Lourdes Day Care Centre for the Elderly in Sean Mc Dermott Street and arts professionals, will be the part of a conference on education planned for March 2017 at the DLRMill Theatre in Dundrum South Dublin. The conference hopes to feature speakers from Barnardos, Amnesty International, the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission, the Department of Children and Youth Affairs, the Department of Education and Skills, the Arts Council of Ireland, other policy makers and interested parties.  The conference will explore the theme of appropriate education for young people – looking at its different manifestations thematically and setting it within a global, national and local context.

During the conference students speakers will tell their stories through performances. Their theatre pieces will champion the contribution that young people make to society as young people in their own right and their entitlement to be heard on that basis.

This project will focus on theatre as a tool for raising awareness about issues that matter to young people, specifically around education. The project will also look at how theatre can motivate and move young people to action regarding human rights and issues in education that need to change.

Students stories will hopefully open up a dialogue between policymakers and professionals and will create an opportunity for everyone to ask questions, share experiences, and build connections.

Anna planned to hire artists through the Gaiety School of Acting, to work on the project. By the time Anna secured funding for the project, the lead artist that Anna had hoped we would work with – Liz Tyndall – was not able to commit to the project for the first month. Anna then brought in Gillian Mc Carthy to start the project. Both Liz and Gill are Drama and Theatre Teachers with the Gaiety School of Acting.

Michelle Fallon will work with the artists and 60 students. These students are on dedicated Arts programmes in the College as part of the Junior Cycle programme.

Anna’s team will work for one hour a week with three separate Arts groups. Our classes are one hour long and the project fits nicely into the hour long lessons.

The role of the Partnerships Coordinator / Liaison person for the school

My job is to check in with Michelle to see that she is happy with the way the project is going. My job is also to organise permission letters, transport and whatever timetabling needs emerge for the project, as well as to support Michelle as she works with the artists to create the Manifestos with students.

My role is to liaise with Anna too and make sure that the project aims and objectives reflect and fulfil Junior Cycle curriculum needs as well as other educational needs. In this regard my role is to source cross-curricular links that the project might connect with, particularly in English classes, Civic Social and Political Education (CSPE), Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE) classes and Religion classes.

It is also my job to check in with all participants to see that they are enjoying themselves.

I usually manage the budgets for creative engagement projects in the school with the help of our school administrator Janet Rooney. Thanks to Anna too I don’t have the usual headache of paying the artists as Croke Park Community fund have agreed to pay the grant for the project directly to the GSoA. We have also applied for and received funding from Creative Engagement for the project. Creative Engagement is a Department of Education funded body and therefore the grant we receive from them will need to go directly to the school. Janet will manage the accounts and Michelle and I will decide with Anna, how the money will be spent.

As the project grows it will be my job to manage the calendar and communicate matters with the Principal of the school and inform staff of progress on the project.

I will also help Anna to build an invitation list for the Conference in March.

The role of the Principal

Our Principal Aoife Kelly Gibson is fully supportive of the project and loves the arts and culture. She trusts us to plan and deliver the project. This is important as she allows us great freedom to do the work.

Artists Schools Guidelines

I have asked Anna to ask her team to read the artists schools guidelines to help her team to have a sense of what we expect from the partnership engagement. The Artists Schools Guidelines were initiated by Lorraine Comer during her time in the Arts Council and developed in collaboration with teachers, policy makers, artists and young people. They form the framework for our planning meetings with all partners prior to starting a project in the school.

Garda vetting

The CDETB school we work in requires that all people working with young people in the College must be Garda vetted. This takes time to process so we put the paperwork in train as early as possible once we knew we had the funding for the project. Janet manages this for us.

Funding

Last year Anna along with Michelle Fallon and myself applied for Croke Park Community funding https://crokepark.ie/stadium/community/croke-park-community-fund  and got it, for a 1916 project. The project was a great success

Julianne Savage of the Croke Park Community Fund has kindly supported us for this project too, to the tune of €3000.

Dermot Carney the Director of Creative Engagement at www.creativeengagement.ie/ also funded this project to the tune of €1000. We have been lucky.

How does a school succeed in getting this amount of money for an arts in education initative? 

For years we did creative engagement work without a budget and we built a reputation for doing good work that could be sustained. Then we applied over and over again for funding. We often didn’t succeed. We kept applying. I kept applying. I wrote the applications in my own time because I was passionate about the work I was doing. Sadly the regular school day does not allow time for teachers to spend time on the application process.

I found that by sticking with the application processes I got better at filling out forms and we eventually did succeed in getting funding.

I have learnt over the years to be careful with funding applications, to read carefully the questions that are being asked on the application and to respond appropriately. I learnt to make sure that (a) I could do and really wanted to do what I was promising that we could do (with flexibility for change built into the planning) and (b) that I had the time to manage the project or build in costs for a manager, or be as lucky as we are in Larkin on this project, to find a manager like Anna who takes care of the project as part of her brief as a partner on the project.

Partnership

I found that we need to know who our partners are when we decide to work together and to figure out what they expect from us and from the project as well as what it is we expect from them. I have learnt over the years that we need to work out what our aims and objectives and expected outcomes of the project are before applying for project funding. So often I have found that the partners on a project had different expectations to the ones we had in Larkin and it caused unease as we progressed. I have learnt to be clear and to articulate what we agree that all parties want, to check with the students that it is what they want, to build in the time to meet to discuss how things are going during the project and to address challenges as they arise. Communication is central to good partnership work and sustainable partnerships in education. We did a five year project with the education team at the National Museum of Ireland and I learnt so much about negotiating partners’ wishes, managing budgets and managing expectations. We were fortunate to work with an extraordinary team in education at the Museum, led by Lorraine Comer. The partners on the projects we engaged with over the five years were Poetry Ireland, NCAD, The Curriculum Development Unit, Macnas, Lourdes Day Care Centre for the Elderly, Localise as well as individual artists (Mikel Murfi, Helen Lane, Clare Muireann Murphy, Pete Casby), philanthropists and funders. It was a wonderful project that taught me a lot about how to develop and sustain meaningful partnerships in education for young people and teachers.

Documenting the work

Aghhh! During the planning process, we said we would look into photographing and videoing the work as we went along. We did get all students to sign a permission form to allow us to do this. For Child Protection reasons this is critical.

I forgot about the documentation process in the busy life of school. We will work on this going forward (November 23rd 2016).

Too often we have forgotten to document great work we have done. More accurately we have not had the time to do so. So much of theatre making is written in the sand. That is the nature of theatre work. It is like meditation! It is in the moment that we experience it. However documenting a project visually can provide lovely memories. It can also help with further funding applications. It has helped us in the past to explain models of good practice. It has helped us too to reflect on challenges that emerge.

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

Cleo Fagan – Superprojects, Curator

‘I think that the teenage years can be an exciting time in people’s lives, when they often have a keen intellectual or creative curiosity and are open to complex ideas, given the right conditions. As a curator who works with young audiences and contemporary art and artists, it made sense to me that certain contemporary artists would work really well with young people to explore ideas related to the rich context of the commemorations of The 1916 Rising. I approached Julie Clarke of Fingal Arts Office with these ideas back in early 2015. Luckily, our objectives aligned with each other, in wanting to work on something that allowed young people to engage with the commemorations in a fresh and creative way.  We took it from there, approaching artists Ruth Lyons, Eoghan Ryan, Sean Lynch and Clodagh Emoe

Julie Clarke – Fingal Arts Office, Youth & Education Arts Officer

‘The opportunity was open to all post-primary schools in Fingal.  We were delighted to receive interest from Fingal Community College in Swords and Hartstown Community School in Dublin 15, as both schools and art teachers were known to us and a strong working relationship existed. Cleo and I met with the art teachers, Siobhan Lynch and Anne Moylan, to discuss the artistic possibilities and to plan for an enjoyable learning experience for the students. Supported by this partnership we were able to give artistic freedom to the artists to design an initial presentation that would introduce the students to contemporary art practices, challenging topics, and invite them to think about the role of art in our society’.

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

Cleo Fagan and Julie Clarke visited each participating school to talk with the students and teachers about the artists they would meet during the project.  Cleo gave a presentation which included several compelling images and video clips of the artists’ works to ignite curiosity among the students before the artists arrived.

Each of the artists involved – Ruth Lyons, Sean Lynch, Clodagh Emoe, Eoghan Ryan – was invited to devise a set of workshops in response to the context of the commemorations with input from the art teachers. The fascinating workshops that resulted touched on ideas of political and cultural zeitgeist; commemoration; collective power; public art and provocation; humour as protest; personal identity; government and everyday life; time and energy; and representation and nationalism.

Workshops all involved rich discursive, creative and educational elements via opportunities to discuss opinions, to learn about contemporary art practice, to learn new artmaking skills (eg mold making and resin casting). The students created and presented their own artwork to the teachers and artists for an informal critique in front of the school principal and project partners. In some sense, it was an approach that gave a flavour of studying art at third level.

The working group extended to include Distinctive Repetition and writer Sue Rainsford who respectively designed the graphic and wrote a piece of text for the Waves poster which is now available. Jenny Brady filmed the process and the students really enjoyed sharing their work and thoughts on camera.

Clodagh Emoe – Artist

‘My workshops were about ‘people power’ and I began with a presentation showing various examples of artistic strategies and collective power visible in history. The students worked in clusters and amongst themselves identified and debated issues that affect them today. We had a democratic vote to select one contentious issue and using artistic strategies we explored and exposed that specific issue’.

Ruth Lyons – Artist

‘My workshop was on using silicone mold making and resin casting processes to make individual memorial sculptures. The students made these commemorative, decorative artworks by picking an object that represented an essential material in their everyday life. They cast these objects in a clear resin, immortalising this object for hundreds of years’.

Sean Lynch – Artist

‘The workshop I did at Fingal Community College involved looking at how public art works in terms of the spaces we live in, and the times we encounter it nowadays. Many people are familiar with the monuments and statuary of 1916 but there are many different types of artistic methodologies that have come along since then and the idea of the workshop was to share them and celebrate them with the school and the great students involved. We worked with devising a series of speculative proposals. These were based in conversations that were had on the nature of the everyday and the objects that are encountered in the everyday, and what they might become if they were considered a monument to the contemporary times that we live in.’

Eoghan Ryan – Artist

‘When I approached devising the workshop I thought about the question ‘what is holding us together?’. I thought I would focus on flags as they are confusing as a material. Addressing the material culture surrounding flags, what they could mean, if they were important and how to add some kind of individual, subjective importance to update them or undermine them. Everyone was invited to collaboratively make their own flags.  We then destroyed the flags and talked about destroying flags in a demonstrative or rebellious context – what that act means, what you’re doing.’

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

The creative partnership between the teachers, artists, curator, Fingal Arts, and students resulted in great work being made.

The students would like to share their experience:

Student Feedback

‘I really liked taking part in the workshops. I liked learning from people who were actually artists by profession. I liked that we could do whatever we wanted to do without confines – because even though that’s what art is all about we don’t get to do that in school.’

– Student, 17

‘I really enjoyed being able to voice my opinions on issues such as inequality etc. I really enjoyed learning about the apartheid and other monumental issues in history that have helped shape the world today’

– Student, 16

‘We were able to explore something new, which is not in the Leaving Cert programme. We learned many new things from the artists, even that art can be in any shape or form, as shown by different examples in the slideshow. I really liked using the resin and seeing how everyone’s ‘memento’ turned out.’

– Student, 16

‘After the workshops, I feel a lot more comfortable with my art. I like how I can draw, paint or use any form of medium to talk about what I want, how I want, and when I want. The workshops helped me feel at ease with my art. A picture can show a thousand words, I can see what that means now.’

– Student, 15

‘I especially enjoyed learning about the work the artists had already completed. I loved making the items and it really allowed me to use my full creativity and imagination. I am much more observant now…. Art is a broad topic and I can’t wait to learn more about it.’

– Student, 17

What was significant for you about the project that is worth sharing?

Julie Clarke – Fingal Arts Office, Youth & Education Arts Officer

The film really captures the significance of the project and there is so much to choose from –  the students were challenged by the type of art that they saw and the type of art that they had to produce, but equally the students’ capacity for intelligent dialogue on emotive topics was very striking.  A number of students stated that they would take more of an interest in politics and our society if adults listened to them.  They expressed an interested in lowering the voting age so they too could have their say on issues that matter to them on polling days.

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

Siobhan Lynch, Art Teacher, Fingal Community College

‘The project has changed the way I as an educator approach teaching and learning within my classes. I have really embraced group work within the art room and have encouraged and allowed students to develop their creativity through risk-taking and experimentation with new media and by looking at how contemporary artists approach problems and find creative solutions to them.’

Anne Moylan, Art Teacher, Hartstown Community School

‘I received a great insight into the students own political concerns and issues that are real and live to them, which often doesn’t happen in a classroom situation.  As their art teacher it was a great opportunity and it will impact on our future work together’.

Briefly tell us the story of your project – What was it about? Who was involved? How did it get started?

Veronica:

Tenderfoot originated, with the support of South Dublin County Council, in The Civic Theatre in Tallaght ten years ago. Bríd Dukes, the Artistic Director of The Civic, wanted to develop a programme to involve transition year students in the art of theatre. Tenderfoot @ The Civic, the parent programme, annually provides forty five students from eight different schools the opportunity to learn about theatre in a hands on way. Tenderfoot operates on a model of apprenticeship. Students learn by doing. They learn about theatre by making theatre under the guidance of working theatre professionals. Each year a number of the students, usually sixteen, write original plays for the stage. A selection of these plays are then produced and students can opt to act, do costume design, take part in the film for theatre module or they can be part of the stage management team. The final productions are seen by two distinct audiences. A general theatre audience and an audience of the students’ peers. Over the years the reaction of the peer audience to the work, work made by people their own age, has been remarkable. It has resulted in a profound level of engagement. Tenderfoot @ The Civic is entering its tenth year.

Tenderfoot is a replicable model and Tenderfoot @ The Garage, championed by Niamh Smyth of CMETB, is the first reiteration. Tenderfoot @ The Garage serves schools in the Cavan/Monaghan region. Five schools participated in the inaugural year with a focus on writing. Twenty students wrote original plays for the stage. Five of those plays were publicly acknowledged in rehearsed readings in The Garage Theatre. Audience was twofold – general theatre and peer audience.

Response from Sarah Doyle/Holy Family Community School Rathcoole

I was lucky enough to be teaching in Rathcoole when the Tenderfoot programme was first set up. My school was one of the South Dounty Dublin schools chosen to partake.

Response from Gabrielle Tuomey/Our Lady’s Secondary School Castleblayney

I was delighted that our school was accepted onto the Tenderfoot programme following our application through the Garage Theatre. The project had appeal due to its emphasis on creativity, and integration with others, coupled with learning about teamwork and skills required for writing and performing outside of the school timetable. I was also excited about our students being guided, nourished and encouraged by theatre professionals and out of school drama facilitators. Veronica was encouraging and her visit to our school whetted the students’ appetite.

How did the ideas develop? How did the children, artist and teacher work together?

Veronica:

Apprenticeship is the model upon which Tenderfoot runs. The students learn alongside experts in their field so, for instance, professional writers facilitate the students’ learning about writing for the stage. Students are provided with a structure within which they can give voice and form to their own creative ideas. Students are not censored. They can write about any topic. They can utilise any form. The guiding principle for Tenderfoot mentors is to enable students realise the best version of their work.

Response from Sarah Doyle/Holy Family Community School Rathcoole

Very simply, many of our students blossomed. They learned new skills, and many uncovered hidden talents in writing and acting. All of them gained confidence and a greater sense of self-assurance. They made fantastic friends and even better memories. They were a part of something special and very few will ever forget the Tenderfoot experience.

Response from Gabrielle Tuomey/Our Lady’s Secondary School Castleblayney

I noticed a remarkable growth in confidence and self-assurance in the five selected students who quickly adapted to the project and to the process of meeting deadlines and submitting required pieces when asked. The rehearsed readings on the day of performance were absorbing and entertaining.

What aspects of the project made you smile? What aspects of the project made you feel challenged?

Veronica:

The young people make me smile. Their enthusiasm, their engagement and their work. The work they produce is very often surprising. It can be sobering. It can be eye opening. It is really interesting to see the world through their eyes. And I feel that something important is happening in that space where young people encounter the theatrical work of their peers. This is a unique space. Also, the willingness and enthusiasm of the countless teachers I deal with restores my faith in the education system. Year after year I deal with teachers who care only for the best interests of their students. The only major challenge I can think of is the ongoing battle to maintain funding.

Response from Sarah Doyle/Holy Family Community School Rathcoole

I love the annual January trip to see the plays created by the students. Their peers and I, always come away from the theatre impressed and awestruck about what their classmates have achieved. I don’t find any aspect of the process challenging.

Response from Gabrielle Tuomey/Our Lady’s Secondary School Castleblayney

I smiled at the independence of my students strolling out onstage to take their seats and perform in different roles in different plays. Yes, some themes were challenging and clearly revelatory of their needs and focus in this period of their young lives. Sex, freedom of behaviour and speech, rejection of social norms that seem to apply pressure on teenagers were among the challenging themes addressed in their short plays.

What insights from the project are worth sharing?

Veronica:

It is really valuable for young people to have opportunities to learn in contexts outside of school and in ways different to how they learn in school. An important feature of Tenderfoot is that each group is taken from a number of schools and the work environment is a professional arts environment – The Civic Theatre in Tallaght and The Garage Theatre in Monaghan. The value of such an experience is immeasurable. It provides those students lucky enough to take part an opportunity to see themselves in a new light.

Response from Sarah Doyle/Holy Family Community School Rathcoole

Tenderfoot offers students a more relaxed environment to express themselves. This can sometimes contrast to the school environment where as teachers, we have to place restrictions on bad language or on adult subject matter. This can be a liberating experience for a lot of students and can help greatly in their development of self-confidence.

Response from Gabrielle Tuomey/Our Lady’s Secondary School Castleblayney

Overall, most worthwhile as evidenced by the close attention paid by the attentive and engrossed teenage audience who sat through one and a half hours of readings without asking for a break!

Response from Robert Barrett/Participating Student Tenderfoot @ The Civic

Tenderfoot was easily the highlight of transition year. There was never a dull day; they ranged from doing improvisations in the little theatre upstairs, to building a full sized guillotine. It was a unique experience to see plays, some of which were my own, go from their most conceptual stage in the writers minds, to first drafts and then go through production.”

Response from Seoid Ní Laoire/Participating Student Tenderfoot @ The Civic

Writing A Piece Of Me developed me as a writer, but it was watching the director shape my words into something new, something physical and outside of myself that I learnt the most. My writing’s weak points were suddenly glaringly obvious, as were its strengths. I remember peeking out from backstage and seeing the audience respond to words I had written and experiencing a connection that is impossible to achieve from a page. It is difficult for me to adequately describe the impact of my few weeks with Tenderfoot. It was one of those experiences that, when I look back on my life so far, carves out a milestone.

Sarah Hannon/Participating Student Tenderfoot @ The Civic

Tenderfoot made me come out of my comfort zone and most of all have confidence in my writing. It was one of the most fun and rewarding things I did throughout my secondary school experience and I’m very glad I got the opportunity to do it, and I greatly appreciate and am thankful to the people of Tenderfoot for seeing potential in me when I did not, both then and still to this day.

Tenderfoot is a replicable model and Tenderfoot @ The Garage, championed by Niamh Smyth of CMETB, was the first reiteration. Tenderfoot @ The Garage served schools in the Cavan/Monaghan region in 2015. Five schools participated and twenty students wrote original plays for the stage. Five of those plays were publicly acknowledged in rehearsed readings in The Garage Theatre. Audience was twofold – general theatre and peer audience.

