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Kids’ Own Publishing Partnership

Date: 7 March 2020

Kids’ Own is really proud to be celebrating thirteen years of their virtual arts in education project, Virtually There, with a large-scale exhibition and special launch event at Belfast Children’s Festival.

On Saturday 7th March 2020, a new exhibition will open in Belfast to showcase work developed by children, artists and teachers over the past three years. Funded for eleven years by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation since 2016, Virtually There was developed by Kids’ Own with a pioneering approach whereby artists connected virtually from their studios with children in the classroom.

Kids’ Own has partnered with Belfast Children’s Festival, Young at Art and University of Ulster to develop this exciting exhibition for public audiences, which runs from 6th-28th March.

A special exhibition opening event takes place at the Ulster University Belfast Campus on Saturday 7th March, 1pm-3.30pm. This event will include the launch of Open Space: An action research report from the Virtually There project by Dr Bryonie Reid. It will be launched by Dr Ali FitzGibbon, Lecturer in Creative and Cultural Industries Management, Queen’s University Belfast.

There will also be a panel discussion entitled What does collaboration really mean? This discussion will be chaired by Mark O’Brien, director of axis, Ballymun, in conversation with artists and teachers who participated in the project.

Date & Time

Saturday, 7 March 2020. 1pm – 3.30pm

Venue

Belfast College of Art, York Street, Belfast

Refreshments will be provided. Please RSVP to info@kidsown.ie

For further information go to kidsown.ie/kids-own-celebrates-13-years-of-virtually-there-project-at-belfast-childrens-festival/

Christopher McCambridge is a Special Educational Needs teacher at St. Colman’s Primary School, Lambeg. St. Colman’s Primary is a mainstream school of 400 pupils with two learning support unit classes. Christopher is also an active member of the Belfast art scene. He co-founded the arts organisation Belfast Platform for the Arts (Platform Arts) in 2010, which continues to provide an exhibition space and studios for artists.

In 2016 Christopher and his Primary 6/7 class were chosen to take part in the Kids’ Own Publishing Partnership ‘Virtually There’ project. ‘A virtual artist in residence project which explores the potential for creative engagement between artists working from their studio and children and teachers in the classroom using video conferencing technology’. (Orla Kenny, Creative Director of Kids’ Own Publishing Partnership). Now in their 3rd year, artist John D’Arcy has been working collaboratively with Christopher and his class at St Colman’s P.S as virtual artist-in-residence. 

Away Day – Blog 4

2018 marked the completion of my 2nd Year working as part of the Kids’ Own, Virtually There project.  The two years have flown in and I have found that the pupils throughout those years have been given an enjoyable and unique experience. This project has also helped me to develop creatively as a teacher and an individual. This development was furthered through the ‘creative away day’ that the Kids’ Own organisation offered to all the teacher – artist groupings. Each teacher-artist grouping would be able to organise their own creative away allowing us the opportunity to re-charge our creative batteries, broaden our horizons and prepare for the next project year.

After much discussion, John D’Arcy (Artist) and I decided to take a day trip to Dublin to view a number of exhibitions that we both found of interest. These exhibitions included Land / Sea / Signal at RUA RED in Tallaght and ‘Prototypes’ by Doireann O’Malley, Rachel Maclean ’Just be yourself’ in The Hugh Lane gallery. The exhibitions involved the use of digital technology, an aspect that has been integral to our project.

The journey to Dublin provided us both with an opportunity to reflect on the project from the previous year. Discussing aspects such as the pacing of the individual elements of the project, aspects of planning, pupils’ enjoyment, as well as discussing what we felt worked well or could be improved. This time, especially outside of term time, was invaluable as it allowed us to discuss the project without any other distractions.

In Year 2, the central theme of our project was Hacking.  This word was the starting point from which all other ideas would develop from. I felt this worked particularly well as it meant we could develop ideas from this central theme, allowing ideas to either develop as stand-alone lesson or develop into their own mini-project . This flexible approach, gave me more confidence in allowing each idea to develop at its own pace, with the children developing and realising their ideas across a number of weeks. Thus, allowing for a greater insight into the work. This is an aspect which I hope we further refine, allowing the children to critically reflect on their workings within each session.