Response from Levana Courtney/Participating Student Tenderfoot @ The Garage

Thanks a lot for the wonderful experience you’ve given me and helping me along the way. It’s been a brilliant couple of weeks and I think I speak for everyone when I say I’ve learnt a lot of new things, had so much fun and made a lot of new friends who I won’t forget. Before tenderfoot I would have never spoken in front of a crowd, so I really appreciate the confidence it has given me.

Response from Caspar McCabe/Participating Student Tenderfoot @ The Garage

You can really tell a lot about a person based on what they write about: their experience, their beliefs, their thoughts, their opinions, their dreams … it’s extremely insightful. When you’re writing, even if you have the clearest idea of what you’re going to say, your words take on their own mind and you can end up writing something that is totally different than what you intended to. Knowing how to accept criticism is important, but so is knowing how to accept praise.

Has anything changed as a result of the project?

Veronica

Each year the students who take part in Tenderfoot are changed by their experience. Some find new interests. Many find new levels of confidence. In a number of cases some even find their future professions.

Response from Sarah Doyle/Holy Family Community School Rathcoole

Many of them grow in confidence. In terms of their education, a better understanding of drama helps with their study of drama at senior cycle. For the budding writers and actors, there is almost always a greater desire to be involved in their chosen field after completion of the Tenderfoot project. They will often go on to engage in drama or writing outside school.

Response from Gabrielle Tuomey/Our Lady’s Secondary School Castleblayney

I noted a growing maturity in my five participants. It was good for them to be pushed beyond their usual boundaries.

Response from Caspar McCabe/Participating Student Tenderfoot @ The Garage

Taking part in Tenderfoot has developed my social skills: I realised while taking part how truly complex everyone is, how everyone has their own individual thoughts and experience and beliefs and this has helped me to connect with people and make friends.

Context

Dominican Primary School (DPS) is a DEIS (Dep. of Education and Skills) co-educational primary school. The Junior Infants class consists of 18 students, 12 of those are learning English as an additional language (EAL). DEIS schools address and prioritize the educational needs of children and young people from disadvantaged communities. DPS is concerned with the education of the whole person. It aims to provide opportunities for each child to reach his or her full potential, by exposing them to a wide variety of opportunities that develops and develops their overall growth and self-esteem.
The artist Helen Barry is based in the school through DLRCC’s DLR Primary Arts that supports a long-term artist in residence programme of 24 contact hours over a 4to 5 month period. This has been extended through the Artist at Work residency programme in DLR Lexicon Library where the Helen is currently based. Within walking distance from the school and this offers a further 14 contact hours in the school and in DLR Lexicon’s Project Room.

Timeframe

The artist commenced in Dominican Primary School in November 2014 and will continue through until May or June 2015. We meet weekly mostly based in the school and some sessions are based in DLR Lexicon.

Our Vision

We learn by doing and we learn from each other. Using a child centred and child led approach to:

Documenting

DLR Primary Arts supports the learning, observations and experience through a blog. The children, artist and teacher will all contribute to the blog. We will also invite others to record their observations of the process and impact it is having on the children, teacher\s and artist through the school principal, parents, teachers, and arts office and library staff. We are using a multi disciplinary approach and will be able to record the spoken word, written word, sounds and images and moving images.

The Teacher

As a class teacher working in a DEIS school I feel it is important to participate and work in partnership with others, in education in promoting social inclusion for the children I teach. DLR Primary Arts (creative practitioner project) and Artist At Work workshops with Helen are providing a wonderful and enriching experience for the children and for me as a teacher. Helen’s expertise and artistic insight as an artist has changed my own opinion on art education especially in the early years.

I feel it is important to highlight the large number of children learning English as an additional language in the class, which presents its own challenges for me as a teacher and brings its own frustrations to the children. The artistic process involved with each sessions allows children of all abilities and backgrounds to express their personal ideas, co-operate and communicate with their peers and adults and express their uniqueness in a positive learning environment. The sessions with Helen are providing a great means for communication for the children while reducing their frustrations of language and allowing their competance and confidence to grow.

Helen’s use of the aistear principles which guide her practise and sessions are very much child-centred and child led. Literacy, SPHE and mathematical language are integrated as well as the Visual Art strands.

The Children

would also like to share their own opinions and experiences working on the projects…

Me and Angeline made a castle”, Zhya 5yrs
I like the Lexicon library because we made things”, Holly 5yrs
The tubes are fun I made a bridge”, Amanda 5yrs
We do lots of cutting and making things”, Daivik 4yrs
I like collecting stuff and making things”, Alma 5yrs
Helen plays with us”, Brooke 4yrs

The Artist:

WE ARE

I observe
I listen
I watch
I am open
I am inspired
We talk
We plan
We ask
We make
We are challenged
We are patient
We are open
We explore
We build
We stick
We poke
We cry
We laugh
We reflect
They argue
We learn
We support
We are creative
We give
We work
We struggle
We are honest
They are brutally honest
I am exhausted
We are energetic
We get more help
We are synergetic
We are content
We are inspired
WE ARE.

Helen Barry 2015

‘We Are’ is a poem that best captures what happens throughout my collaborative practice and offers the basis for the language which best describes my methodology. My methodology and my approach to collaborative work with early years children is similar to that of Aistear: the early years curriculum framework. I have also done extensive reading of the curriculum focusing on the early cycle of the primary school. I believe that the teaching methodology and application in the classroom runs parallel to the work and process that happens in the artists’ studio.

I am learning about learning, how we learn and what we learn. I have started at the beginning and I am learning with the children, she is my teacher too. I listen to the children deciphering language through photonics. The lengthening of words like fly, cat, jump; elongated they create beautiful rhythms their tone is set by the hum of the children’s voice, each word held for a prolonged moment. This has become the impetus for a piece of work we are creating together in the school and DLR LexIcon.

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.”

Cubes & Compromise – Visual artist Helen Barry engaged in a 12-week collaborative residency with 1st class children in the Muslim National School, Clonskeagh. Together they explored components of Islamic art and design using a cross-curricular approach. The project was child-led; the children had much broader ambitions of what could be explored through art and creativity. One of the objectives for Helen was to clarify her methodology and approach to collaborative practice within the context of Aistear: the Early Childhood Curriculum Framework. The residency was supported by The Arts Council’s bursary awarded to Helen in 2013/14.

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

Helen Barry, Artist

My decision to approach the Muslim National School was instigated by key themes of my own studio work. I use many of the principals of geometry and symmetry found in Islamic art and architecture in the design and creation of my own work. A strong aspect of my work examines the architectural spaces of sacred buildings and the communities that use these spaces. I had also just completed another residency with senior infants in Rathfarnham Educate Together National School and I wanted to base myself in a school that had a completely different ethos. It seemed a natural choice to invite children of a similar age and a teacher from the Muslim National School to join me in a 12-week collaborative residency.

I asked the children’s teacher June Kelly to feed directly into the sessions and guide me as to the relevance of what we were doing in relation to the curriculum. I am interested in learning about the pedagogical development of children and how creativity can enhance cross-curriculum learning. My work with early years children had become an integral part of my practice and I wanted to challenge my approach to and understanding of collaboration and how this impacted on my work and why I was compelled to work this way.

One of the objectives was to clarify my methodology and approach to collaborative work within the context of Aistear: the Early Childhood Curriculum Framework. This residency was made possible through The Arts Council’s young peoples and children’s bursary award scheme I received in 2013/14.

June Kelly, Class Teacher

Helen Barry arrived to our school, The Muslim National School, last September beaming with enthusiasm to complete a 12-week collaborative residency. The children took to her immediately and she developed a very strong rapport with them. The focus of the project initially was geometry and symmetry. Both geometry and symmetry are a major focus in Islamic Art and Islamic architecture. On Helen’s first visit, when we got to see samples of her work, it was clear that there were strong parallels between her work and Islamic Art.

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

Helen Barry, Artist

Initially I had proposed to explore elements of maths, geometry and Islamic design with the children and very quickly it was clear that the children had their own ideas of how we would actually do this and lots of other things. My approach to collaborative work allows the children to lead the direction and content of the work; this in turn influences the overall process and techniques we use. As my own work primarily focuses on sculpture we started with exploring and constructing 3D spaces. We used a lot of non-traditional art techniques and materials as we moved about measuring the room together; we asked a lot of questions, chatted, laughed, shared stories, worked in pairs and we rarely seemed to sit down. I tend to work on a very large scale with children; using our entire bodies in the creative process from lying on the ground to climbing into spaces, exploring under the tables to building installations. This also demands the practical involvement of the teacher, which was given enthusiastically and consistently by teachers, staff and, at times, assistance from older children.

Even though I was keen to use maths and geometry as strong central themes we veered off through many different areas of the curriculum that demonstrated the richness of the children’s skills and interests. The children’s oral skills were particularly strong. They had a wonderful ability to present images of family life and how important it was to share. Their imaginations had few boundaries and the groups’ playful dynamic supported me to be more open to their ideas and to test out new media. As the weeks progressed I realized that it is not only the children and teachers who must be open to the process of experimenting but the artist too as things do not always go according to plan. We used shadow puppetry to explore their strong sense of storytelling, filming their characters coming to life using the sunlight streaming into the classroom. English was not a first language for many of the children yet they created a varied narrative for their plays overcoming many language difficulties.

June Kelly, Class Teacher

On Helen’s first visit she showed samples of her work from her website. The children were completely in awe. Over the twelve weeks the children made shadow puppets and created their own shadow puppet performances and they also helped created the spectacular stained glass effect silhouette cubes. It felt like Helen was merely guiding the children and they came up with most the ideas and did a lot of the work. Mrs Altawash, Ms. Davin-Park and I also helped guide the whole process along.

What aspects of the project made you smile? What aspects of the project made you feel challenged?

Helen Barry, Artist

There were many elements that made me smile throughout the residency from the children’s enthusiasm and their delight in trying to teach me Arabic, Sarah’s Story telling of her Uncle’s bee hives on the roof of a building in North Africia and producing enough honey for his family, Ms Asiyo Altawash’s practical solutions to my overly complex ones and much more. Throughout all my residencies I need to ensure that what we are doing is relevant to my own work. We followed a number of different lines of enquiry and I often found it challenging to correlate one strand with another and where it related to my own work. The children were curious, playful and very giving and I wanted to capture this essence in what we would create. I struggled with how this would come together with what we were exploring and where it sat with my own work. As we created our final pieces two women who walked through the space we were working in each week observed that our cubes were reflective of ‘The Kabba’ in Mecca and the images reminded them of the energy of children. I could not have had more positive feedback.

June Kelly, Class Teacher

I thoroughly enjoyed the children’s puppet shows, using shadow puppets. It was great to see them so motivated and engaged during their performances. I also enjoyed watching the children when they used the quills for writing. Their curiosity and enthusiasm was infectious.

I found the spontaneity of process quite challenging, in that I am so used to planning my lessons with an end vision or product in mind. I had to take a step back as the children played a huge role in deciding what direction this project would go in. It was a huge and effective learning curve for me.

What insights from the project are worth sharing? (These may seem small, but are significant to you)

Helen Barry, Artist

The children were at different levels, for some languages proved to be an initial obstacle but there were children in the class who had special needs and I found that when using a creative approach, it was not apparent as to who these children were. I always ask the children what do they know about ‘artists’. The children in the Muslim National School were the first to say artists were men and women, in all other schools the children say artist are men.

June Kelly, Class Teacher

Sometimes as teachers we may over-plan activities and lessons and in doing so we are perhaps guilty of curtailing the children’s creativity.

Has anything changed as a result of the project?

Helen Barry, Artist

I have become more confident in allowing the process to go in directions that are new both in terms of the mediums we use and more importantly the content of what we are exploring. I am more open to allowing the children have stronger role in where we are going to go.

I have returned to the Muslim National School to do a second residency, this time with younger children in Junior Infants and this is running concurrently with a second residency with the Dominican National School in Dun Laoghaire. This residency is being supported by The Arts Council YPCE Bursary award 2015.

June Kelly, Class Teacher

For me personally, I think something has changed. I am hopeful that I will be more confident in allowing the children have much more input into my art lessons. It’s okay to deviate from the plan and never to underestimate their ideas and input. I also hope in future in my art lesson to completely restrict my use of templates in order to further the children’s opportunity to be more creative.


!!!! Children’s Summer Programme: ‘Inside Out’ with Dublin City Arts Office & Libraries

Dublin City Council Arts Service
Throughout summer 2021

Over seven weeks of Summer, Dublin City Arts Office and Libraries are delighted to present Inside Out – a feast of free online and outdoor workshops and performances for children and families. Events are free but booking is required through Eventbrite.

Summer Programme includes:

Underwater Moves: Early Years Dance workshops with Monica Munoz
Dates: 27th July, 28th July or 29th July, 10.15 – 10.45 or 11.45 – 12.15

The Storybook Treasure Trail: Performance based, interactive, outdoor family friendly adventure with the Gaiety School of Acting
Dates: 24th July, 7th August, 14th August, 11-11.45am, 12.45-1.30pm or 2.30-3.15pm

CuriousB: A pop-up festival site that you and your family will dream up, design and play in with ReCreate.
Dates: 4th August, 11th August, 10.15 – 11.00 & 12:00 – 12: 45

Throughout summer 2021

For the full line-up of workshops and performances, see here: Inside_Out_Arts_and_Libraries_Summer_2021.pdf

Events are free but booking is required. Capacity is limited to ensure that this is a good experience for children. To book workshops, see here: www.dublincity.ie/events.

!!!! Opportunity: Music Generation Development Officer (Fingal)

Music Generation 
Deadline: 23 April 2021

Dublin and Dun Laoghaire Education and Training Board (DDLETB) invites applications for the position of Music Generation Development Officer (Fingal). They will be responsible for managing a programme of performance music education on behalf of Fingal Local Music Education Partnership. This is a five-year fixed term contract.

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 young people in disadvantaged communities.

Music Generation is Ireland’s National Music Education Programme that gives children and young people access to high-quality, subsidised performance music education. Initiated by Music Network, Music Generation is co-funded by U2, The Ireland Funds, the Department of Education and Local Music Education Partnerships.

Deadline: 4pm Friday 23rd April 2021

For more information on how to apply, see: www.musicgeneration.ie/news/job-opportunity-music-generation-development-officer-fingal

 

!!!! Opportunity: Music Generation Callout for Musicians

Music Generation 
Deadline: 30 April 2021

Music Generation invites individual or groups of professional musicians to tender to lead and develop distinct Communities of Practice with musicians that deliver Music Generation programmes; and to lead, develop and create new work for children and young people with musicians involved in Music Generation Communities of Practice.

Music Generation is Ireland’s National Music Education Programme that gives children and young people access to high-quality, subsidised performance music education. Initiated by Music Network, Music Generation is co-funded by U2, The Ireland Funds, the Department of Education and Local Music Education Partnerships.

Deadline: 5pm Friday 30th April 2021

For more information on how to apply, see: www.musicgeneration.ie/news/request-for-tenders-professional-musicians-provision-of-services

 

 

!!!! HOMEGROUND Art, People, Place, Identity Research & Development Mentoring Awards (2020-2021)

Draíocht & Fingal Arts Office

Deadline: 5pm, 18th September 2020

Fingal Arts Office, in collaboration with Draíocht, is delighted to announce an Open Call for HOMEGROUND: Art, People, Place, Identity, five new Research and Development (with mentoring) Awards for artists working in socially engaged and collaborative practice and/or artists working with children and young people.

The call is open to artists from all disciplines across the visual and performing arts.

The artists will demonstrably be either:
(a) currently involved in socially engaged, collaborative project or a project with/for  children and young people in Dublin 15 or the wider Fingal county
OR
(b) have the idea, the capacity and the existing relationships to initiate a socially engaged, collaborative project or a project with children and young people in Dublin 15 or the wider Fingal county .

The Award will support the research and development of a pertinent project with attendant mentoring support.  The Award does not cover the realisation of a project at this point.  In undertaking the researching and development of a project at this point, its realisation may however be envisaged for a gallery, theatre or site-specific space  in Dublin 15/Fingal.  Subject to resources, Fingal Art Office and/or Draíocht may consider future support for the realisation of one or more of the projects developed through a HOMEGROUND Award.

There are five Research and Development Awards (with mentoring). One award of which will be available specifically for an artist from a minority ethnic or migrant background.

The timeframe of the HOMEGROUND Award is November 2020 – April  2021.

For further information and application details go to www.draiocht.ie/blog/entry/homeground_open_call_fingal_arts_office_draiocht

!!!! SING ME TO THE SEA – the ‘at-home’ version

Mermaid Arts Centre, The Civic & Riverbank Arts Centre

August 2020

Due to tour to hydropools this July and September, this magical watery adventure is now scheduled to tour in August in collaboration with Mermaid Arts Centre, The Civic and Riverbank Arts Centre. Rather than cancel the tour, Anna Newell Theatre Adventures and the partner venues were determined to bring high quality live art experiences to this very particular audience and so the ‘dry land’ ‘at-home’ version was invented. The “at-home” version is specifically for children/young people with PMLD.

Taking the responsiveness of the show to a whole new level, this re-imagined ‘dry land’ version will be performed in the gardens/drives/outside the windows of homes of families of children with complex needs. Still full of ethereal live harmony singing and gorgeous costumes (created by award-winning composer David Goodall and renowned costume designer Susan Scott), reflective silver balls, rainbow fish and water moving through colanders like waterfalls will all happen at an appropriate distance from our audience members, with their accompanying adults mirroring the action to add the up-close sensory element.

A process of a virtual pre-visit will take place to ensure that each different private ‘at-home’ adventure is magical, calm and, of course, safe.

Anna Newell is a Bray-based theatremaker who has been making theatre adventures for many different audiences since 1989. She was the first Irish-based theatremaker to create theatre designed especially for children and young people with PMLD and her work for Early Years audiences has been seen on 6 continents and off-Broadway.

Contact your nearest partner venue for booking details – click on the relevant link below:

SING ME TO THE SEA is co-produced by The Civic, Tallaght and funded by the venues, Wicklow County Council and Sunbeam Trust with additional funding from Arts Council of Ireland

!!!! Have Your Say! A Survey on Music Education Opportunities in Fingal

Calling Young People, Musicians and Educators!

Have Your Say! A Survey on Music Education Opportunities for Children and Young People in Fingal.

Fingal County Council, in partnership with the Dublin and Dún Laoghaire Education and Training Board, invite you to complete a survey that will help us understand your views regarding access to performance music education for children and young people in the county.

This research will support a submission to Music Generation, the national performance music education programme, to extend and enrich the partners’ commitment to children & young people in Fingal.

This step taken by the partners emphasises the importance of retaining support for arts and education initiatives now and in the times ahead as we build connections with one another and ignite hope and inspiration.

Your views are important to this process and will enable the partners to develop and deliver music education programmes that suit the needs of those aged 0 – 18 years, now and into the future.

There are three surveys to choose from:

We invite Children & Young People to complete this survey: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/FingalMusicYoungPeople

We invite Schools, Music Education Providers & Musicians to complete this survey: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/FingalMusicProivders

We invite the General Public to complete this survey: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/FingalMusicGeneralPublic

Should you require assistance or alternative mechanisms to complete a survey please email Fingal County Council’s Youth & Education Officer julie.clarke@fingal.ie

Be in with a chance to win!

Children and Young People are invited to enter a draw to win a gift voucher for one of Fingal’s Arts Centres – Draíocht and the Séamus Ennis Arts Centre, upon survey completion. See information within Children &Young People survey link.

 

 

Deadline for survey submission: Thursday 30th of April 2020.

!!!! ‘Asking For It’

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

In February 2018 Landmark Productions and Everyman Theatre Cork approached us to ask what ancillary activities would we be organizing around the production of ‘Asking For It’ they were planning to stage in June and which would subsequently transfer to the Abbey in November.

We all saw the necessity to involve young people in the story and so aside from the Abbey’s usual provision of post-show talks and podcasts we decided to take the work into schools as directly as possible. We planned a structure of pre and post show workshops to support any school who was going to see the play. We also committed to the creation of a teachers study pack which could appeal to many levels of ability.

After speaking about schools visits to Louise O’Neill, the author of the novel on which the play was based, it became clear that we needed specific training in dealing with this project. Louise’s disturbing experience had been that in nearly every school she had visited herself at least one young woman had disclosed she had experienced sexual assault.

On 24th July we hosted a workshop by Tender UK a theatre company that specializes in exploring issues of abuse with post primary students. On their advice we changed the original plan of having a sole female facilitator to having workshops run by both a male and female so they could model healthy gender relationships. That’s when I stopped just managing the project and stepped in as co-facilitator.

Based on her previous work with the Abbey we contacted actor and facilitator Aoibheann McCaul and she and I planned the post-show workshop together. Aoibheann also attended a training session at the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre.

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

Aoibheann and Phil started visiting schools in October using applied drama to explore the students’ sense of the characters involved in the story and any links they had to students’ own sense of gender roles, friendship dynamics and sexual consent. These pre-show workshops were introductory and often didn’t go into the ethics of consent or even the plot of the play if the students’ weren’t already aware of the story. We wanted the students to experience it theatrically. For those that were aware of the book though, we found that for some the issues of assault were still unclear, “Well she took him into the room so she was asking for it, wasn’t she?”

The groups went to performances of ‘Asking For It’ at the Abbey Theatre and met a couple of the cast afterwards.  The actors had all volunteered to talk to the students and were eager to engage with their responses. These ranged from the shy and practical (“How do learn your lines?”) to more in depth enquiries “How do you play someone so nasty?” “Why did you choose to do this particular play?” “What’s it like having to play Emma over and over again?”. One all-girl’s school which had been skeptical about assault changed their view completely and demanded their teachers give them better sex education in future especially about consent.

Aiobheann and Phil then returned do the schools for a two hour long post show workshop that built on the previously introduced techniques of statues, tableaux and walking in character to explore how both the characters and the students themselves had changed over the course of the evening.

As with the pre-show workshops we used a basic drama technique to encourage recollection  of a lived moment e.g. “How did you feel at the interval of the play?” or “What moment do you remember most about the beginning of the show?” and then encouraged others to ‘read’ these and reflect upon them.  The majority of the workshop was taken up with creating tableaux of the most striking moments of play and then exploring what could have been going through the characters minds at the time. This meant we could explore many of the themes of the work –gender dynamics, peer pressure, sexual consent, family tension – from inside realistic illustrations of how these manifest in behavior. Some highlights of this were the complex dynamics of single gender friendship groups, what was going through the minds of the young men while they were assaulting Emma, how Emma’s father uses emotional blackmail to reinforce her decision to drop the charges.

We also looked at how characters’ lives were changed by the events of the play and again found quite a range of responses from those who thought e.g. Zoe would be 1/ glad that she could now “Take over Emma’s place as top girl.” to  “/ Zoe will be even more cowed by the knowledge her assailant, Dylan, has avoided prosecution for a second assault. It was in this section that the students really got to see the differences in their views.

There was quite a range of responses with the majority of students becoming more understanding and articulate about the circumstances that led to Emma’s choices and how she had been raped. Our touchstone was whether they saw Emma’s encounter with Paul at the party as consensual or not (Emma is plainly on drugs and asks him to wait which he ignores). Before the show this encounter separated out those who had considered the theme of consent in any depth from those who followed conventional option.

Generally the more depth of engagement with the story and characters resulted in a more sympathetic response to the play and more varied and satisfying discussion. One school was already putting on their own play about consent looking at an incident from different viewpoints and our work here became much more do do with teasing out the nuances of motivation in the subsidiary characters e.g. why the mother was drinking, or how the father was avoiding responsibility when asking Emma if she really wanted to drop the charges.  We were surprised to find in another school they still felt Emma had been “asking for it” because she had taken drugs and therefore implicitly consented. In this school there was less empathy for the characters and many of them talked about Emma as ‘a girl like that would’ indicating the distance they felt to her. The work here was harder because the students seemed entrenched in their positions and surprised and resistance to being asked to question them.

The most dramatic changed came with one all girls school who in the pre-show had felt Emma had encouraged Paul. By the end of the show and in the post show workshops they were clear that the sexual double standards evident in society and the lack of appropriate sex education in the field of content were unacceptable.

At the time of writing this we have two more schools to visit. One, a private male only boarding school, will offer the most challenging work as some of the pupils were already defensive and dismissive of the whole premise of the story, believing it to be unrealistic and diverting the debate with arguments that some women lie, men get raped too etc….we were specifically asked to work here by an existing teacher because they felt attitudes towards women needed to be challenged.

For follow on work we created a Study Pack with an analysis of the play and its themes but also extra ancillary material on the history of consent in Ireland, plans of the pre and post show workshops, blogs by students form Cork who’d seen the original production and an example of a homegrown consent workshops. We also asked the pack’s main author, critic and activist Saoirse Anton, to contribute an essay on the connection between consumer culture and rape culture.

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

Phil Kingston, Community & Education Manager & Co-Facilitator

After speaking to Louise I had concerns about the work triggering traumatic experiences in the participants while remaining convinced it was essential young people be given a chance to engage with the issues directly; no amount of older generations talking about the topic of consent was going to make nearly as much difference as exploring it with their peers. I saw this clearly when attending a town hall meeting arranged by the Everyman Theatre and Land mark productions in Ballincollig where teacher Tim Burke arranged for his class to discuss the play with Louise O’Neil, Mary Crilly of the Cork Rape Crisis Centre. It was obvious the students previous discussions contributed to the depth and sympathy of their opinions as well as their intolerance of the lazy, self interested and vicious social forces that perpetuate rape culture.

So the visit of Tender UK was an eye opener about the depth of ignorance and indifference to young women’s agency they had encountered in schools already.  This prepared me for the casualness with which both young men and young women dismissed lead characters Emma’s behaviour as “asking for it”. It was still a challenge though especially when revisiting one inner city school after the play to find that many of the students opinions hadn’t changed and that “girls like that are half responsible”.

Methodologically all six schools proved so varied in responsiveness that we had to continually adapt our approach. This is more a highlight than a challenge because one of the pleasures of applied drama are those in-the-moment improvisations that help coax a non-responsive teenage into someone passionately arguing their point of view. It was also a pleasure to work closely with another facilitator, to be able to hand on to them and observe the different spin the took on what the young people were producing, to debrief and discuss afterwards and to have the space observe the students out of the main focus while your partner led.

All the groups became more responsive and engaged as the workshops went on, often prompting surprised teachers to exclaim how certain pupils were ‘coming out’ of themselves or asserting themselves more than usual. This may have been to do with the kinesthetic aspect of the work unlocking some student’s expressiveness ( a common enough result for applied drama) but also, especially with the young women, a reflection that the topic of gender inequality and consent was important enough to them to ‘raise their game’.

What was significant for you about the project that is worth sharing?

Seeing the play, which is very clear that the protagonist does not explicitly consent, wasn’t always enough to cut through the view that young women who take drugs, dress with sexual confidence and have sexual appetites must take responsibility if they are raped.

Every teacher we talked to was adamant their charges needed to be talking about this topic and as early in their school lives as possible.

There was one all boys schools that we were explicitly asked to visit because of the teachers’ concern about attitudes to women. The young men were indeed defensive and quick to offer counter examples of women lying about rape and we had to be clear the book and play of Asking For It are unequivocal in their depiction of an actual assault. The instinct to deflect the discussion then took an unusual route when they started to dismiss the story itself as unrealistic (“Those pictures would never have been left up there for so long”) and therefore not needing to be engaged with.

Despite having been worried, as mentioned previously, and prepared for the possibility that some participants might disclose that they had experienced assault the fast moving and generally fun nature of the workshops meant we never got to a space where this might have happened. We ensured that schools counsellors were aware of the work and many of them attended or kept in close communication. While the topics weren’t treated frivolously there was more a sense of the young people appreciated the respect shown by having them discuss them.

We were also worried that rules about reporting young people under 17 who revealed they had active sex lives would inhibit the discussion. This never happened and we managed to talk at length and in depth through the lens of the play and its characters without compromising any of the individuals involved.

Students Responses

‘The play had a huge effect on my awareness of my surroundings and really made me appreciate the life I have as the struggles portrayed in the play were devastating’. 

‘When the play was over it made me think how the word ‘rape’ is not being discussed as a problem. People are uneducated about the topic when they should’.

‘The play was very intense, the actors were very good at acting out their roles. By them doing this, it made the play very realistic’. 

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

A renewed enthusiasm to work with young people on ‘difficult’ topics.

A desire to continue to co-facilitate where resources allow.

A plan to use young people’s voice s more in the creation of study packs

Update from Phil Kingston, Community & Education Manager & Co-Facilitator

Facilitator Johanna Webb and I returned to the all boys school and were told a third of the class were in Australia on a school trip and this meant our two workshops would be smaller.

This was a very different encounter with these privileged and, mainly, self-confident young men. Before, with larger groups of 20-25, the atmosphere had been alternately raucous and resistant with obvious leaders asserting their authority and more introverted personalities being muted by the sheer size and testosterone levels.

This time there wasn’t any possibility of hiding and Joanna and I chose to take a very candid approach in the hope it would create openness all round. We told them how concerned we had been at the previous workshops, how genuinely interested in their responses we were and how we appreciated the difficult position they were in (that they had little contact with young women and that they might feel attacked by the topics we were discussing). After moving through some responses obviously designed to give us what we wanted they started to actually say what they thought, prefaced with such remarks as ” I know this is an unpopular opinion but..” Once they saw they weren’t getting jumped on the whole workshop took off.

(My thanks here to Louise O’Neill who sent me an article about sex education in America which prompted us to focus more on these young men’s ignorance than their antagonism.)

We kept to our existing structure of exercises which explored the play ( walking around as different characters at different points in the story, making tableaux of significant moments) and the commitment was as mixed as any group but really these were just a springboard to keep discussing the themes of the play. Some preoccupations emerged – how culpable are you for your actions if you are drunk, how inhibited by convention the parents were, how over the top the lads were presented. The turning point was asking them, if were they Conor, would they take advantage of Emma’s offer to have sex in the second half of the play. Their outraged refusals introduced the idea of conscience and by the end of each workshop they had all agreed that really you always ‘know’ if you are overstepping the bounds of respect for another person’s autonomy regardless of how drunk you are.

The final exercise is choosing lines from the play (spread out on the floor in front of them) and talking about why they are significant. Several of these are from Emma when she is doubting her own position “e.g. Maybe I am a slut”. They were all clear this was an example of someone betraying themselves out of a desire to ‘get back to normal’. They also talked about their own fears of how to approach the whole area of sex and when two exchange students from France and Spain talked with obvious experience of having reflected on these topics you could see, past the odd embarrassed titter, that the Irish boys were impressed less at the achievement and more at the maturity. They all acknowledged the urge to brag about sexual conquests and how difficult it was to talk with the sensitivity they were displaying now when in the company of other young men. We did point out they were doing it there and then.

They came across as frightened, confused and tender-hearted, with no problem individually understanding Emma’s situation but also subject to a culture that made this empathy almost impossible to act upon. They seemed glad to have had the chance to talk openly and were noticeably more honest in the first workshop when we were left unsupervised for the last ten minutes.

Out of a possible 30 we only worked with 20 but these included the young man who’d previously called one of the characters ‘a pregnant bitch’ ( showing not only casual misogyny but a complete misunderstanding of the play) and another who’d been disruptively cynical. Both these behaviours disappeared quickly in the atmosphere of seriousness that the topics demanded. The teachers were amazed by how responsive some of the boys were but I wasn’t surprised that once they were listened to they re-discovered this sense of responsibility.

Before, after first visiting this school, I felt I’d seen the breeding ground for not only the rugby players in the Belfast rape trial but also the barristers who so calmly used their privileged education to spin the events to their clients’ advantage. Now I saw young men who could be advocates for more compassionate attitudes. So long as they resist the pack mentality.

!!!! Final Call for Registration for a CPD Opportunity for Primary School Teachers

Fingal County Council Arts Office

Date: 29 October 2019

Artist Jane Fogarty will introduce primary school teachers to Estuary – an exhibition of artworks from Fingal County Council’s Municipal Art Collection, as a starting point for generating ideas for use with students back in the classroom.

Teachers will be supported to enhance their artistic skills and expand their approach to teaching in the classroom by exploring the potential of the gallery context as an educational resource for the primary school curriculum. There will be an emphasis on looking and responding to contemporary artworks, group discussion, and identifying curriculum links.

This event is Free to attend. Lunch will be included.

For further information and booking please contact:  julie.clarke@fingal.ie

There are limited places available.  Places will be allocated on a first come first served basis.

About Estuary, Sept 12th – Nov 16th at Draíocht

Fingal County Council presents this significant exhibition to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the establishment of the council and its Municipal Art Collection. Curated by Una Sealy (RHA), James English (RHA), Joshua Sex and Sanja Todorović, the selected artworks represent an evolving collection of painting, print, photography, literature and sculptural work by some of Ireland’s most prolific artists.  There is a strong theme of nature flowing through much of the selected works chosen by the curators specifically with Fingal’s landscape in mind. We hope that you enjoy the exhibition and participation in the public engagement programme.  www.fingalarts.ie

Date & Time:  

Tuesday 29 October 2019, 10am – 3pm

Location:

Draíocht, Blanchardstown

Facilitator:

Artist Jane Fogarty

!!!! Guest Blogger: Liz Coman, Assistant Arts Officer Dublin City Council & VTS Facilitator – Blog No.2

Liz Coman is an Assistant Arts Officer with Dublin City Council.  She is a certified Visual Thinking Strategies facilitator with VTS/USA and has completed training to coaching level.  She is responsible for monitoring the quality of Erasmus+ Permission to Wonder – an EU project for Dublin City Council that is testing the VTS training pathway with educators in classroom and gallery settings. Liz has a background in History of Art and Museum Studies and fifteen years experience in designing innovative projects that support arts, education and learning.  She has led trainings in enquiry led approaches to mediating artwork for visual art facilitators in The Ark, A Cultural Centre for Children, The National Gallery of Ireland, and The Turner Prize, Derry and offers ongoing mentorship for individual artists, arts educators and teachers.

Stepping Back – Erasmus+ Permission to Wonder in a Post Primary School Art Room – Blog 2

A conversation with Anne Moylan, Art Teacher, Hartstown Community School, Clonsilla, Dubln15.

My experience with VTS has taught me that supporting authentic VTS practice, for our educators, our students, and myself is not a linear process.  It thrives on a spirit of collaboration, time, and some resources to access training and share understandings of the method.

In 2016, Dublin City Arts Office piloted a partnership approach with the NCCA to test the VTS training pathway with a group of Irish educators from different backgrounds –  professional educators who are from early years settings; primary school classroom teachers; secondary school (art) teachers; art educators (freelance museum and gallery educators, including teaching artists). It supported professional educators to train in Visual Thinking Strategies via Beginners and Advanced Practicums, with VTS/USA Programme Director, Yoon Kang O’Higgins. Erasmus+ Permission to Wonder extended this approach to six European partners, allowing us to deepen our understanding of the educators’ VTS practice journey through a research evaluation framework led by our partners, VTS Nederland.  The intended impact is that, through supporting educators, children and young people will have access to opportunities for critical thinking & thoughtful citizenship; will be actively encouraged to trust their own perceptions and be open to the thoughts of others; will feel their observations are valued and valuable when dealing with visual expression.

Change has been apace in secondary school curriculum re-design in Ireland in recent years. The ‘new’ Junior Cycle places an emphasis on students’ holistic development, linking subject areas, and turning a titanic history of ‘information giving’ towards scaffolding students’ life skills to equip them for a rapidly changing technological and global world.  This is a welcome change, and long awaited by us in the field that bridges arts, education and learning. It also invites challenging questions. I wonder what really happens in the classroom when we ‘step back’ and support our students to take the lead?  In my conversation with Anne Moylan, a secondary school art teacher, and educator participating in Permission to Wonder, we discuss how her training in VTS has supported a shift in her teaching practice and heightened her awareness of the value of “stepping-back” for her students.

How does VTS inform your teaching practice?

For me, the method is very much about stepping back.  It has definitely simplified down the process of looking at a painting, an object, a sculpture, piece of assemblage, for the first time.  To ask the question – what is going on in this work? – and then to actually hear what the students can see and what they are thinking about it. You always come with your own knowledge but in a VTS image discussion you have to step back out of that.  It is about allowing them to take you on any sort of a journey with their observations.

It is surprising when they point out something that you haven’t thought about or know already. You have to be prepared to go with the flow and therefore, your role completely changes with your students. You can make connections, bridge comments and themes, always developing the journey of their observation of the artwork. At the beginning, I found this difficult. Sometimes, as teenagers, you will find they are quiet or are afraid they are going to make a mistake.  That really gets easier with experience and practice as the students get used to the process over time.

We are not looking at images on the art history course. These are images from the VTS/USA website or the Permission to Wonder project, chosen specifically for use in a VTS image discussion. They are images that I am not familiar with myself. So, I am out of my comfort zone. I find this invigorating.

*Permission to Wonder partners are building and testing a European based image bank specifically for use within the project by the educators.  This will be available shortly on the project website www.permissiontowonder.com. Other images we have practiced with are drawn from the VTS/USA image curriculum for specific age groups available on https://vtshome.org/

What have you noticed happening for your students in a VTS image discussion?

Often, in a VTS session, you will find that students, who are very quiet usually, will begin to have a lot to say about a work. Some of these students would never talk, even in a practical art class. Then you show them an image, something will strike them in that image, and they really want to let you know what they see in it.

I have a number of students whose first language is not English. They have difficulty trying to say what they are looking at in their second language. Yet VTS gives them the space to do this.  The atmosphere is very calm. That is the shift for me.  Instead of giving them facts, dates and information about artwork, you are waiting to find out what they want to say about it, first and foremost.

With VTS, you really are connecting with their world. VTS allows the space for their world to connect with an artwork and indeed with me, as somebody from a different generation. You just see into their minds. Therefore, you could show them an image and the theme of mental health or family issues might come through from them. Of course you have to be careful and manage the discussion, not to flinch or be surprised.  You might be flummoxed by what might come out of them.  So holding your neutrality, and keeping the space safe for students, is important. VTS training helps you learn to do this effectively.  You sometimes think they might be talking about their own lives, and yet they are not, they are talking about an artwork.

Your role becomes very much the facilitator of the discussion. Often I would have students, saying to me ‘When can we do this again?

Have you practiced VTS with images that are on the art history course?

Yes, for example, with Jan Van Eyck’s Arnolfini Wedding. When you ask the first question – what is going on in this work?-  you get “I know all about this, we studied this in religion / we studied this in history”. This is an image that is a little bit recognisable to them. They are able to share what they have been taught. However, when you manage the discussion with conditional paraphrasing and ‘What more can we find?’ it deepens their engagement with the work. Even though they think they know as much as there is to know about it, it refocuses their attention back on the image. It deepens their concentration and gets their eyes back on the key elements of the picture.

‘The Arnolfini Wedding’ by Jan Van Eyck
https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/jan-van-eyck-the-arnolfini-portrait

As part of teaching art history, I take the opportunity to bring the students into galleries in Dublin.  The guides tend to lead the tour with one voice- the guides voice. As an art teacher, I just want them to know you can walk into a gallery in any city, you do not have to pay, you can go in, see two pieces, and go back out again. With VTS and the three questions, it is a framework for them to use for looking at artwork, no matter where they are or what artwork they are looking at.

Can you recall a favourite VTS image discussion?