During our first two years working together, technology has played an important role within our projects. This year the use of apps had allowed the children to explore hacking in a variety of ways. In one of the mini-projects we focused on the ‘hacking of time’, exploring how we could speed up or slow down different movements from the mundane, the children completing work, to the more exciting, running a race. This mini-project was achieved through the app Hyper-lapse. I felt the variety and use of different apps had engaged the children. These apps were later used by the children to create a ‘coded film’ which the viewer was required to hack, using a code developed by the children during our sessions. Due to an interest in technology, I was interested in viewing these exhibitions in Dublin.

The exhibition, Land / Sea / Signal, was a group show featuring artists, Alan Butler, Gregory Chatonsky, John Gerrard, Nicolas Sassoon & Rick Silva and Santa France. The exhibition brought together these artists whose practices ‘mediated on the materiality of internet infrastructure and the complex socio-political conditions that are embedded within them.’The exhibition examined our modern day relationship with the internet, particularly how we ‘maintain, update and adjust our relationships … and reconfigure ourselves through technologies and with one another.

Image copyright artist Alan Butler - Land / Sea / Signal at Rua Red

Image copyright artist Alan Butler – Land / Sea / Signal at Rua Red

As with any exhibition, there were artworks which held my interest longer than others. In Land / Sea / Signal, the artist Alan Bulter piece was one of these. The artist documented the lives and experiences of the homeless … within the video game, Grand Theft Auto V. Upon first viewing I had initially mistaken these photographs as documenting real people in the outskirts of rundown cities. Once realising my error, I was taken aback by the uncanny resemblance to the real-life and how unfortunate circumstances can lead to these positions for people.

After exploring RUA RED, we moved on to the Hugh Lane gallery to view the exhibitions by Doireann O’Malley and Rachel Maclean.

Dorieann O’Malley’s exhibition Prototypes was a multi-screen film installation exploring ‘transgender studies, science fiction, bio politics and psychoanalysis, AI and experimental music. She skilfully ties these to phantoms of modernist utopias, epitomised by the post-war architecture of Berlin, which serves as a dreamlike scenography for the main, protagonists’ ghostly actions’ [Jury Statement, Edith Russ Haus fur Media Art Stipendium, 2016]

Some of the work of Doireann O’Malley was as a result of collaborative methodology, using a combination of CGI, film and Virtual Reality of interest. This was of interest to both John and I, as we have discussed the use of Virtual Reality as a line of enquire in Year 3 of our project.

Rachel Maclean’s exhibition ‘Just be yourself!’, also at the Hugh Lane gallery, was a series of video installations and digital artworks. Her work uses “satire to critique consumer desire, identities and power dynamics … she parodies fairy tales, children’s television programmes, advertising, internet videos and pop culture … combining her interests in role-play, costume and digital production in works of cinematic collage.

Image copyright Rachel Maclean - ‘Just be yourself!’, at the Hugh Lane gallery

Image copyright Rachel Maclean – ‘Just be yourself!’, at the Hugh Lane gallery

I would like to thank Kids’ Own and their funders for giving John and I the opportunity to organise this creative away day. It has provided us with the opportunity to discuss and critique our project work to date and allow us to view exhibitions that could influence our thinking for future ‘Virtually There’ projects.

Year 3 of our ‘Virtually There’ project is currently underway, and as documented in my previous post, we are exploring the theme of ‘Radio.’ We have developed our own radio identity, WECHO FM. Since my last post, the children have created their own DJ names, such as Smooth T, Aidan Big Shot, Jump Bam Sam and Charley KAPOW to name a few.  They have also used these names to design portraits, using a variety of different materials and techniques, which reflect their radio personalities.

As the project continues to grow and develop, the children are beginning to record talk shows, news stories, weather reports and create music and jingles, advertising WECHO FM and their own individual shows. At the end of the project, we intend to visit a local radio station, where we will have the opportunity to play our content to a live audience.

The ‘Virtually There’ project continues to allow the children the opportunity to express themselves artistically, as well as giving me the confidence to step outside my comfort zone and develop as a teacher.