I have used VTS with all the year groups. However, I particularly remember a VTS discussion with a group of sixth years, at the end of the year, in May. We were finished the practical side of the preparation for the exam. With sixth years, you do not want to make anybody have to speak. It is fine if they don’t want to say anything.  However, in this session, there was one boy from China. He had so much to say about a particular image. He related it back to his own country. It was a painting, with a bright yellow palette and all the children depicted had these red neckerchiefs. The Irish children read them as the scouts, or being members of a group, or a club. This boy went in a completely different direction. He described that this is what it is like in China, in school. He talked about his own experience. He spoke for a few minutes and got a round of applause from the other students. A girl in the group said to him ‘in all the years that you have been in the school, that is the most, I’ve ever heard you say’.  So that is the kind of profound experience I remember coming from my VTS image discussions.

‘Mask Series No. 6’ by Zeng Fanzhi,
https://muse.union.edu/aah194-wi19/2019/01/30/zeng-fanzhi-mask-series-no-6/

How do you think VTS complements the Junior Cycle art curriculum?

In the new junior cycle art curriculum, student voice is very important.  It means stepping back and letting the student do the work, lead their learning process.  This does not mean that your job is easier. Within the structure of classroom-based assessment, a lot of reflecting, verbalizing and building the visual vocabulary for teachers and the students, is required.  The change is that you are putting the ownership for their learning and describing their learning process back on the student.  Therefore, you need to facilitate the classroom environment more in order to achieve that.

What we are all nervous about is that it this is difficult to assess. For students and parents it is difficult to understand this change in emphasis. I gave my students a VTS image discussion as a piece of homework to try out with their parents.  They took the framework and used it to look at any artwork or any piece of visual information with their family. The students were surprised with their parent’s observations and the conversations about the art work at home. I use it with my own family and it works very well!

How did Erasmus+ Permission to Wonder help you develop your VTS practice?

I really value that I have been involved in Permission to Wonder. As an art teacher in a school, you might be the only art teacher. You could be on your own, in your creative world.  You are so busy day to day with project work. It is amazing to step out of it with VTS and to have an opportunity to meet other educators-to look at artwork with them using a different format. It is really quite enlightening and refreshing. There are four of us educators from Dublin and we are all coming from completely different backgrounds – gallery, artist, primary school and secondary school. Being involved in our own Irish group was brilliant. We helped each other to explore our own context and look at theirs. I really enjoyed the collaboration and it was invigorating to explore art with others.

The training practicums were very well paced out. In the Beginners Practicum, you had the three questions. But you have to get them right, and in the right order, remember the exact wording, and that was tricky for me in the beginning.  It was also a challenge to learn to paraphrase accurately.  That requires a lot of skill. In the Advanced Practicum, I loved learning about linking and framing comments. How you, as facilitator, can connect comments and really build the learning in the group. I enjoyed the training and understand that it is also up to me to support my own practice and keep  motivated in using VTS.

What would you like to work on next in your VTS practice?

I did a VTS session with a society and politics class. None of these students were art students. We looked at images I selected specifically looking at politics and society – race, childhood issues, gender etc. VTS worked so well in this class. Students had so much to say and the images stimulated insightful conversations. I am interested in how VTS could be used in other subject areas and how I might help other teachers integrate VTS into their subjects in our school.

!!!! Job Opportunity: Music Generation Development Officer, South Dublin (Maternity Cover)

Music Generation 

Deadline: Thursday, 20 June 2019

South Dublin County Council (SDCC) is now inviting applications for the position of Music Generation Development Officer.

A Music Generation Development Officer will be appointed by SDCC and will be responsible for managing an extensive performance music education programme on behalf of South Dublin Local Music Education Partnership. Music Generation South Dublin 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 Skills and Local Music Education Partnerships.

Specific Purpose Contract (Maternity Cover) (Salary range: €46,771 – €57,157 per annum)

Application form, job description and person specification available online at – www.sdcc.ie

Closing date for receipt of completed application forms: Thursday, 20 June 2019

Late applications will not be accepted.
Based on the volume of applications received short-listing may apply. Short-listing will take place on the basis of the information provided in the application form. Depending on the qualifications and experience of applicants, short-listing thresholds may be significantly higher than the minimum standards set out. SDCC is an equal opportunities employer.

!!!! The Artful Classroom – CPD for Primary School Teachers

A partnership project by Fingal County Council & Superprojects

Date: 1st – 5th July 2019

The Artful Classroom is facilitated by Aoife Banim, Anne Bradley, Clare Breen, Catriona Leahy and Beth O’Halloran

This CPD programme The Artful Classroom facilitates primary school teachers to enrich their work in the classroom by exploring contemporary art and architecture, as fascinating resources ripe for use as inspiration and departure points for creative enquiry. Together, the group will explore the national and international practices of artists and architects, through imagery and discussion, and playfully consider how they can be applied to the primary school classroom. Workshop sessions will take place in Draíocht Arts Centre Blanchardstown and The Irish Museum of Modern Art Kilmainham where participants will have an opportunity to explore the work of exciting contemporary artists.

The learning focus will be on processand creative thinking; rather than producing fixed outcomes. Facilitated by Clare Breen, Catriona Leahy, Beth O’Halloran, Anne Bradley and Aoife Banim, the course draws on the expertise of both teachers (with experience of art/architecture) and artists (with experience of education). Each day will be led by a different course facilitator who will share their experience of working creatively with children and demonstrate how they translate their own creative/artistic interests into classroom practice in visual art, and other areas across the curriculum. Participants will creatively explore these practices daily, through a diverse range of hands-on activities.

Schedule and session descriptions

Dates: Monday 1st – Friday 5th of July 2019
Time:  10am – 3pm daily

Locations:
Mon/Thur/Fri: Draíocht Arts Centre, Blanchardstown, Dublin 15.
Tues/Wed: The Irish Museum of Modern Art, Kilmainham, Dublin 8.

To book go to www.eventbrite.ie/e/the-artful-classroom-tickets-46498361852
There are only 20 places so please book early to avoid disappointment!

Cost €45 plus booking fee
This programme is financially supported by Fingal County Council’s Arts Office & Superprojects.

 

!!!! Opportunity: Call for Musicians from Fingal County Council

Fingal County Council

Deadline: 8th March 2019

Fingal County Council is announcing a new opportunity titled Musician-in-Residence Programme 2019 ~ and is inviting expressions of interest from Musicians who wish to be included on a Musicians’ Panel, with a view to delivering high quality music lessons to children in primary schools during the academic year 2019 – 2020. The application deadline is March 8th 2019.

For further information go to www.fingalarts.ie/education to download the Application Guidelines & Criteria and Application Form.

 

!!!! 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

!!!! Kids’ Own publishes new book by children experiencing homelessness, aged 8–12

Kids’ Own has published a brand new book by children experiencing homelessness. The book was launched in partnership with Focus Ireland on Friday 9th November, and offers a rich resource for teachers and schools to explore themes of social justice, children’s rights and SPHE topics. The book was developed by 15 children, aged 8–12, during the summer – through a creative process with writer Mary Branley and artist Maree Hensey –and includes a beautiful mixture of artwork, photography, poetry and personal stories.

To buy a copy, visit Kids’ Own’s website.

!!!! Arts in Education Portal Autumn Regional Day Roundup

Arts in Education Portal

The Arts in Education Portal’s tour of regions continued last Saturday, October 6, with a jam-packed day of activities and presentations at the LexIcon in Dún Laoghaire.

Artist and early years practitioner Helen Barry and creche manager Rosheen Kemple presented on their work using movement and music with early years children and babies in Monkstown. Principal of the Central Model Senior School Deirdre Gartland and artist Claire Halpin demonstrated Visual Thinking Strategies in the LexIcon’s Art Gallery and spoke on the numerous teaching applications for the VTS method across the curriculum. The day was topped off by a hands-on activity using natural materials foraged by artist Liz McMahon who shared her depth of experience with Forest School approaches. Thanks to all involved in making day a success!

Look out for our next Regional Day, planned for early spring 2019 for the Northwest. More details coming soon!

!!!! Autumn Regional Day Programme Announced

Arts in Education Portal

Date: Saturday, October 6th 2018

The Portal Team are delighted to announce the full programme for the Autumn Arts in Education Portal Regional Day which takes place in Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown at the dlr LexIcon on Saturday, October 6th. We invite teachers, artists, arts managers and anyone with an interest in arts in education to join us for this free event. Ticket bookings now open!

Places are limited – booking is essential 

Schedule

10:30am—registration & coffee

11:00am—Introduction – Alice Lyons, Kids’ Own Publishing Partnership (Portal Content Managers)

11:30am—Presentation – Visual Artist Helen Barry and co-presenter on Early Years Work with Childcare Facilities

12:15pm—Presenation – Visual Artist Claire Halpin and Deirdre Gartland, Principal, Central Model Senior School on Visual Thinking Strategies Project

1:00pm—Lunch & networking

1:30pm— Breakout & Creative Session – Liz McMahon, using natural materials/Forest School approaches

3:00pm—wrap up

To book your tickets for the Autumn event go to

https://www.eventbrite.ie/e/arts-in-education-portal-regional-day-dun-laoghaire-rathdown-tickets

 

!!!! Date Announced for the Arts in Education Portal Autumn Regional Day

Arts in Education Portal

Date: Saturday, October 6th 2018

Following on from the success of the Spring Regional Day for the Arts in Education Portal held at the Glucksman in Cork, we announce the Autumn Regional Day to take place in Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown at the dlr LexIcon on Saturday, October 6th from 10:45am to 3pm.

We invite regional audiences to connect with us during a series of events, where practitioners can learn more about the Portal and what it offers, tell us about their work, connect with the community at regional level, share practice and find out what opportunities or events are available in their local area. We welcome teachers, artists, arts managers and anyone with an interest in arts in education to join us for this free event.

Stay tuned for the full schedule and booking details which will be announced in the coming weeks.

 

 

!!!! Guest Blogger: Dan Colley, Dramaturg & Director of Collapsing Horse Theatre – Blog No.4

dan_colley_headshot_editDan Colley is a director, dramaturg and programmer from Dublin. As Director of Collapsing Horse Theatre he has directed The Water Orchard (with Eoghan Quinn, co-produced by Project Arts Centre) The Aeneid, Bears in Space, Conor: at the end of the Universe, Human Child, Distance from the Event and Monster/Clock. With Collapsing Horse, Dan is Theatre Artist in Residence in Draíocht and co-Artistic Director of Kilkenny Cat Laughs Festival.  As a dramaturg Dan has worked with Macnas, Dublin Fringe Festival, WillFredd and Sugarglass Theatre among others. Dan has a degree in English and Philosophy from NUI Galway and studied Youth Theatre Facilitation with Youth Theatre Ireland. Dan was a recipient of the Next Generation Bursary in 2016.

Blog post 4: Rights Museum

The Rights Museum is a participatory art project that attempts to allow our objects to tell our story through the medium of a museum. Its subject is the lives of students in Larkin Community College and how the rights enshrined in the UNCRC intersect with their actual lived experience. Or don’t.

In my last blog post I detailed how I worked with a group of first year CSPE students and asked them to invest in the stories behind their rights – and learn about their rights in reality.

In our next session, I presented a simple everyday object to the group – I used a shoe. I like to gather the participants around the object in a circle. First I asked them to make objective observations: what can we say for certain just by looking at it? For example; “it’s a shoe”, “it’s got white laces”, “it’s black” “there’s dirt on it”. I kept this going, correcting them if they brought in any subjective observations (eg. “They look like they’ve been used to go running” or “They’re ugly”). Keep it to the facts that you can tell just by looking.

Once I’d just about exhausted this, I asked them to make subjective observations. I prompted them; who might have owned these shoes? What might they have used them for? Did they value them? And with each answer, I asked them to support their claim with evidence that they can see.

Then I placed the shoes on a raised platform (I used a bin but asked them to imagine it was a plinth in a museum!) and I asked them if that changed the way they saw it? Did it make it seem more important? Why? What could possibly be so important about this pair of shoes that they would be in a museum? I asked them to imagine that there was a label on it that said “Plastic and canvas shoes. Shoe size 5. 2017. Syria.” and then I asked them what they thought of them then. What would they think about the story of these shoes and who wore them?

I put the shoes away and then put another object on our “plinth”. This one was of personal importance to me – a pair of cufflinks displayed in their box. But I didn’t tell the participants anything about them yet. Again I asked them to make objective observations, then subjective observations (“is this important to the owner? Why do you say that?” “Are these expensive? Why do you say that?” “When were they made?” etc.) I then told them what they were, the story behind them and why they were important to me. Then I asked them all to bring in an object that was important to them, look at their UNHCR which we’d been working on, and relate what was important to them about the object back to an article in the charter.

Now we were facing the task of putting together an exhibition in the National Museum of Ireland at Collins Barracks. Our questions for this were; how do we represent the work and the participants’ learning in that space for members of the public to see? And how do we invite the public to actively engage with the ideas within it?

We decided to keep it simple; we photographed all the participants with their chosen object and asked them why it was important to them and what right(s) it related to. We then got Sarah Moloney, a graphic designer (although this could have been done by me or someone who had time to learn Photoshop) to lay out the photographs with quotations from the students laid over the image, along with the text from the UNCRC that were relevant. Each of these was printed on A2 card and was displayed on the walls of the exhibitions space. This allowed all of the students who had taken part to be represented in the exhibition.

There were three large windows in the space; the middle one we printed the text of the UNCRC and on the two sides windows we wrote “What would be in your Rights Museum?” and invited the public to write on the windows in liquid chalk pens which we provided. This allowed the public to actively engage in the ideas that the Right Museum was provoking.

The Museum kindly lent us a display case, for which I chose eight objects that were representative of the whole group, to be displayed for the duration of the exhibition. This was the centre piece of the Rights Museum and showed the seemingly everyday objects, contributed by young citizens, enjoying the prestige and equal importance that is given to the treasured objects in the National Museum’s collection.

The power of this statement seemed to resonate with those we told about it and we had an enthusiastic response to our invitation to the opening of the exhibition. The opening was attended by the Minister for Education Richard Bruton, Director of the National Museum Raghnall Ó Floinn and the Ombudsman for Children Niall Muldoon, as well as national media including RTE news and the Irish Times. Two students from Larkin Community College, Ciarán Hayden and Isabella Anthony, spoke about their experience of the process at the podium, alongside the Minister, Director, and Ombudsman for Children. A number of students led guided interpretive tours of the exhibition for our guests.

I’d count among the Rights Museums successes; the way that it was able to facilitate learning about children’s rights in an active and personal way, that it succeeded in placing, on equal footing, the objects and stories of the young people alongside the artefacts of the National Museum, and the wide reach that the Rights Museum had to the public, through the media and from those who visited it.

The main challenges were in finding time and space with the young people to work in a way that was outside of the curriculum – although there are important curricular subjects being addressed. I am eternally grateful to the staff of Larkin, particularly Máire O’Higgins for facilitating that. Another challenge I found was a lack of understanding, of and buy-in to, the idea of human rights by the young people that I worked with. I picked up on a prevailing perception, before I started working with them, that human rights were a

My takeaways from this projects are many but the main ones that jump to mind

1. That artists have a different approach to working that the students can benefit from that perspective. The artists way is often a more circuitous, process and enquiry based approach than students are used to in mainstream education. It’s one that’s comfortable with the state of ambiguity you find yourself in while you’re working, one that allows one to say “I don’t know what this is yet” and for that not to be a bad thing. That’s not to say artists are the only people who can demonstrate that way of working, but it is something that artists can do because of the way many of us work.

2. That as an artist working in a school, it’s important that that’s what I remain – an artist. My job is to be an artist, not an Art or CSPE teacher or anything else. The job is artist and that has value.

3. That the framing of work by young people has a profound impact on how it’s perceived by people, but most importantly themselves. The way their work (whether it be a copy book, or a sculpture or a story told in class) is handled by the people in the world around them, subconsciously tells them something about it’s value. And my feeling is there is a huge artistic and social potential in subverting expectations of that value – as we did in small way by displaying “ordinary” objects in a museum.
The Ombudsman for Children’s Office has commissioned an education pack that features a guide on how to create your own rights museum in your school or community, and it will be available from their website in the autumn 2018 term.

If I may, I’d like to thank the Arts in Education portal for offering me this chance to share the process; Rebecca Mclaughlin and Niall Muldoon in the OCO for their support and vision in making this happen; Helen Beaumont and Lorraine Cormer in the National Museum’s Education Department for all that they did in hosting the exhibition, giving it a platform and providing expert facilitation on museum curation to the students; Richard Bruton for officially opening the exhibition; the students at Larkin Community College, and staff Siobhán Mckenzie, Declan Quinn, Emma O’Reilly, and Principal Thomas Usher. In particular I would like to thank Assistant Principal Máire O’Higgins, without whose drive, vision and passion for education and art, this wouldn’t have started and would have fallen at the first hurdle.

 

!!!! Opportunity for Schools: Take part in SHORELINE with CoisCéim BROADREACH

CoisCéim BROADREACH

Primary Schools in the Dún Laoghaire – Rathdown area are invited to apply to participate in SHORELINE

A Choral Song And Contemporary Dance Project For People Aged 8 to 80+

Led by CoisCéim BROADREACH Director Philippa Donnellan and renowned composer Denis Clohessy, in association with the DLR LexIcon Library and Pavilion Theatre, SHORELINE invites people from Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown to embark on an oceanic journey of discovery – to share their stories and experiences about the sea.

The project begins in September 2018 in a creative dance/song workshop project that brings together children from 1 primary school, a local choir, and people aged 50+ and culminates in 3 sea-themed performances by participants at the DLR LexIcon Library on Saturday 25 November 2018 at 2pm, 3pm, and 4pm.

What’s Involved

The project begins at the end of September and includes:

 

Application Requirments

 

Selection Criteria

Selection will be made by CoisCéim BROADREACH and criteria are based on articulating a clear rationale as to why your school

would like to participate in SHORELINE – and a demonstrable ability that you are able to:

For further information and application form please go to coisceim.com/shoreline-2018/ or email philippa@coisceim.com

 

!!!! Job Opportunities with Dance Theatre of Ireland

Dance Theatre of Ireland 

Deadline: 15th June 2018

Dance Theatre of Ireland seek applications for the positions of Programmes Manager and Centre and Outreach Coordinator to join their team in Dún Laoghaire.

Dance Theatre of Ireland is a professional contemporary dance company based in a beautiful, purpose-built Centre for Dance in Dún Laoghaire. With extensive Arts & Health, Community & Educational Outreach and Arts Participation programmes in dance,  DTI works locally, nationally and internationally.  Over 3500 people of all ages are engaged in participatory dance activities throughout the year, and the Company delivers over 200 Educational Outreach workshops annually.

Programmes Manager

DTI are looking for an experience and dynamic Programmes Manager to manage and develop the Company’s growing Dance & Health programmes, Community and Educational dance participation programmes and performance projects.  This is a new position, involving the overall business management and development of Dance Theatre of Ireland, working closely with the Artistic Directors, and core staff.

The Programmes Manager will have the responsibility to manage the business and financial development aspects of the Company’s activities, and progress the deepening and expanding Arts Participation direction of the Company. They will be responsible to devise and deliver a business growth plan for the Well-Dance for Seniors and other Dance & Health programmes, develop partnerships, seek performance opportunities for Vintage Youth Ensemble and work with DTI’s core staff in managing the Centre for Dance and Educational Outreach programmes, coordinating the complex moving parts and key relationships.  They will monitor and meet the financial and attendance targets, maintain financial diligence, diversify and secure new income streams, lead PR and Marketing, and report regularly to the Artistic Directors.

Centre and Outreach Coordinator

DTI are looking for an experienced and dynamic individual for a multi-faceted, full-time position, managing DTI’s Centre for Dance programme of classes and its nation-wide Educational Outreach programme. This role is very active and varied both in client facing and financial aspects.  The Centre Coordinator’s  primary responsibility is managing the enrollment / attendance/ financial  tracking of all activities and facility use, interfacing with classes participants and Outreach clients and agencies, liaising with DTI teachers, and managing a wide range of key relationships working closely with the Artistic Directors.

For more information and full job description go to www.dancetheatreireland.com/pages/opport.htm

!!!! Calling Artists & Educators – Share your views on the Fingal Arts Office County Arts Plan

Fingal Arts Office

Deadline: 5pm Friday 1st June

Fingal Arts Office invites you to have your views heard in the development of the next County Arts Plan in Fingal by this Friday! The County Arts Plan is the roadmap for developing the arts service in Fingal over the coming years.  As an advocate for Arts in Education / Children & Young People it’s important that you have your say.

Fingal Arts Office asks if you could please take ten minutes to complete the online Survey and have your voice heard.

You can go online and anonymously complete the short Survey which is live now.
Survey link:  https://consult.fingal.ie/en/content/have-your-say-arts-plan-survey

!!!! Guest Blogger: Dan Colley, Dramaturg & Director of Collapsing Horse Theatre – Blog No.3

dan_colley_headshot_editDan Colley is a director, dramaturg and programmer from Dublin. As Director of Collapsing Horse Theatre he has directed The Water Orchard (with Eoghan Quinn, co-produced by Project Arts Centre) The Aeneid, Bears in Space, Conor: at the end of the Universe, Human Child, Distance from the Event and Monster/Clock. With Collapsing Horse, Dan is Theatre Artist in Residence in Draíocht and co-Artistic Director of Kilkenny Cat Laughs Festival.  As a dramaturg Dan has worked with Macnas, Dublin Fringe Festival, WillFredd and Sugarglass Theatre among others. Dan has a degree in English and Philosophy from NUI Galway and studied Youth Theatre Facilitation with Youth Theatre Ireland. Dan was a recipient of the Next Generation Bursary in 2016.

Blog post 3: Rights Museum

In my last blog post I detailed “Phase 1” of the process in which I facilitated drama and storytelling workshops with the 2nd year Art students at Larkin Community College, and the work-in-progress of the Rights Museum project which we presented in Croke Park for the OCO’s UNCRC25 Launch.

Although the presentation in Croke Park was supposed to be a “work-in-progress”, any readers who have done works-in-progress themselves will know there’s an inevitable sense of completion that sets in afterwards. Our challenge for “Phase 2” of the Rights Museum project was finding something new in executing the same idea. At the same time, the Art teachers Declan Quinn and Siobhán Mackenzie (who had been an essential energetic and creative force through the process from the beginning) started to feel the gravitational pull of the curriculum on their time, and thought that to continue with the process would be consume more time than they could afford to give. So, it was with some difficulty that we decided to draw a line under the phase 1 with the second year art students. This, I’m sure is a challenge and a decision many educators reading this will understand.

In order to continue, Máire O’Higgins, Deputy Principal and coordinator of artistic partnerships, needed to find an enthusiastic teacher and a group students who could benefit from the work. This she found in abundance in Emma O’Reilly and her first year CSPE class.

The task now was to recreate the process of phase one with a new group. This time, given that they were a CSPE class, we decided to find our way in through the UNCRC. Emma O’Reilly gave an introduction class to the United Nations Charter on the Rights of the Child, supported by me and Máire O’Higgins. Human Rights is one of the core pillar concepts of their CSPE course which they would normally cover in second year, so there was a curricular link there.

In our next session we asked the students to pick what they considered to be the most essential article in the UNCRC and to say why. We found their answers tended to cluster around the articles relating to family (and this was a theme we saw bare out in the objects they chose for the museum later). As the students told us which articles they thought were essential , my job as facilitator was to foment debate and dissent.

I used an exercise called “The Continuum” in which we cleared away the tables and chairs, nominated one end of the room to be “strongly agree” and the other side to be “strongly disagree” with “unsure” in the middle. When I said a statement, the students had to place themselves in the room, depending on how they felt about the statement. So, for example I might say “’Article 24; you have the right to healthcare’ is the most essential right” and the students would place themselves in the room depending on whether they agreed or strongly disagreed or somewhere in the middle. Then I would call on people who had taken the most extreme positions to say why. As they listened to the conversation and opposing points, students were encouraged to change their positions in the room as they changed their minds.

In this way, the students learned, from each other, the importance of their rights through the personal anecdotes they shared; they learned about their rights in reality. Choosing extreme statements to polarise opinion at the start and then allowing them to tease out the nuances among themselves.

In my next, and final, blog post I’ll describe how we applied this knowledge to museum curation; how one can tell stories and create meaning through selecting  and placing objects. I’ll describe the process of working with the National Museum of Ireland, the launch of our completed Rights Museum exhibition in the National Museum at Collins Barracks and the Education Pack being commissioned by the OCO based on the Rights Museum.

!!!! Artist Opportunity with the Improvised Music Company in partnership with The Ark

Improvised Music Company & The Ark

Deadline: Thursday 29th March

Fun Size Jazz – Performance and development opportunity for jazz and improvising musicians and ensembles from IMC in partnership with The Ark

Improvised Music Company in partnership with The Ark are looking for applications from professional artists and ensembles in jazz and improvised music for short ‘scratch’ performances aimed at young audiences. The chosen artists will have an opportunity to devise, create and deliver their short live performances for audiences of children at The Ark this summer 2018.

This new initiative, jointly presented by Improvised Music Company and The Ark, stems from an original production developed between 2014 & 2016, called Monster Music Improv, which toured across Ireland and the UK in 2016.

Applications should present considered, innovative and engaging approaches to creating memorable and enjoyable performances of between 15-20 minutes duration designed to specifically appeal to young audiences aged between 4 and 12 years.

Fun Size Jazz will result in 2 performances taking place on the May and August Bank Holiday Mondays respectively (7th May & 6th August 2018).

Further Information go to www.improvisedmusic.ie/news/fun-size-jazz-performance-and-development-opportunity-for-jazz-and-improvis

!!!! The Ark and Dublin Dance Festival are delighted to present ‘Hocus Pocus’

The Ark & The Dublin Dance Festival 

Schools Performances Fri 18 May @ 10.15am & 12.15pm.

The Ark and Dublin Dance Festival 2018 are delighted to present ‘Hocus Pocus’ – a magical performance for schools.

Created by Philippe Saire (Switzerland), this magical children’s show for ages 7+ explores how images conjure vivid emotions, sensations and experiences.

Taking the audience on a fantastical voyage, two brothers dive into dreamlike adventures: a contortionist’s escape from a spider’s web; a journey in a damaged flying machine; and underwater encounters with fabulous aquatic creatures.

The unique set design creates a playful game of appearance and disappearance. As light is painted across the stage to reveal everything it touches, the dancers’ bodies seem to emerge from a black hole before being swallowed up again. These visual mysteries cast a spell, suspending our disbelief and unleashing our imagination.

Suitable for 2nd – 6th Class

For more information go to ark.ie/events/view/hocus-pocus

!!!! Guest Blogger: Dan Colley, Dramaturg & Director of Collapsing Horse Theatre – Blog No.2

dan_colley_headshot_editDan Colley is a director, dramaturg and programmer from Dublin. As Director of Collapsing Horse Theatre he has directed The Water Orchard (with Eoghan Quinn, co-produced by Project Arts Centre) The Aeneid, Bears in Space, Conor: at the end of the Universe, Human Child, Distance from the Event and Monster/Clock. With Collapsing Horse, Dan is Theatre Artist in Residence in Draíocht and co-Artistic Director of Kilkenny Cat Laughs Festival.  As a dramaturg Dan has worked with Macnas, Dublin Fringe Festival, WillFredd and Sugarglass Theatre among others. Dan has a degree in English and Philosophy from NUI Galway and studied Youth Theatre Facilitation with Youth Theatre Ireland. Dan was a recipient of the Next Generation Bursary in 2016.

Blog post 2: Rights Museum

The Rights Museum is a participatory art project that attempts to allow our objects do just that. Its subject is the lives of the second-year Art students in Larkin Community College and how the rights enshrined in the UNCRC intersect with their actual lived experience. Or don’t.

In the last post I described the beginnings of the project idea and the partners who came together to make in happen; Larkin Community College, The Ombudsman for Children’s Office and the National Museum of Ireland.

I began work on “Phase 1” of the project in September 2017 with two second-year Art classes, along with teachers Siobhán McKenzie and Declan Quinn. I facilitated four weekly hour-long workshops  on Wednesday afternoons outside of class time. I also worked with the students in their art classes with their teachers.

The workshops used drama and storytelling techniques to three main aims; to surprise and entertain, to get them cooperating as a group, not just individuals; and to introduce new forms of self-expression. That work included a simple ball throwing and catching exercise (acknowledging the stress that it causes, allowing ourselves to drop the ball, and focussing on the thing that mattered; that we were all working together calmly to the get the ball around the circle). We also stood in a circle and played what I call “Kung Foo” (of which there’s many variations including “zip, zap, boing”) We also played a game in which 5 participants sit in a row, and then take turns standing up and saying “My name is X” followed by something that’s true. The aim is to always have someone standing and sating something, to act on the impulse to fill a gap where it occurs and to say anything that’s true, however mundane, that come into your head. This exercise allows for back-and-forth conversations to emerge, (eg. “My name is Dan and I have two brothers” followed by “My name is Stacy and I also have two brothers”) and for the participants to get to know each other better and have a way of expressing themselves through the exercise.

In two Art classes a week, I focussed more directly on the task of creating a Rights Museum. That time was devoted to introducing the concepts of the UNCRC (supported by a workshop delivered by the Ombudsman for Children’s Office) and a focus on objects and what story they can tell (supported by a “If Objects Can Talk” workshop in National Museum of Ireland).

The students were asked to pick an object that was meaningful to them and to bring it in to class.

They were asked to “free-write” about it.

They were asked to stand up and share why it was meaningful to them and what articles in the UNCRC it referred to.

This process lead the students to share among the following objects with their class:

In their other session each week, Ms McKenzie’s class divided into 4 groups. Each group took a theme of the UNCRC and created a large mind-map illustrating that theme and the rights that it represented. Mr Quinn’s class also divided into 4 groups and created interactive paper fortune tellers which illustrated the four themes.

The culmination of phase 1 was a work-in-progress presentation of the Rights Museum took place in Croke Park as part of the OCO’s launch of the UNCRC25 celebrations in September 2017. It featured :

The participants reported their surprise and delight at how their objects and artwork were displayed just like in a professional museum. They also reported experiencing a thrill at seeing other people coming to view their objects and read their writing, and a great sense of achievement in what they’d produced.

The work-in-progress was intended to mark the end of phase 1 and the beginning of another, but we were soon to discover that it had the sense of an ending in and of itself. For phase 2 of the work, we would be starting again with a new set of students and finding a way to join the work that both groups had done.
 

!!!! Audi Dublin International Film Festival Fantastic Flix programme for schools

Audi Dublin International Film Festival

21st February – 4th March 2018

Fantastic Flix, ADIFF’s strand for young people aged 4-16, returns for its third thrilling year with the support of Cheestrings and featuring an exciting programme of international films for school groups.

Director of Collapsing Horse Theatre, Dan Colley, will give post-screening talks at both At Eye Level (12+), a father and son reunion tale, and Liyana (12+), a beautiful Swazi documentary with animated elements about a girl who goes to great lengths to save her younger brothers from harm. Director Meikeminne Clinckspoor will attend two screenings of Cloudboy (9+), an enchanting film about Niilas, who is sent to visit his mother in the wonderful forests of Lapland and learns about the Sami people.

Nora Twomey, director of the much-anticipated The Breadwinner, will introduce a screening of children’s classic My Neighbour Totoro. Brown Bag Films’ Vampirina (4+) and the Fantastic Flix Shorts (4+) are sure to delight the youngest budding cinemagoers.  Actress Wilma Lundgren will attend the festival for her film, Room 213, a seriously spooky Swedish mystery. Other highlights include the terrific animations from France, The Big Bad Fox & Other Tales (6+), and Japan, Mary and the Witch’s Flower (6+).

The Fantastic Flix Children’s Jury, a collaboration with The Ark’s Children’s Council and the Irish Film Classification Office, returns for a second year, as do a fascinating choice of workshops in collaboration with The Ark.

Schools Programme

Primary Level

My Neighbour Totoro  – Thursday 22nd February – Light House 1 – 11am – Age Recommendation 5+

Cloudboy – Thursday 1st March – Omniplex Rathmines – 10am & Friday 2nd March – Light House 3 – 11.30am – Age Recommendation 9+

At Eye Level – Thursday 1st March – Movies @ Dundrum – 1pm – Age Recommendation 12+

Vampirina – Friday 2nd March – Light House 3 – 10am – Age Recommendation 4+

Room 213 – Friday 2nd March – Omniplex Rathmines – 11am – Age Recommendation 12+

Post – Primary Level

At Eye Level – Thursday 1st March – Movies@Dundrum – 1pm – Age Recommendation 12+

Room 213 – Friday 2nd March – Omniplex Rathmines – 11am – Age Recommendation 12+

Liyana – Friday 2nd March – Movies@Dundrum – 12.30pm – Age Recommendation 13+

Career’s Day – Thursday 1st March – IFI – 10am – Tickets €5 – Age Recommendation 14+

This one day event, aimed at Senior Year Secondary Level students will unpack some of the many di erent lm and television departments and skills required for a career in the lm industry. There will be insights from sparks and foley artists, script supervisors and VFX supervisors, and will feature some of the Irish lm industry’s most talented artists including Darragh O’Connell (Brown Bag Films), Louise Kiely (Casting Agent), Piers McGrail (Cinematographer), Steven Fanagan (Sound Editor & Composer).

The Career’s Day is a joint initiative from
Audi Dublin International Film Festival, the Irish Film Institute, Irish Film Board and Broadcasting Authority Ireland.

For more information go to www.diff.ie

 

 

 

 

!!!! Guest Blogger: Dan Colley, Dramaturg & Director of Collapsing Horse Theatre – Blog No.1

dan_colley_headshot_editDan Colley is a director, dramaturg and programmer from Dublin. As Director of Collapsing Horse Theatre he has directed The Water Orchard (with Eoghan Quinn, co-produced by Project Arts Centre) The Aeneid, Bears in Space, Conor: at the end of the Universe, Human Child, Distance from the Event and Monster/Clock. With Collapsing Horse, Dan is Theatre Artist in Residence in Draíocht and co-Artistic Director of Kilkenny Cat Laughs Festival.  As a dramaturg Dan has worked with Macnas, Dublin Fringe Festival, WillFredd and Sugarglass Theatre among others. Dan has a degree in English and Philosophy from NUI Galway and studied Youth Theatre Facilitation with Youth Theatre Ireland. Dan was a recipient of the Next Generation Bursary in 2016.

Blog post 1: Rights Museum

Can our objects tell us about the state of our rights?

Can they show our rights upheld? The rights we’re denied?

The Rights Museum is a participatory art project that attempts to allow our objects do just that. Its subject is the lives of the second-year Art students in Larkin Community College and how the rights enshrined in the UNCRC intersect with their actual lived experience. Or don’t.

The project is led by me, in my capacity as Director of Collapsing Horse. I am an artist, a producer, director and writer for theatre. Collapsing Horse is a theatre and festival production company that makes work that arises out of collaboration and purposeful play. Sometimes the work we make is for and with young people.

It originated when I was approached by Máire O’Higgins, Assistant Principal at Larkin Community College and asked if I would be interested in working with the students there, if I had an idea of what I would do. She described examples of some of the remarkable work that had been created by the students with professional artists. I was familiar with Larkin from work I had done there with the Abbey Theatre’s Community and Education Department and had admired the school’s commitment to the arts as a key part of the holistic development of their students. This commitment is upheld in the face of frequent adversity. Máire made no bones about it – Larkin is a school that is on the front lines of a community that has experienced generations of lack of opportunity and neglect.

Around about the same time Rebecca McLaughlin, from the Ombudsman for Children’s Office (OCO), approached me with the idea of collaborating on something for the 25th anniversary of Ireland’s ratification of the UNCRC. It seemed serendipitous! It was obvious to put the two ideas together – I would lead the Rights Museum project in Larkin Community College, which would also serve as pilot programme that could be written about in an education pack and replicated in other schools and communities for the OCO’s 25th Anniversary celebrations. Later, the National Museum of Ireland came on board as enthusiastic supporters, making it clear they would help in whatever way we could.

The goal from the outset was clear. We would empower a group of young people to create an exhibition illustrating their experience of their rights enshrined in the UNCRC. What wasn’t clear, was how we were going to do it.

!!!! CPD for Teachers at The Ark: An Drámaíocht sa Seomra Ranga

The Ark

Date: Saturday 10th March

Teachers are invited to enjoy a morning exploring a range of simple and accessible drama processes for the classroom using the Irish language. Using The Ark’s season theme of Me & the City and aspects of the primary curriculum as a bouncing off point, you will have the chance to develop confidence and skills in working thematically through drama in Irish. The workshop will focus on activities suitable for 2nd-6th class. It will be presented bilingually and is suitable for teachers at all levels of confidence in working through Irish.

Saturday 10 March @ 10:30 am to 1.30pm

For more information go to www.ark.ie/events/view/cpd-for-teachers-drama-sa-seomra-ranga-drama-in-the-classroom

!!!! Me & The City – A Visual Art Programme for Schools at The Ark

The Ark

Date: 6th – 22nd March 2018

In Me & The City your class will discover and explore how a city is planned, created and developed. Working with artist Jole Bortoli, they will learn how architects work and look at artists who have created landmark sculptures and colourful big-scale street art.

On arrival your class will visit The Ark’s gallery, which will be full of displays that will explore the structure of cities, their architecture and diverse habitats. You will see plans that show the design process of urban spaces as well as architectural drawings and sketchbooks, photographs and 3D models. Inspired by what they have seen, the class will then take part in a practical mixed media workshop led by artist Jole Bortoli.

Me & The City is an ideal opportunity to explore the Looking and Responding unit of the Visual Arts curriculum and the workshop is strongly linked with the Construction, Fabric and Fibre, Drawing and Paint and Colour strands.

The workshop also has strong linkage with other curricula including Geography (in particular the Human Environments strand), Science, Mathematics and SPHE.

6th – 22nd March (Tue – Fri) at 10.15am & 12.15pm

For more information go to www.ark.ie/events/view/schools-me-the-city

!!!! The Civic Theatre – Tenderfoot performances for schools

The Civic Theatre, Tallaght

Schools Performances – Thursday 25th at 12 pm & Friday 26th January at 10am and 2pm

Original plays, written by 15/16 year old playwrights, provide a unique glimpse into the world of our young people; articulating their experience and their reality.

TENDERFOOT, meaning neophyte, newbie, greenhorn, is The Civic Theatre’s apprentice theatre programme for transition year students.  Now in its eleventh year the programme provides students from eight different schools in the South County Dublin region the opportunity to create and perform original work for the stage. From January 25th to 27th this work can be seen in The Civic Theatre.  Plays written by young people, telling their stories, presenting the world as they see it.  These diverse and exciting plays, the work of young theatre makers, include –

The End of the Beginning by Tadhg Slye, an exploration of male friendship in a world of exams and first girlfriends and exploding toasters.

Plastic by Jordan Lee, a supernatural chiller guaranteed to make you jump out of your seat.

Seaside Story by Aidan Kelly, a comedy about families, holidays and global warming.

And Just for the Cracked by Chloe O’Flaherty which takes a fly on the wall look at a group of young people who find their friend unconscious and unresponsive at a party.

Tenderfoot Performances 2018

Schools Performances Thursday 25th at 12 pm & Friday 26th January at 10am and 2pm

Admission €10 / €5 concession

Booking 01 4627477  www.civictheatre.ie/ whats-on/tenderfoot-new- writing-showcase-2018/

!!!! Guest Blogger: Máire O’Higgins – Teacher’s Blog No.4

screen-shot-2016-11-30-at-14-36-32Máire O’Higgins is a teacher and an Assistant Principal at Larkin Community College Dublin 1. She also coordinates partnerships for the College and is the school Chaplain. Máire is 26 years working in the north east inner city. Before she became a teacher she worked as an actor and a Theatre Director.