Christopher McCambridge is a Special Educational Needs teacher at St. Colman’s Primary School, Lambeg. St. Colman’s Primary is a mainstream school of 400 pupils with two learning support unit classes. Christopher is also an active member of the Belfast art scene. He co-founded the arts organisation Belfast Platform for the Arts (Platform Arts) in 2010, which continues to provide an exhibition space and studios for artists.

In 2016 Christopher and his Primary 6/7 class were chosen to take part in the Kids’ Own Publishing Partnership ‘Virtually There’ project. ‘A virtual artist in residence project which explores the potential for creative engagement between artists working from their studio and children and teachers in the classroom using video conferencing technology’. (Orla Kenny, Creative Director of Kids’ Own Publishing Partnership). Now in their 3rd year, artist John D’Arcy has been working collaboratively with Christopher and his class at St Colman’s P.S as virtual artist-in-residence. 

WECHO FM – Blog 3

A new school year, a new ‘Virtually There’ project!

The majority of the children were meeting John for the first time. They were unsure what to expect as a lot of them had never experienced or used video-conferencing technology before.

After a few technical difficulties on my end, we finally connected to John. Introductions were made by John and the children, we got straight into introducing our new project theme … RADIO!

The children discussed their knowledge of radio … Tyrell said that it was “where you could listen to things, like a music box.” Aidan said he thought of it as a “jukebox” to listen to songs. Sam stated that different types of sounds could come from it, not only music but also advertisements. Daniel, Adam and Charley thought that even though it played music there were other programmes on the radio such as the news, weather forecasts or traffic reports. Adam also said that he had listened to documentaries on the radio. The children were asked what they thought we would be creating during the project, to which they replied, “A RADIO SHOW!”

Not only were we going to create a radio show, we were going to create our own Radio Station.

We discussed the different programmes that could be on our radio station, ideas for programmes included Music, Documentaries, Cartoon or comedy shows, discussions about the news and about our interests such as gaming. With an idea of the content, we were set the task of developing our visual identity. John displayed a number of symbols that the children all were able to recognise easily, e.g. the Nike swoosh, the golden arches, the apple mac symbol.

He told us that we would begin the process of developing a visual identity through the exploration of sound. The children began this process by listening to a variety of sounds that John had created; they then had to interpret them as a drawing. They generated a lot of great ideas, which included random symbols and jagged lines that varied in sizes. John then asked us to interpret drawings that he had created as sounds. Kevin, Sam, Daniel and Kyle all had a go at trying to interpret these drawings, with lots of different and random sounds and noises being made.

In the final part of the process, the children had to name each of the sounds that John created. He explained that the name could be a made-up word or a series of letters. The children found this extremely entertaining and generated a lot of random words for the sounds, including wobe, weeoloublue, breeeeee, dweenen, dulllung, dener, dedzen, wecho, bler and weow. After a short selection and voting process, the children picked WECHO, as our radio station name. WECHO FM was born.

The children were then set the task of creating our visual identity and the background for our radio station. We had to choose two colours, one would be for our background and the other colour would be used to create our visual interpretation for the sound of WECHO.

Each child explored the sound WECHO in their own unique way. This session was great fun and challenged the children’s ideas on what art could be. As the project develops, we hope to explore different aspects of the radio station such as, DJ names and identities, jingles and radio sweepers, sound effects and different radio programmes. At the end of the process we hope to visit a local radio station to gain a better understanding of the inner workings as well as possibly playing our own jingles and songs.

Christopher McCambridge is a Special Educational Needs teacher at St. Colman’s Primary School, Lambeg. St. Colman’s Primary is a mainstream school of 400 pupils with two learning support unit classes. Christopher is also an active member of the Belfast art scene. He co-founded the arts organisation Belfast Platform for the Arts (Platform Arts) in 2010, which continues to provide an exhibition space and studios for artists.

In 2016 Christopher and his Primary 6/7 class were chosen to take part in the Kids’ Own Publishing Partnership ‘Virtually There’ project. ‘A virtual artist in residence project which explores the potential for creative engagement between artists working from their studio and children and teachers in the classroom using video conferencing technology’. (Orla Kenny, Creative Director of Kids’ Own Publishing Partnership). Now in their 2nd year, artist John D’Arcy has been working collaboratively with Christopher and his class at St Colman’s P.S as virtual artist-in-residence. 