Larkin Community College is a second level CDETB DEIS Band 1 school in the north east inner city of Dublin. It is a co-educational school with 430 students and a staff of 48. Students come from all over areas of socio-economic disadvantage in Dublin to attend the school. It is a mainstream school and offers Arts, Soccer, Basketball and Academic Scholarship Programmes.

Blog 4 – December 2017

It is six months since we finished the Reimagining Education showcase and exhibition with students and staff from Larkin Community College and the Gaiety School of Acting.

The showcase and exhibition were a great success. The discussions after each showcase were enlightening and exciting. It was heartening to hear what young people thought about their own education. It was poignant to hear what older adults remembered about their often limited creative engagement with education.

Did we succeed with this partnership project? Yes, on so many levels.

The work was a celebration of a year of hard work and focused engagement with the theme of reimagining education. It gave a voice to young and old and allowed them to express their opinions about education. Students developed skills in independent research, collaborative learning, planning an event, Theatre Making and curation. Students mirrored the world of work by modelling best practice in curation and theatre making.

However a lot of the good work that was done to ensure a strong aesthetic standard in performance and in curation, was done in teachers’ and facilitators’ own time. And that is not sustainable. This sad reality shines a light on what is currently the reality in our education systems at second level, in particular in second level DEIS schools (a DEIS school is a school that receives more funding from the Department of Education and Skills to deliver equality of opportunity in schools).

I hope that in naming what that reality is, we can help to reimagine a new and exciting DEIS model.

In the year of our partnership project with the Gaiety School of Acting, teachers and facilitators had two classes a week for one hour at a time, to research, devise, rehearse and produce a showcase about reimagining education. They also had two classes a week for one hour at a time to create exhibits and a catalogue for an exhibition. Outside of this time teachers met with each other and with facilitators from the Gaiety School of Acting in their own time, to plan and reflect on processes and prepare for the exhibition and showcase. We loved the experience but it took its toll.

The key to the project’s success was twofold:

We all bought into the vision for the project and we were able to check in with each other as we progressed, to make sure that we were all still clear on that vision.

This work as I have stated was done in our own time. We were happy to give of our time voluntarily but this way of working is not sustainable in a wise education system. Volunteering in a school community is important but it should not form the core work of creative engagement in education. If the core work relies on volunteerism it will quickly move to adhoc provision of best practice in education.

Sadly for this project, none of what the students did could be formally assessed in education last year. This year with the new Junior Cycle, we can thankfully now record similar processes and outcomes and formally acknowledge this type of work. That is great news.

However for us to continue to engage creatively in education with partners is challenging for a myriad reasons.

For instance, teachers are often now on year to year contracts. This makes it difficult to plan a project with a colleague until we know that they will be working with us the next year.

We cannot apply for funding until we know who may be engaging with the projects.

Funding then does not often come in to the school until the middle of the first term.

All of this means that is really hard to plan projects for the academic year.

An exciting model for education would be one where teachers and artists are supported and empowered to create a strategic direction for a school for five years. This would allow us to deepen practices and develop innovative programmes that can nurture creativity in education for stakeholders and for young people.

It is hugely time consuming trying to fundraise and plan and build experience amongst teachers so that we can best serve young people.

Working in a DEIS school, we work with young people from areas of socio-economic disadvantage. One of the factors that contribute to instability in the lives of the young people we work with is the often chaotic patters they encounter in their personal lives. These include constant changes in the home, breakdown of family relations as well as addiction outcomes such as unpredictable behaviour in the home. Change happens too frequently and causes instability for our young people.  It is a real pity then that they find that their school life mirrors this with a high turnover of staff annually due to employment structures in education. Offering five year contracts to those who work in DEIS schools would support wise planning and sustainable structures in DEIS schools and create stability for our young people. Teachers and partners could plan, fundraise, build research components and evaluations, reflect and reiterate best practices in creative engagement. I firmly believe that this would begin to address equity and equality in some of our most deprived communities in Ireland.

!!!! Myself and My Friends

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

Mary Bennett, Teacher

Our project began by exploring self-portraits. It wasn’t long before this led us to the realisation that many of the pupils lacked confidence and self-esteem. We decided to try and tackle this through a creative avenue and to link in with SPHE. The pupils used a kaleidoscope camera to take unique pictures of themselves. From there we looked at describing words for ourselves and our peers. The pupils chose their favourite word and it was carved into their self-portrait. They then placed cellophane behind the word to make it stand out. All the pupils’ portraits were suspended from a grid system Helen had created in the classroom which we added to over the course of the year. The installation was very effective and it helped create a very positive atmosphere in the classroom. We also did a printing workshop. The children designed their own printing plate and they got to use a real printing press which was so exciting for them. As the materials Helen had provided were such good quality, the prints turned out beautifully and the pupils were so proud of their work.

Helen Barry, Artist

Our project grew from a week long Training of Trainers Programme, Summer 2016. A unique initiative with the Association of Teachers’/Education Centres in Ireland (ATECI), funded by the Department of Education and Skills (DES) and the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht (DAHG)/Department of Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs (DAHRRGA) that supports the Teacher-Artist Partnership as a Model of CPD – 22 artists nominated by arts organisations, and in my case it was IMMA (Irish Museum of Modern Art) and 22 teachers representing Education Centres nationwide. In our partnership the organisations were IMMA (Irish Museum of Modern Art) and Dublin West Education Centre.

During the week long Training of Trainers programme we had time to discuss and plan potential ideas that would link naturally to the curriculum. Mary had had this particular class in the earlier stage of their primary school education so she knew the girls quite well. As an artist I try to link the theme to areas of my own practice. A key component of my own inquiry is faith and belief, that I was keen to explore as most of them would be participating in a holy sacrament during their final year of primary school. As with many potential themes and ideas these are quickly abandoned when I actually meet the class and get to know the group

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

Mary Bennett, Teacher

Helen began by meeting the class and getting a feel for where their interests lay. She planned a lovely introductory session where the pupils got to know her. By the end of session one, the students felt at ease and were very excited about where the project would lead. Myself and Helen liaised with each other and were able to link our project into the curriculum. As it’s so overloaded, it was a great help to be able to integrate in such a creative manner. We initially decided to link in with SPHE in a bid to help build on the pupils’ confidence – a great bonus for pre-teen girls.

Helen Barry, Artist

The time in the summer had provided Mary and I with a good understanding of how we work and most importantly gave us an understanding of each other’s personalities. In my experience it is crucial for a successful artist in residence that the interaction between the artist and teacher is mutually respectful of each other’s professional practice. In this particular incidence it was imperative that I followed Mary’s knowledge of the class. It was evident on my initial meeting of the class that their confidence and self esteem seemed particularly low throughout the whole class. Mary and I had similar aesthetic tastes and though Mary had at times little confidence in her own artistic abilities her enjoyment, enthusiasm and new skills embraced everything we did and the children followed suit.

After my initial meeting with the class Mary and I were able to re-plan a creative programme that centred on building self-esteem that would grow throughout the year with the children.

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

Mary Bennett, Teacher

I learned so much from this experience and overall it was incredibly positive and rewarding for both myself as a teacher and the pupils. By the end, I felt much more confident in teaching the various art forms that we had explored. The pupils grew in confidence in their abilities and were so proud of the work that they had created.

My only challenge was in accepting the importance of, in a sense, allowing the project lead itself. Each week or so, we would re-evaluate and decide where we would be taken, either by something that the pupils spoke about/ enjoyed doing or something that struck us as professionals. As teachers, we tend to be quite regimented regarding our planning and we like to know what we’ll be doing weeks in advance, so it was lovely to allow the creativity to take over and to allow the pupils to play a major part in deciding what we would do.

Helen Barry, Artist

I really enjoyed working on this project and watching it grow and develop in parallel with the children’s growth in confidence and self-esteem. The project really benefited from the time provided for the teacher and artist to get to know each other. The main challenge was parking my specific idea at the classroom door.

What was significant for you about the project that is worth sharing?

Mary Bennett, Teacher

We created a really wonderful installation. It began with the installation of our portraits but that was just the beginning of a piece of work that we added to again and again as the year went on. It really stressed for me the importance of the process as opposed to the product. I was also stuck by how effective it can be to allow simple conversations with the pupils’ guide where a project goes. By keeping your ear to the ground, you can pick up on so much which will bring the project to a place that the children are interested in and will take so much pride in.

Helen Barry, Artist

The dynamic of every class is different and even if the artist can see a potential project that has strong links to his or her own studio enquiry it is imperative to pause and understand where the teacher and class are at. I can honestly say that the children led the direction of the project and enjoyed allowing it to go somewhere that I had to loosen my control of.

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

Mary Bennett, Teacher

I have become much better at not being so fixated on a plan and have learned to accept that when working on a long-term project, there are bound to be changes and that’s ok. I have learned from Helen that trial and error is all part of the creative process. It’s great for the children to see and experience this too. I’ve become better able to step out of my comfort zone as a result of working with Helen. It was a fantastic opportunity, one that I was so glad to have had the chance to participate in.

Helen Barry, Artist

I spend more time listening to the teacher before overloading them with ideas.

 

!!!! Music Generation Job Opportunity: Communications & Administration Officer

Music Generation

Closing date: 5pm, Friday 24 November, 2017

Music Generation is Ireland’s National Music Education Programme which helps children and young people access high quality music tuition in their local area. To support both its ongoing work and an ambitious new phase of expansion, applications are now being invited for the new role of Communications & Administration Officer.

This is an exciting opportunity for a team player who combines rigour, energy and ideas with a qualification in marketing/communications and/or arts/arts administration, and a minimum of one year’s professional experience.

For a job description and details of the application process, please contact:

John Deely, Pinpoint

Email: Recruit@pinpoint.ie

Phone: +353 1 642 5721)

Closing Date:  5pm, Friday 24 November, 2017.

A Music Network initiative, Music Generation is co-funded by U2, The Ireland Funds, the Department of Education and Skills and Local Music Education Partnerships.

For more information go to www.musicgeneration.ie/blog/article/job-opportunity-communications-and-administration-officer/

!!!! Guest Blogger: Claire Halpin, Visual Artist, Curator & Arts Educator – Blog 2

Claire is a visual artist, curator and arts educator based in Dublin. Over the last twenty years Claire has worked with a range of grouOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAps across many age groups from Primary School children through to Second and Third level students, teachers, community groups, intellectual disability groups and older people. These projects have taken place in a range of settings and contexts including museum gallery based, classroom, library, healthcare, local authority and community settings and over a range of timescales. Claire is represented by Olivier Cornet Gallery, Dublin and is currently curating Concerning the Other – an artist collaborative project with the gallery in September 2017.

Visual Thinking Strategies with DCC Neighbourhood Schools – St.Mary’s N.S, Fairview

In my last blog post I outlined the DCC Neighbourhood Schools Visual Thinking Strategies project with which I am co-ordinator and VTS Facilitator. The aim and structure of the VTS: Neighbourhood Schools project is to continue to use Visual Thinking Strategies to add to the knowledge of the arts and build on the sense of place and experience that the children in Central Model N.S have and to share that experience with their neighbours through working in close collaboration with two schools (St. Mary’s N.S, Fairview and St. Vincent’s B.N.S, Ballybough) with trained VTS practitioners in each of the schools.

As mentioned previously I completed the VTS Beginners Practicum Training in September 2016 and was very enthusiastic about trying out VTS facilitation with a class group over a number of sessions. With the support of DCC Arts Office I approached St.Mary’s N.S, Fairview. The aim of a series of sessions was for me to practice VTS in its pure form in St Mary’s N.S., Fairview – a school where I have been working as artist in residence for 5 years practicing art making with the children. The purpose of this was to model the VTS method for the class teacher and to evaluate how VTS works for me as practicing artist in education, the children, and the classroom teacher, in order to inform the school Principal and DCC Arts Office.

Eibhlín McGarry, Principal and Evita Coyle, 4th Class teacher were hugely supportive and enthusiastic about the project and from the outset we agreed that at least half of the sessions would be exhibition visits to The LAB, Hugh Lane Gallery and exhibitions of contemporary art.

In a lot of ways this project differs to how the VTS Programme’s are run in the US. And as the project is developing we are encountering these differences and complexities. A VTS Programme in the US with a beginners group would usually comprise six sessions with a class group over 6 months – ie. once a month. The VTS facilitator would work from the “curriculum” of carefully selected images that have been “tested” for VTS facilitation with groups in the classroom and would include just one museum or gallery visit.

With St.Mary’s N.S and the VTS Neighbourhood Schools Project, the emphasis is on exhibition visits and encountering the best of contemporary art by Irish artists and using VTS to look at this work. From the initial sessions where it felt more like a guessing game of “Did we get it right?” with observation and notation of imagery, subject in the artwork and little reading of the work beyond that to sessions now with engaged discussions around content, materials, scale and artists intent. From my initial introduction to Visual Thinking Strategies it was explained that people like to tell stories, people like to tell you what they know, their experiences. With a 4th Class group you might think that they would have limited experience and reference points. But bearing in mind this is a 4th Class group from Dublin 3, mainly living in Eastwall, Summerhill, Ballybough and the inner city with a demographic of 24 nationalities in the school – the social and cultural diversity and extent of their references and experience is far reaching.

As a practicing visual artist it has been hugely enlightening and enriching to experience exhibitions with a group through facilitating these VTS sessions. It has made me reflect on my own artworks in a different light and how I view artworks and exhibitions. I am intrigued by the observations, theorising and discussions that happen in the sessions. Also seeing the development within the classgroup – their oral language, articulation, observations as well as confidence. This has quite naturally spilled over into other subjects in the classroom. Evita (class teacher) has observed that the class are now very naturally using “I agree with” and “I think that because”. More importantly they are recognising acknowledging there can be more than one meaning, and multiple perspectives on a subject.

The wider impact of the VTS Project with this class group is a work in progress. The project is twofold – it is a Visual Thinking Strategies Project but also a project where the class are visiting, experiencing and familiarising themselves with the best of contemporary Irish art in contemporary galleries. They encounter artworks with an engagement and enquiry that is refreshing and inspiring. The exhibitions and works that we are viewing and experiencing are challenging and complex – the girls are undaunted by this and comfortable and confident in discussing works and visiting galleries and meeting artists and discussing their work as recently with Aideen Barry at The LAB.

We are looking forward to meeting with the other class groups, teachers and VTS Practitioners from St. Vincent’s BNS and Central Model Senior School to share and exchange experiences in the next stage of the project commencing in September 2017.

Links:

Dublin City Arts Office

DCC Project 2020

St.Mary’s N.S, Fairview

Claire Halpin

 

!!!! 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.

!!!! 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

 

!!!! Guest Blogger: Máire O’Higgins – Teacher’s Blog No.3

screen-shot-2016-11-30-at-14-36-32Máire O’Higgins is a teacher and an Assistant Principal at Larkin Community College Dublin 1. She also coordinates partnerships for the College and is the school Chaplain. Máire is 26 years working in the north east inner city. Before she became a teacher she worked as an actor and a Theatre Director.

Larkin Community College is a second level CDETB DEIS Band 1 school in the north east inner city of Dublin. It is a co-educational school with 430 students and a staff of 48. Students come from all over areas of socio-economic disadvantage in Dublin to attend the school. It is a mainstream school and offers Arts, Soccer, Basketball and Academic Scholarship Programmes.

Thursday 26th January 2017

Planning is crucial when engaging with partners. However, to paraphrase the poet Robert Burns, ‘The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry!’ Flexibility is paramount.

As our project has progressed we have been mindful of how best we can deliver on our aims and objectives for the project while adapting to suit changing scenarios during the project.

To this regard, in the time that we have been working on the project a few things have happened.

We have had to say goodbye to one of the Gaiety School of Acting facilitators, Gillian Mc Carthy.

We have struggled to connect with the organisers of TED ED TALKS with whom we had hoped to record the manifestos for the project. We have decided to make our own video of manifestos. The Gaiety School of Acting have a resident photographer / videographer Tom Maher. Tom will lead the video making for the exhibition for the project.

Another development that has impacted on our project has been the announcement by the Government in December 2016 of a five-year initiative, from 2017 to 2022, which places creativity at the centre of public policy. In line with this exciting initiative, which is called Creative Ireland, we have refined the scope and the theme of our partnership project to the following:-
“Reflecting & Re-Imagining Creative Education for a Creative Ireland -One school’s perspective.      

Reflections and Blue Sky Thinking with students, staff, partners and friends of Larkin Community College in collaboration with the Gaiety School of Acting.”

Creating Manifestos

And so we are in the throes of preparing manifestos and performance pieces on this theme for presentation at the Mill Theatre in Dundrum on Thursday the 30th March.

Eighty 1st year students are working on drafts of their manifestos.

They have started by looking at what they dislike about the school system they are currently in.

Here is a flavour of their complaints:-

School furniture is bad for your back! Why can’t students spend more time outdoors during school time? Schoolbags are too heavy! Why do we do so much homework? Why is the school day so long? Why do we spend so much time at a desk writing?
The students have solutions: moveable walls that change colour to suit the lesson; green for storytelling, white for writing solutions to Maths conundrums, blue for meditation. Leather chairs on wheels. Green spaces to break out into every hour and so on…. 
Now that students have had an opportunity to voice their objections to the systems as they are in education, they are currently working on blue sky thinking to re-imagine an education that they would like for secondary students in Ireland.
The next phase of our work will be to edit, rehearse and combine their manifestos to create performances and presentations.

Devising performances

The Arts classes are working with Michelle Fallon to dramatise their perspectives on education – then, now and in future.

This is an extract from Michelle’s documentation of the process:-

In Tuesday’s classes, I asked students to create a monologue/speech around their own perception of education. To begin with I asked them to think of a hook to draw in the attention of an audience- so a funny personal anecdote/ statistic/personal opinion/rhetorical question or quotation etc..  A lot of interesting opinions about their own educational experience to this point, emanated from this discussion.                                                                                                    

Next, I asked the students to think about the education they received during their primary schooling and compare and contrast what they thought were most and least effective and what elements of primary could be easily adapted to their secondary schooling to make their experience less restricted.     

I then showed them the short video ‘I sued the school’ and this generated further discussion. One of the first years said it gave her goosebumps! 

Perhaps we could do something similar in this particular vein? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dqTTojTija8

Michelle went on to write:-
These are some of the issues that were highlighted by Tuesday’s classes:

Another new partner – the local Elderly Day Care Centre

Michelle took her 3rd year Arts class to the Lourdes Day Care Centre for the Elderly to conduct interviews around education in the past. The class will then compare and contrast the perceptions of now and then in other Arts classes.

And another new partner!

Two teachers from the Art Department in the school have now come on board with 1st year and Leaving Certificate Applied (LCA) students and they are preparing artworks to respond to blue sky thinking about what an ideal education might look like.

Early February 2017

The team of teachers and partners from the Gaiety School of Acting are meeting with Kate Canning who is the Manager of the Mill Theatre, to decide on layout, structure and design for our event.

The challenge for us for the next few weeks is to find cover for teachers so that they can continue to work together on this project. This is an ongoing challenge in education. Collaboration, team teaching and cross curricular learning are central tenets of good educational practice but in reality these are hard to manage and cost a lot of money as substitution has to be provided for teachers so that they can meet to collaborate and plan ahead. Our staff members are good at working this way and teachers are kind and generous with their time and willingness to facilitate these processes.

A voice for everyone

In the video we are hoping to include the voices of teachers, students, partners and friends of the school. We would like them to articulate their ideas for an ideal education.

An invitation will be sent by email to all staff, students and partners asking them to respond in 1 minute on camera, to the statement:-
“Reflecting & Re-Imagining Creative Education for a Creative Ireland -One school’s perspective.”    – my thoughts (1 minute)

They will also be asked if they might like to create a visual response to the theme.

We will include their responses in the exhibition in the Mill Theatre as part of our project outcomes. The exhibition and the performances will showcase our school’s perspective on the potential future of education.
 Save the date…. Thursday 30th March 2017 1pm in the Mill Theatre Dundrum….

!!!! Guest Blogger: Máire O’Higgins – Teacher’s Blog No2

screen-shot-2016-11-30-at-14-36-32Máire O’Higgins is a teacher and an Assistant Principal at Larkin Community College Dublin 1. She also coordinates partnerships for the College and is the school Chaplain. Máire is 26 years working in the north east inner city. Before she became a teacher she worked as an actor and a Theatre Director.

Larkin Community College is a second level CDETB DEIS Band 1 school in the north east inner city of Dublin. It is a co-educational school with 430 students and a staff of 48. Students come from all over areas of socio-economic disadvantage in Dublin to attend the school. We are a mainstream school. We offer Arts, Soccer, Basketball and Academic Scholarship Programmes.

Monday 7th November 2016

The project work in the classroom hadn’t started yet and I had a light bulb moment over the weekend. I whatsApped Anna and Michelle to suggest we turn the students’ Manifesto speeches into TED Talks for the final presentations in March 2017. They both loved the idea.

The beauty of working with a partner outside of the school is that the partner can sometimes have the time to research aspects of a project. Anna is going to investigate how a school can run a TED Talks. She will also talk to Kate Canning the Manager of the Mill Theatre to see if this idea sits well with her.

Gill from the Gaiety School of Acting starts her work with Michelle and the Arts classes this week.

Tuesday 8th November 

A potential new partner for our project – a writer in residence….

We have had a lot of bereavements in the local community where our school is. It has been a hard few months for students and teachers and other staff. In this sad context we have had a lovely development. Last year we set up a Youth Theatre with the help of the National Association for Youth Drama. Carol Rooney, one of our Drama Teachers, ran a small and exciting Youth Theatre group. They performed a poignant piece in the Sean O’Casey Theatre in East Wall Dublin 3. Tony Bates of Jigsaw and Phil Kingston of the Abbey Theatre came to see it and thought it was a powerful production. As did all of us who saw it. The devised piece dealt with young people and mental health. This year John Dunne, another Drama teacher, set up a second youth theatre group. Now we have two small thriving youth theatre groups. They meet after school on a Wednesday. Dublin City Council Arts Office gave us a start up grant to help us get up on our feet with the Youth Theatre. We set up a committee and an ArtsTrain graduate Ceri O’Hagan joined us to help us run the Youth Theatre. Yesterday I was speaking to the Dublin City Arts Officer Ray Yeates. He was delighted at the success and growth of the youth theatres. He suggested that our school might like to look at a residency for a writer. I thought it would be a great idea for us to welcome a writer into the school for a period so that he or she could observe how we are and who we are and then create a piece of work out of this. If we are successful in getting the funding from the Arts Office and in finding a suitable writer in residence, it will be an act of trust for staff to welcome the writer into their classes and into the staffroom. I think it would be great. I also think that if the writer was to keep in mind the Manifesto project we are doing with the Gaiety School of Acting the ideas that emerge for the writer may fit nicely into a performance piece as part of the conference on education in the Mill Theatre in March 2017. I will be meeting with Ray Yeates in the coming weeks.

Wednesday 9th November

Yesterday Gillian Mc Carthy from the GSoA had a good session with the 1st year Arts students. She did one hour with them. Michelle discovered that there was a misunderstanding around the class contact the artist would have with the class. Jill thought it was twice a week for an hour at a time. Michelle thought it was one hour a week at an hour at a time. This is why it is so important to have planning meetings as well as a liaison person to oversee the project in the school and a manager of the project externally. What I now need to do is go through the dates that Anna put on Google drive and check them and then at a senior management team meeting give these dates to the Principal for the school calendar. That way students are less likely to be taken out of class for other activities when the GSoA project is on.

Friday 18th November 

Anna has sent me a text update on the TED TALKS idea. She is waiting to hear from TED TALKS to find out how best to set up a TED TALKS EDUCATION event. Getting the text from Anna keeps me up to date on progress for the project.

Tuesday 22nd November

Gillian Mc Carthy sent an email asking Michelle Fallon and her Arts students to research the following questions and statements for the project. As requested at the start of the project all correspondence for the project goes to Michelle, Anna, the artists and myself. That way we are all aware of how things are progressing. The research questions and statements that Gillian sent are:-

1 The Irish education system from 1917 to present: the major changes that have taken place over the last hundred years.

2 The pros and cons of the current education system.

3 What is the Department of Education’s vision for the future? What would be the students’ vision of a brilliant education system? What changes would they make?

4 Questions for students who are interested in interviewing older relations and teachers about their experiences of school:-

In the same email Gillian asked if she and I could meet for a chat today. We didn’t get to do that. I have found out over the years that it is always better to agree a brief meeting to discuss the project rather than relying on ‘catching’ each other. So I will email Gillian and suggest a time to meet when she is next in the school.

!!!! Guest Blogger: Máire O’Higgins – Teacher’s Blog No1

screen-shot-2016-11-30-at-14-36-32Máire O’Higgins is a teacher and an Assistant Principal at Larkin Community College Dublin 1. She also coordinates partnerships for the College and is the school Chaplain. Máire is 26 years working in the north east inner city. Before she became a teacher she worked as an actor and a Theatre Director.

Larkin Community College is a second level CDETB DEIS Band 1 school in the north east inner city of Dublin. It is a co-educational school with 430 students and a staff of 48. Students come from all over areas of socio-economic disadvantage in Dublin to attend the school. We are a mainstream school. We offer Arts, Soccer, Basketball and Academic Scholarship Programmes.

In the first of her blog series Máire discusses funding, partnership and documentation as part of the Theatre Making and Citizenship Programme with the Abbey Theatre.

October 25th 2016

I have the good fortune of working in a variety of jobs within my permanent teaching post over twenty six years. I worked in theatre before I switched to teaching so I carried my love of the creative engagement with me into teaching.

The school I am currently in has excelled at creative engagement since its inception in 1999. We have done some terrific work and also made some spectacular mistakes. I am learning to call them iterations!  Isn’t that what educational entrepreneurship is all about, iterating and reiterating, planning, trying out, reflecting, trying again and on it goes. Isn’t that too what happens in the real world, the world after school ends?

From November this year to March 2017 we are working with the Gaiety School of Acting and the DLR Mill Theatre in Dundrum on a Theatre Making and Citizenship Manifesto Project. Larkin Community College has been doing Theatre Making and Citizenship programmes for three years now. The Theatre Making and Citizenship Programme model was developed with the College by Sarah Fitzgibbon and supported by Phil Kingston and his education team at the Abbey Theatre. This year we have a group doing the second part of the Theatre Making and Citizenship programme with the Abbey and a new Theatre Making Programme, which shares outcomes with the Abbey programme. This one is with the Gaiety School of Acting and the DLR Mill Theatre Dundrum.

Anna Kadzik-Bartoszewska of the Gaiety School of Acting has developed the project concept and guidelines. The project is called “The right to know”. It will look back at aspects of the education of young people from 1917. It will explore aspects of the education of young people in 2017. It will also look forward and imagine the future for education and young people in 2027. The project will focus on the creation of innovative play using the existing practice of “Manifesto”. Manifesto is an empowering style of theatre making that we hope will give our young people a voice to express their opinions and attitudes towards their own education that others have shaped for them. The project will be run by Michelle Fallon an English and History teacher in Larkin Community College. Michelle also coordinates the Arts Programmes for the College. I will support Michelle in her work and liaise with Anna and the Gaiety School of Acting, as well as other partners that may emerge as we work on the project.

The performances, developed by the students and teachers of Larkin Community College, the local community, older people from the Lourdes Day Care Centre for the Elderly in Sean Mc Dermott Street and arts professionals, will be the part of a conference on education planned for March 2017 at the DLRMill Theatre in Dundrum South Dublin. The conference hopes to feature speakers from Barnardos, Amnesty International, the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission, the Department of Children and Youth Affairs, the Department of Education and Skills, the Arts Council of Ireland, other policy makers and interested parties.  The conference will explore the theme of appropriate education for young people – looking at its different manifestations thematically and setting it within a global, national and local context.

During the conference students speakers will tell their stories through performances. Their theatre pieces will champion the contribution that young people make to society as young people in their own right and their entitlement to be heard on that basis.

This project will focus on theatre as a tool for raising awareness about issues that matter to young people, specifically around education. The project will also look at how theatre can motivate and move young people to action regarding human rights and issues in education that need to change.

Students stories will hopefully open up a dialogue between policymakers and professionals and will create an opportunity for everyone to ask questions, share experiences, and build connections.

Anna planned to hire artists through the Gaiety School of Acting, to work on the project. By the time Anna secured funding for the project, the lead artist that Anna had hoped we would work with – Liz Tyndall – was not able to commit to the project for the first month. Anna then brought in Gillian Mc Carthy to start the project. Both Liz and Gill are Drama and Theatre Teachers with the Gaiety School of Acting.

Michelle Fallon will work with the artists and 60 students. These students are on dedicated Arts programmes in the College as part of the Junior Cycle programme.

Anna’s team will work for one hour a week with three separate Arts groups. Our classes are one hour long and the project fits nicely into the hour long lessons.

The role of the Partnerships Coordinator / Liaison person for the school

My job is to check in with Michelle to see that she is happy with the way the project is going. My job is also to organise permission letters, transport and whatever timetabling needs emerge for the project, as well as to support Michelle as she works with the artists to create the Manifestos with students.

My role is to liaise with Anna too and make sure that the project aims and objectives reflect and fulfil Junior Cycle curriculum needs as well as other educational needs. In this regard my role is to source cross-curricular links that the project might connect with, particularly in English classes, Civic Social and Political Education (CSPE), Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE) classes and Religion classes.

It is also my job to check in with all participants to see that they are enjoying themselves.

I usually manage the budgets for creative engagement projects in the school with the help of our school administrator Janet Rooney. Thanks to Anna too I don’t have the usual headache of paying the artists as Croke Park Community fund have agreed to pay the grant for the project directly to the GSoA. We have also applied for and received funding from Creative Engagement for the project. Creative Engagement is a Department of Education funded body and therefore the grant we receive from them will need to go directly to the school. Janet will manage the accounts and Michelle and I will decide with Anna, how the money will be spent.

As the project grows it will be my job to manage the calendar and communicate matters with the Principal of the school and inform staff of progress on the project.

I will also help Anna to build an invitation list for the Conference in March.

The role of the Principal

Our Principal Aoife Kelly Gibson is fully supportive of the project and loves the arts and culture. She trusts us to plan and deliver the project. This is important as she allows us great freedom to do the work.

Artists Schools Guidelines

I have asked Anna to ask her team to read the artists schools guidelines to help her team to have a sense of what we expect from the partnership engagement. The Artists Schools Guidelines were initiated by Lorraine Comer during her time in the Arts Council and developed in collaboration with teachers, policy makers, artists and young people. They form the framework for our planning meetings with all partners prior to starting a project in the school.

Garda vetting

The CDETB school we work in requires that all people working with young people in the College must be Garda vetted. This takes time to process so we put the paperwork in train as early as possible once we knew we had the funding for the project. Janet manages this for us.

Funding

Last year Anna along with Michelle Fallon and myself applied for Croke Park Community funding https://crokepark.ie/stadium/community/croke-park-community-fund  and got it, for a 1916 project. The project was a great success

Julianne Savage of the Croke Park Community Fund has kindly supported us for this project too, to the tune of €3000.

Dermot Carney the Director of Creative Engagement at www.creativeengagement.ie/ also funded this project to the tune of €1000. We have been lucky.

How does a school succeed in getting this amount of money for an arts in education initative? 

For years we did creative engagement work without a budget and we built a reputation for doing good work that could be sustained. Then we applied over and over again for funding. We often didn’t succeed. We kept applying. I kept applying. I wrote the applications in my own time because I was passionate about the work I was doing. Sadly the regular school day does not allow time for teachers to spend time on the application process.

I found that by sticking with the application processes I got better at filling out forms and we eventually did succeed in getting funding.

I have learnt over the years to be careful with funding applications, to read carefully the questions that are being asked on the application and to respond appropriately. I learnt to make sure that (a) I could do and really wanted to do what I was promising that we could do (with flexibility for change built into the planning) and (b) that I had the time to manage the project or build in costs for a manager, or be as lucky as we are in Larkin on this project, to find a manager like Anna who takes care of the project as part of her brief as a partner on the project.

Partnership

I found that we need to know who our partners are when we decide to work together and to figure out what they expect from us and from the project as well as what it is we expect from them. I have learnt over the years that we need to work out what our aims and objectives and expected outcomes of the project are before applying for project funding. So often I have found that the partners on a project had different expectations to the ones we had in Larkin and it caused unease as we progressed. I have learnt to be clear and to articulate what we agree that all parties want, to check with the students that it is what they want, to build in the time to meet to discuss how things are going during the project and to address challenges as they arise. Communication is central to good partnership work and sustainable partnerships in education. We did a five year project with the education team at the National Museum of Ireland and I learnt so much about negotiating partners’ wishes, managing budgets and managing expectations. We were fortunate to work with an extraordinary team in education at the Museum, led by Lorraine Comer. The partners on the projects we engaged with over the five years were Poetry Ireland, NCAD, The Curriculum Development Unit, Macnas, Lourdes Day Care Centre for the Elderly, Localise as well as individual artists (Mikel Murfi, Helen Lane, Clare Muireann Murphy, Pete Casby), philanthropists and funders. It was a wonderful project that taught me a lot about how to develop and sustain meaningful partnerships in education for young people and teachers.

Documenting the work

Aghhh! During the planning process, we said we would look into photographing and videoing the work as we went along. We did get all students to sign a permission form to allow us to do this. For Child Protection reasons this is critical.

I forgot about the documentation process in the busy life of school. We will work on this going forward (November 23rd 2016).

Too often we have forgotten to document great work we have done. More accurately we have not had the time to do so. So much of theatre making is written in the sand. That is the nature of theatre work. It is like meditation! It is in the moment that we experience it. However documenting a project visually can provide lovely memories. It can also help with further funding applications. It has helped us in the past to explain models of good practice. It has helped us too to reflect on challenges that emerge.

!!!! Waves

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

Cleo Fagan – Superprojects, Curator

‘I think that the teenage years can be an exciting time in people’s lives, when they often have a keen intellectual or creative curiosity and are open to complex ideas, given the right conditions. As a curator who works with young audiences and contemporary art and artists, it made sense to me that certain contemporary artists would work really well with young people to explore ideas related to the rich context of the commemorations of The 1916 Rising. I approached Julie Clarke of Fingal Arts Office with these ideas back in early 2015. Luckily, our objectives aligned with each other, in wanting to work on something that allowed young people to engage with the commemorations in a fresh and creative way.  We took it from there, approaching artists Ruth Lyons, Eoghan Ryan, Sean Lynch and Clodagh Emoe

Julie Clarke – Fingal Arts Office, Youth & Education Arts Officer

‘The opportunity was open to all post-primary schools in Fingal.  We were delighted to receive interest from Fingal Community College in Swords and Hartstown Community School in Dublin 15, as both schools and art teachers were known to us and a strong working relationship existed. Cleo and I met with the art teachers, Siobhan Lynch and Anne Moylan, to discuss the artistic possibilities and to plan for an enjoyable learning experience for the students. Supported by this partnership we were able to give artistic freedom to the artists to design an initial presentation that would introduce the students to contemporary art practices, challenging topics, and invite them to think about the role of art in our society’.

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

Cleo Fagan and Julie Clarke visited each participating school to talk with the students and teachers about the artists they would meet during the project.  Cleo gave a presentation which included several compelling images and video clips of the artists’ works to ignite curiosity among the students before the artists arrived.

Each of the artists involved – Ruth Lyons, Sean Lynch, Clodagh Emoe, Eoghan Ryan – was invited to devise a set of workshops in response to the context of the commemorations with input from the art teachers. The fascinating workshops that resulted touched on ideas of political and cultural zeitgeist; commemoration; collective power; public art and provocation; humour as protest; personal identity; government and everyday life; time and energy; and representation and nationalism.

Workshops all involved rich discursive, creative and educational elements via opportunities to discuss opinions, to learn about contemporary art practice, to learn new artmaking skills (eg mold making and resin casting). The students created and presented their own artwork to the teachers and artists for an informal critique in front of the school principal and project partners. In some sense, it was an approach that gave a flavour of studying art at third level.

The working group extended to include Distinctive Repetition and writer Sue Rainsford who respectively designed the graphic and wrote a piece of text for the Waves poster which is now available. Jenny Brady filmed the process and the students really enjoyed sharing their work and thoughts on camera.

Clodagh Emoe – Artist

‘My workshops were about ‘people power’ and I began with a presentation showing various examples of artistic strategies and collective power visible in history. The students worked in clusters and amongst themselves identified and debated issues that affect them today. We had a democratic vote to select one contentious issue and using artistic strategies we explored and exposed that specific issue’.

Ruth Lyons – Artist

‘My workshop was on using silicone mold making and resin casting processes to make individual memorial sculptures. The students made these commemorative, decorative artworks by picking an object that represented an essential material in their everyday life. They cast these objects in a clear resin, immortalising this object for hundreds of years’.

Sean Lynch – Artist

‘The workshop I did at Fingal Community College involved looking at how public art works in terms of the spaces we live in, and the times we encounter it nowadays. Many people are familiar with the monuments and statuary of 1916 but there are many different types of artistic methodologies that have come along since then and the idea of the workshop was to share them and celebrate them with the school and the great students involved. We worked with devising a series of speculative proposals. These were based in conversations that were had on the nature of the everyday and the objects that are encountered in the everyday, and what they might become if they were considered a monument to the contemporary times that we live in.’

Eoghan Ryan – Artist

‘When I approached devising the workshop I thought about the question ‘what is holding us together?’. I thought I would focus on flags as they are confusing as a material. Addressing the material culture surrounding flags, what they could mean, if they were important and how to add some kind of individual, subjective importance to update them or undermine them. Everyone was invited to collaboratively make their own flags.  We then destroyed the flags and talked about destroying flags in a demonstrative or rebellious context – what that act means, what you’re doing.’

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

The creative partnership between the teachers, artists, curator, Fingal Arts, and students resulted in great work being made.

The students would like to share their experience:

Student Feedback

‘I really liked taking part in the workshops. I liked learning from people who were actually artists by profession. I liked that we could do whatever we wanted to do without confines – because even though that’s what art is all about we don’t get to do that in school.’

– Student, 17

‘I really enjoyed being able to voice my opinions on issues such as inequality etc. I really enjoyed learning about the apartheid and other monumental issues in history that have helped shape the world today’

– Student, 16

‘We were able to explore something new, which is not in the Leaving Cert programme. We learned many new things from the artists, even that art can be in any shape or form, as shown by different examples in the slideshow. I really liked using the resin and seeing how everyone’s ‘memento’ turned out.’

– Student, 16

‘After the workshops, I feel a lot more comfortable with my art. I like how I can draw, paint or use any form of medium to talk about what I want, how I want, and when I want. The workshops helped me feel at ease with my art. A picture can show a thousand words, I can see what that means now.’

– Student, 15

‘I especially enjoyed learning about the work the artists had already completed. I loved making the items and it really allowed me to use my full creativity and imagination. I am much more observant now…. Art is a broad topic and I can’t wait to learn more about it.’

– Student, 17

What was significant for you about the project that is worth sharing?

Julie Clarke – Fingal Arts Office, Youth & Education Arts Officer

The film really captures the significance of the project and there is so much to choose from –  the students were challenged by the type of art that they saw and the type of art that they had to produce, but equally the students’ capacity for intelligent dialogue on emotive topics was very striking.  A number of students stated that they would take more of an interest in politics and our society if adults listened to them.  They expressed an interested in lowering the voting age so they too could have their say on issues that matter to them on polling days.