Art as a Gateway – Blog 2

A recent article in the Guardian newspaper, discussed the importance of prehistoric art. In particular, that of the Neanderthals and Homo sapiens. The art critic, Jonathan Jones, was examining the significance of the findings that Neanderthals had painted on cave walls in Spain 65,000 years ago, tens of thousands of years before Homo sapiens. The Neanderthal artwork in question was a stencilled red ochre handprint on rock. It wasn’t the discussion about whether or not Neanderthals were the first true artists or if this honour should belong to another early human species, Homo erectus, or because of the quality of the representational artwork by Homo sapiens, they should be considered the first ‘true’ artists, that piqued my interest, it was the significance that art had on moulding a species. That ‘art’ constituted the beginnings of intelligence, the “capacity to imagine and dream” and within our own species Homo sapiens “the birth of the complex cathedral of the modern mind … [opening] the way, in modern human history, to everything from writing to computers” (Jonathan Jones, 2018). – read the full article www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2018/feb/23/neanderthals-cave-art-spain-astounding-discovery-humbles-every-human

Within the education sector, the Northern Ireland Curriculum has been developed to cater for all subjects, allowing children access to a varied education. The reality is, that as children progress through primary school, teachers can be under pressure delivering the curriculum, often focussing on the areas of numeracy and literacy to the detriment of other curricular areas, particularly art. This can be evident in Primary 6 and the first term of Primary 7, when a substantial amount of time is spent preparing the children for the GL and AQE transfer tests. These pressures can sometimes be self-imposed, a teacher perhaps feeling that it is important for the children to develop these skills and after the tests have been completed, delivering those other areas or perhaps they can be pressures by other stake-holders within the school community. Regardless of this, the Guardian article reinforced my own view that Art should be on-a-par with those supposedly ‘key subjects or areas.’ If, works of art have been “held up as proof of the cognitive superiority of modern humans,” this should mean that art can play an important role in the curriculum.

As a Special Educational Needs teacher, teaching Primary 6/7 pupils, the pressures of the GL and AQE tests are not applicable to the children that I teach. Like all primary teachers the delivery of the Northern Ireland Curriculum is still essential. However, without these testing constraints, there is an opportunity to embed art throughout the curriculum to a greater extent. It does not need to simply be an add on or linked to a world around us topic. My project work with Kids’ Own has been successful in facilitating this. As I detailed in my last post, I am now in my second year of working within the Kids’ Own project and in-particular working with the artist John D’arcy.

At the beginning of Year 2, we set about choosing a word that would encompass everything. The word we chose was Hacking. This would be the jumping off point, from which all mini-projects or lessons would stem from. John and I found that this liberated our planning, allowing for greater flexibility. When we discussed the word with the children, it ignited their enthusiasm, prompting new avenues of learning that John and I had not previously considered.

Throughout the Hacking project, we have included aspects of numeracy and literacy. A particular favourite being a session exploring ‘codes and language’. This session included: Semaphore, Morse code, the phonetic alphabet, emoji’s and Makaton. After the session had been completed, I was amazed to see children with difficulties in sequencing the alphabet testing one another on the use of Makaton and the symbol to letter correspondence. The project has also allowed the children to develop their creativity and problem-solving skills. They have become more expressive when discussing topics, themes or their own work. This has had an impact in other avenues such as their social and emotional well-being.

I began this post, examining the importance that art had on our evolution as a species. So, I feel it is relevant to question, if it had such a bearing on our evolution, then why can it not have the same impact upon our education of young children?

 

 

 

 

20180125_220635_edit2Christopher McCambridge is a Special Educational Needs teacher at St. Colman’s Primary School, Lambeg. St. Colman’s Primary is a mainstream school of 400 pupils with two learning support unit classes. Christopher is also an active member of the Belfast art scene. He co-founded the arts organisation Belfast Platform for the Arts (Platform Arts) in 2010, which continues to provide an exhibition space and studios for artists.

Virtually There Year 1 – Blog 1

In September 2016, my Primary 6/7 class were chosen to take part in the Kids’ Own Virtually there project. The Virtually there project is an innovative virtual artist in residence project … exploring the potential for creative engagement between artists working from their studio and children and teachers in the classroom using video conferencing technology (Orla Kenny, Director of Kids’ Own Publishing Partnership).