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

Siobhan Lynch, Art Teacher, Fingal Community College

‘The project has changed the way I as an educator approach teaching and learning within my classes. I have really embraced group work within the art room and have encouraged and allowed students to develop their creativity through risk-taking and experimentation with new media and by looking at how contemporary artists approach problems and find creative solutions to them.’

Anne Moylan, Art Teacher, Hartstown Community School

‘I received a great insight into the students own political concerns and issues that are real and live to them, which often doesn’t happen in a classroom situation.  As their art teacher it was a great opportunity and it will impact on our future work together’.

!!!! Tenderfoot

Briefly tell us the story of your project – What was it about? Who was involved? How did it get started?

Veronica:

Tenderfoot originated, with the support of South Dublin County Council, in The Civic Theatre in Tallaght ten years ago. Bríd Dukes, the Artistic Director of The Civic, wanted to develop a programme to involve transition year students in the art of theatre. Tenderfoot @ The Civic, the parent programme, annually provides forty five students from eight different schools the opportunity to learn about theatre in a hands on way. Tenderfoot operates on a model of apprenticeship. Students learn by doing. They learn about theatre by making theatre under the guidance of working theatre professionals. Each year a number of the students, usually sixteen, write original plays for the stage. A selection of these plays are then produced and students can opt to act, do costume design, take part in the film for theatre module or they can be part of the stage management team. The final productions are seen by two distinct audiences. A general theatre audience and an audience of the students’ peers. Over the years the reaction of the peer audience to the work, work made by people their own age, has been remarkable. It has resulted in a profound level of engagement. Tenderfoot @ The Civic is entering its tenth year.

Tenderfoot is a replicable model and Tenderfoot @ The Garage, championed by Niamh Smyth of CMETB, is the first reiteration. Tenderfoot @ The Garage serves schools in the Cavan/Monaghan region. Five schools participated in the inaugural year with a focus on writing. Twenty students wrote original plays for the stage. Five of those plays were publicly acknowledged in rehearsed readings in The Garage Theatre. Audience was twofold – general theatre and peer audience.

Response from Sarah Doyle/Holy Family Community School Rathcoole

I was lucky enough to be teaching in Rathcoole when the Tenderfoot programme was first set up. My school was one of the South Dounty Dublin schools chosen to partake.

Response from Gabrielle Tuomey/Our Lady’s Secondary School Castleblayney

I was delighted that our school was accepted onto the Tenderfoot programme following our application through the Garage Theatre. The project had appeal due to its emphasis on creativity, and integration with others, coupled with learning about teamwork and skills required for writing and performing outside of the school timetable. I was also excited about our students being guided, nourished and encouraged by theatre professionals and out of school drama facilitators. Veronica was encouraging and her visit to our school whetted the students’ appetite.

How did the ideas develop? How did the children, artist and teacher work together?

Veronica:

Apprenticeship is the model upon which Tenderfoot runs. The students learn alongside experts in their field so, for instance, professional writers facilitate the students’ learning about writing for the stage. Students are provided with a structure within which they can give voice and form to their own creative ideas. Students are not censored. They can write about any topic. They can utilise any form. The guiding principle for Tenderfoot mentors is to enable students realise the best version of their work.

Response from Sarah Doyle/Holy Family Community School Rathcoole

Very simply, many of our students blossomed. They learned new skills, and many uncovered hidden talents in writing and acting. All of them gained confidence and a greater sense of self-assurance. They made fantastic friends and even better memories. They were a part of something special and very few will ever forget the Tenderfoot experience.

Response from Gabrielle Tuomey/Our Lady’s Secondary School Castleblayney

I noticed a remarkable growth in confidence and self-assurance in the five selected students who quickly adapted to the project and to the process of meeting deadlines and submitting required pieces when asked. The rehearsed readings on the day of performance were absorbing and entertaining.

What aspects of the project made you smile? What aspects of the project made you feel challenged?

Veronica:

The young people make me smile. Their enthusiasm, their engagement and their work. The work they produce is very often surprising. It can be sobering. It can be eye opening. It is really interesting to see the world through their eyes. And I feel that something important is happening in that space where young people encounter the theatrical work of their peers. This is a unique space. Also, the willingness and enthusiasm of the countless teachers I deal with restores my faith in the education system. Year after year I deal with teachers who care only for the best interests of their students. The only major challenge I can think of is the ongoing battle to maintain funding.

Response from Sarah Doyle/Holy Family Community School Rathcoole

I love the annual January trip to see the plays created by the students. Their peers and I, always come away from the theatre impressed and awestruck about what their classmates have achieved. I don’t find any aspect of the process challenging.

Response from Gabrielle Tuomey/Our Lady’s Secondary School Castleblayney

I smiled at the independence of my students strolling out onstage to take their seats and perform in different roles in different plays. Yes, some themes were challenging and clearly revelatory of their needs and focus in this period of their young lives. Sex, freedom of behaviour and speech, rejection of social norms that seem to apply pressure on teenagers were among the challenging themes addressed in their short plays.

What insights from the project are worth sharing?

Veronica:

It is really valuable for young people to have opportunities to learn in contexts outside of school and in ways different to how they learn in school. An important feature of Tenderfoot is that each group is taken from a number of schools and the work environment is a professional arts environment – The Civic Theatre in Tallaght and The Garage Theatre in Monaghan. The value of such an experience is immeasurable. It provides those students lucky enough to take part an opportunity to see themselves in a new light.

Response from Sarah Doyle/Holy Family Community School Rathcoole

Tenderfoot offers students a more relaxed environment to express themselves. This can sometimes contrast to the school environment where as teachers, we have to place restrictions on bad language or on adult subject matter. This can be a liberating experience for a lot of students and can help greatly in their development of self-confidence.

Response from Gabrielle Tuomey/Our Lady’s Secondary School Castleblayney

Overall, most worthwhile as evidenced by the close attention paid by the attentive and engrossed teenage audience who sat through one and a half hours of readings without asking for a break!

Response from Robert Barrett/Participating Student Tenderfoot @ The Civic

Tenderfoot was easily the highlight of transition year. There was never a dull day; they ranged from doing improvisations in the little theatre upstairs, to building a full sized guillotine. It was a unique experience to see plays, some of which were my own, go from their most conceptual stage in the writers minds, to first drafts and then go through production.”

Response from Seoid Ní Laoire/Participating Student Tenderfoot @ The Civic

Writing A Piece Of Me developed me as a writer, but it was watching the director shape my words into something new, something physical and outside of myself that I learnt the most. My writing’s weak points were suddenly glaringly obvious, as were its strengths. I remember peeking out from backstage and seeing the audience respond to words I had written and experiencing a connection that is impossible to achieve from a page. It is difficult for me to adequately describe the impact of my few weeks with Tenderfoot. It was one of those experiences that, when I look back on my life so far, carves out a milestone.

Sarah Hannon/Participating Student Tenderfoot @ The Civic

Tenderfoot made me come out of my comfort zone and most of all have confidence in my writing. It was one of the most fun and rewarding things I did throughout my secondary school experience and I’m very glad I got the opportunity to do it, and I greatly appreciate and am thankful to the people of Tenderfoot for seeing potential in me when I did not, both then and still to this day.

Tenderfoot is a replicable model and Tenderfoot @ The Garage, championed by Niamh Smyth of CMETB, was the first reiteration. Tenderfoot @ The Garage served schools in the Cavan/Monaghan region in 2015. Five schools participated and twenty students wrote original plays for the stage. Five of those plays were publicly acknowledged in rehearsed readings in The Garage Theatre. Audience was twofold – general theatre and peer audience.

Response from Levana Courtney/Participating Student Tenderfoot @ The Garage

Thanks a lot for the wonderful experience you’ve given me and helping me along the way. It’s been a brilliant couple of weeks and I think I speak for everyone when I say I’ve learnt a lot of new things, had so much fun and made a lot of new friends who I won’t forget. Before tenderfoot I would have never spoken in front of a crowd, so I really appreciate the confidence it has given me.

Response from Caspar McCabe/Participating Student Tenderfoot @ The Garage

You can really tell a lot about a person based on what they write about: their experience, their beliefs, their thoughts, their opinions, their dreams … it’s extremely insightful. When you’re writing, even if you have the clearest idea of what you’re going to say, your words take on their own mind and you can end up writing something that is totally different than what you intended to. Knowing how to accept criticism is important, but so is knowing how to accept praise.

Has anything changed as a result of the project?

Veronica

Each year the students who take part in Tenderfoot are changed by their experience. Some find new interests. Many find new levels of confidence. In a number of cases some even find their future professions.

Response from Sarah Doyle/Holy Family Community School Rathcoole

Many of them grow in confidence. In terms of their education, a better understanding of drama helps with their study of drama at senior cycle. For the budding writers and actors, there is almost always a greater desire to be involved in their chosen field after completion of the Tenderfoot project. They will often go on to engage in drama or writing outside school.

Response from Gabrielle Tuomey/Our Lady’s Secondary School Castleblayney

I noted a growing maturity in my five participants. It was good for them to be pushed beyond their usual boundaries.

Response from Caspar McCabe/Participating Student Tenderfoot @ The Garage

Taking part in Tenderfoot has developed my social skills: I realised while taking part how truly complex everyone is, how everyone has their own individual thoughts and experience and beliefs and this has helped me to connect with people and make friends.

!!!! Learning About Learning

Context

Dominican Primary School (DPS) is a DEIS (Dep. of Education and Skills) co-educational primary school. The Junior Infants class consists of 18 students, 12 of those are learning English as an additional language (EAL). DEIS schools address and prioritize the educational needs of children and young people from disadvantaged communities. DPS is concerned with the education of the whole person. It aims to provide opportunities for each child to reach his or her full potential, by exposing them to a wide variety of opportunities that develops and develops their overall growth and self-esteem.
The artist Helen Barry is based in the school through DLRCC’s DLR Primary Arts that supports a long-term artist in residence programme of 24 contact hours over a 4to 5 month period. This has been extended through the Artist at Work residency programme in DLR Lexicon Library where the Helen is currently based. Within walking distance from the school and this offers a further 14 contact hours in the school and in DLR Lexicon’s Project Room.

Timeframe

The artist commenced in Dominican Primary School in November 2014 and will continue through until May or June 2015. We meet weekly mostly based in the school and some sessions are based in DLR Lexicon.

Our Vision

We learn by doing and we learn from each other. Using a child centred and child led approach to:

Documenting

DLR Primary Arts supports the learning, observations and experience through a blog. The children, artist and teacher will all contribute to the blog. We will also invite others to record their observations of the process and impact it is having on the children, teacher\s and artist through the school principal, parents, teachers, and arts office and library staff. We are using a multi disciplinary approach and will be able to record the spoken word, written word, sounds and images and moving images.

The Teacher

As a class teacher working in a DEIS school I feel it is important to participate and work in partnership with others, in education in promoting social inclusion for the children I teach. DLR Primary Arts (creative practitioner project) and Artist At Work workshops with Helen are providing a wonderful and enriching experience for the children and for me as a teacher. Helen’s expertise and artistic insight as an artist has changed my own opinion on art education especially in the early years.

I feel it is important to highlight the large number of children learning English as an additional language in the class, which presents its own challenges for me as a teacher and brings its own frustrations to the children. The artistic process involved with each sessions allows children of all abilities and backgrounds to express their personal ideas, co-operate and communicate with their peers and adults and express their uniqueness in a positive learning environment. The sessions with Helen are providing a great means for communication for the children while reducing their frustrations of language and allowing their competance and confidence to grow.

Helen’s use of the aistear principles which guide her practise and sessions are very much child-centred and child led. Literacy, SPHE and mathematical language are integrated as well as the Visual Art strands.

The Children

would also like to share their own opinions and experiences working on the projects…

Me and Angeline made a castle”, Zhya 5yrs
I like the Lexicon library because we made things”, Holly 5yrs
The tubes are fun I made a bridge”, Amanda 5yrs
We do lots of cutting and making things”, Daivik 4yrs
I like collecting stuff and making things”, Alma 5yrs
Helen plays with us”, Brooke 4yrs

The Artist:

WE ARE

I observe
I listen
I watch
I am open
I am inspired
We talk
We plan
We ask
We make
We are challenged
We are patient
We are open
We explore
We build
We stick
We poke
We cry
We laugh
We reflect
They argue
We learn
We support
We are creative
We give
We work
We struggle
We are honest
They are brutally honest
I am exhausted
We are energetic
We get more help
We are synergetic
We are content
We are inspired
WE ARE.

Helen Barry 2015

‘We Are’ is a poem that best captures what happens throughout my collaborative practice and offers the basis for the language which best describes my methodology. My methodology and my approach to collaborative work with early years children is similar to that of Aistear: the early years curriculum framework. I have also done extensive reading of the curriculum focusing on the early cycle of the primary school. I believe that the teaching methodology and application in the classroom runs parallel to the work and process that happens in the artists’ studio.

I am learning about learning, how we learn and what we learn. I have started at the beginning and I am learning with the children, she is my teacher too. I listen to the children deciphering language through photonics. The lengthening of words like fly, cat, jump; elongated they create beautiful rhythms their tone is set by the hum of the children’s voice, each word held for a prolonged moment. This has become the impetus for a piece of work we are creating together in the school and DLR LexIcon.

!!!! 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.”

!!!! Cubes and Compromise

Cubes & Compromise – Visual artist Helen Barry engaged in a 12-week collaborative residency with 1st class children in the Muslim National School, Clonskeagh. Together they explored components of Islamic art and design using a cross-curricular approach. The project was child-led; the children had much broader ambitions of what could be explored through art and creativity. One of the objectives for Helen was to clarify her methodology and approach to collaborative practice within the context of Aistear: the Early Childhood Curriculum Framework. The residency was supported by The Arts Council’s bursary awarded to Helen in 2013/14.

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

Helen Barry, Artist

My decision to approach the Muslim National School was instigated by key themes of my own studio work. I use many of the principals of geometry and symmetry found in Islamic art and architecture in the design and creation of my own work. A strong aspect of my work examines the architectural spaces of sacred buildings and the communities that use these spaces. I had also just completed another residency with senior infants in Rathfarnham Educate Together National School and I wanted to base myself in a school that had a completely different ethos. It seemed a natural choice to invite children of a similar age and a teacher from the Muslim National School to join me in a 12-week collaborative residency.

I asked the children’s teacher June Kelly to feed directly into the sessions and guide me as to the relevance of what we were doing in relation to the curriculum. I am interested in learning about the pedagogical development of children and how creativity can enhance cross-curriculum learning. My work with early years children had become an integral part of my practice and I wanted to challenge my approach to and understanding of collaboration and how this impacted on my work and why I was compelled to work this way.

One of the objectives was to clarify my methodology and approach to collaborative work within the context of Aistear: the Early Childhood Curriculum Framework. This residency was made possible through The Arts Council’s young peoples and children’s bursary award scheme I received in 2013/14.

June Kelly, Class Teacher

Helen Barry arrived to our school, The Muslim National School, last September beaming with enthusiasm to complete a 12-week collaborative residency. The children took to her immediately and she developed a very strong rapport with them. The focus of the project initially was geometry and symmetry. Both geometry and symmetry are a major focus in Islamic Art and Islamic architecture. On Helen’s first visit, when we got to see samples of her work, it was clear that there were strong parallels between her work and Islamic Art.

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

Helen Barry, Artist

Initially I had proposed to explore elements of maths, geometry and Islamic design with the children and very quickly it was clear that the children had their own ideas of how we would actually do this and lots of other things. My approach to collaborative work allows the children to lead the direction and content of the work; this in turn influences the overall process and techniques we use. As my own work primarily focuses on sculpture we started with exploring and constructing 3D spaces. We used a lot of non-traditional art techniques and materials as we moved about measuring the room together; we asked a lot of questions, chatted, laughed, shared stories, worked in pairs and we rarely seemed to sit down. I tend to work on a very large scale with children; using our entire bodies in the creative process from lying on the ground to climbing into spaces, exploring under the tables to building installations. This also demands the practical involvement of the teacher, which was given enthusiastically and consistently by teachers, staff and, at times, assistance from older children.

Even though I was keen to use maths and geometry as strong central themes we veered off through many different areas of the curriculum that demonstrated the richness of the children’s skills and interests. The children’s oral skills were particularly strong. They had a wonderful ability to present images of family life and how important it was to share. Their imaginations had few boundaries and the groups’ playful dynamic supported me to be more open to their ideas and to test out new media. As the weeks progressed I realized that it is not only the children and teachers who must be open to the process of experimenting but the artist too as things do not always go according to plan. We used shadow puppetry to explore their strong sense of storytelling, filming their characters coming to life using the sunlight streaming into the classroom. English was not a first language for many of the children yet they created a varied narrative for their plays overcoming many language difficulties.

June Kelly, Class Teacher

On Helen’s first visit she showed samples of her work from her website. The children were completely in awe. Over the twelve weeks the children made shadow puppets and created their own shadow puppet performances and they also helped created the spectacular stained glass effect silhouette cubes. It felt like Helen was merely guiding the children and they came up with most the ideas and did a lot of the work. Mrs Altawash, Ms. Davin-Park and I also helped guide the whole process along.

What aspects of the project made you smile? What aspects of the project made you feel challenged?

Helen Barry, Artist

There were many elements that made me smile throughout the residency from the children’s enthusiasm and their delight in trying to teach me Arabic, Sarah’s Story telling of her Uncle’s bee hives on the roof of a building in North Africia and producing enough honey for his family, Ms Asiyo Altawash’s practical solutions to my overly complex ones and much more. Throughout all my residencies I need to ensure that what we are doing is relevant to my own work. We followed a number of different lines of enquiry and I often found it challenging to correlate one strand with another and where it related to my own work. The children were curious, playful and very giving and I wanted to capture this essence in what we would create. I struggled with how this would come together with what we were exploring and where it sat with my own work. As we created our final pieces two women who walked through the space we were working in each week observed that our cubes were reflective of ‘The Kabba’ in Mecca and the images reminded them of the energy of children. I could not have had more positive feedback.

June Kelly, Class Teacher

I thoroughly enjoyed the children’s puppet shows, using shadow puppets. It was great to see them so motivated and engaged during their performances. I also enjoyed watching the children when they used the quills for writing. Their curiosity and enthusiasm was infectious.

I found the spontaneity of process quite challenging, in that I am so used to planning my lessons with an end vision or product in mind. I had to take a step back as the children played a huge role in deciding what direction this project would go in. It was a huge and effective learning curve for me.

What insights from the project are worth sharing? (These may seem small, but are significant to you)

Helen Barry, Artist

The children were at different levels, for some languages proved to be an initial obstacle but there were children in the class who had special needs and I found that when using a creative approach, it was not apparent as to who these children were. I always ask the children what do they know about ‘artists’. The children in the Muslim National School were the first to say artists were men and women, in all other schools the children say artist are men.

June Kelly, Class Teacher

Sometimes as teachers we may over-plan activities and lessons and in doing so we are perhaps guilty of curtailing the children’s creativity.

Has anything changed as a result of the project?

Helen Barry, Artist

I have become more confident in allowing the process to go in directions that are new both in terms of the mediums we use and more importantly the content of what we are exploring. I am more open to allowing the children have stronger role in where we are going to go.

I have returned to the Muslim National School to do a second residency, this time with younger children in Junior Infants and this is running concurrently with a second residency with the Dominican National School in Dun Laoghaire. This residency is being supported by The Arts Council YPCE Bursary award 2015.

June Kelly, Class Teacher

For me personally, I think something has changed. I am hopeful that I will be more confident in allowing the children have much more input into my art lessons. It’s okay to deviate from the plan and never to underestimate their ideas and input. I also hope in future in my art lesson to completely restrict my use of templates in order to further the children’s opportunity to be more creative.