Our class were paired with artist, performer and composer, John D’Arcy. John’s work focuses on the use of sound and voice in intermedia art events. As a primary school teacher, teaching children with special education needs, the art mediums that I tend to explore within the curriculum include drawing, painting, ceramics, printing and 3-D sculpture. The use of sound as an art form or event, outside of musical lessons and choir, was an intriguing concept that I was eager to engage with.

Throughout the course of the fourteen weeks the pupils explored natural and man-made sounds in a variety of different environments and locations. Initial sound explorations focused on our school environment and ranged from birds chirping, the wind howling to high-heel shoes walking down the corridor or the buzzing of the whiteboard and the hum of the lights. These discussions concentrated on getting the children to describe the sounds they heard and attempt to recreate them using their voice. Throughout the sessions the children began to show greater confidence and clarity when describing different sounds.

“How could you tell it that the sound was high-heel shoes? Can you describe the sound?

“It went clip clop … the sound was spaced apart … the sound was short and repeated … it was getting quieter as the woman walked down the corridor … it sounded like my Mum’s shoes in the kitchen.”

As the sessions progressed, John began to ask the children to interpret the sounds we could hear as drawings. He taught the children to understand the concept that a drawing of lines, symbols or both can represent a sound, an abstract idea that the children loved because it frees them from trying to make a realistic drawing.  After a visit to the Belfast Zoo, John asked the children to interpret the animal sounds that they heard and recorded through drawings.

He discussed with the class, what might the sound of an animal or bird look like?

The parrots talking resembled a curved line to Kevin because the ‘sound went from low to high and it was a short sound’.

Daniel drew a series of circles of different sizes joined by lines for the sound of the parrots. The sounds ‘went from loud to quiet … it was like the parrots were talking to each other.’

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Caitlin – Monkey

“I was imagining the monkey making ‘oh, oh’ sounds, that is why I picked an O [to draw]. I drew a line because it was joining the sound together. I the red sound was an angry sound and the purple sound was a lower sound

Oscar – Parrots

“I drew this shape because it looked like a parrot’s beak. The triangle is getting bigger as the sound is getting louder and angrier.”

The project continued to evolve developing drawings and sounds into graphic scores, which would later be performed and recorded by the children as an abstract musical performance pieces. The children’s confidence grew as they began to interpret drawings that John had given them as sounds. The children were then able to use the sound recording app Keezy, to record eight sounds and arrange them into an abstract sound piece or follow a graphic score that John had arranged. Throughout the project it was a delight to see children that were initially reluctant to take part in the performances and recordings began to grow in confidence and express themselves through sound, drawing and performance as well as being able to articulate their thoughts and descriptions with greater clarity.

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We have now entered into the second year of working within the Kids’ own project. John and myself are continuing to explore art mediums, that as a class teacher I would have been reluctant to try without his assistance. The first year and a half has been an extremely worthwhile experience not only for myself, but more importantly for the children in my class.

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

Leanne Kyle, Teacher

We were working with Kids’ Own Publishing Partnership on a project called Virtually There. In this project the artist doesn’t actually come into the classroom. We correspond mostly via the interactive whiteboard. I was ICT coordinator and this project really appealed to me. It was different and offered  a new experience for me and the children.

Initially the artist (Lisa) came to meet us at the school. It was great day because we were able to chat and have a planning session. We went on a walk around the school. We decided to use nature and the actual school environment as a beginning point. I wanted to use the school garden and create links to the eco-school ethos. We tied this all together into a project which focused on the topic of ‘senses’. This topic is very popular and suitable for P2 and 3. Later we narrowed this down further to the sense of touch with many trips outside working with the trees. It was Autumn time so we began to focus on the leaves. Lisa taught a ‘leaf dance’. From here, it just took off with a focus on nature and touch.

Lisa Cahill, Artist

My ‘Virtually There’ journey with Kids’ Own Publishing Partnership, Leanne Kyle and the P2 & 3 Class of Aughnacloy began in September 2016. At this time I was also Dance Artist in Residence at the Froebel Department of Primary and Early Childhood Education at Maynooth University. The Autumn of 2016 marked the final phase of the three year residency. I had received an Arts Council, Young People Children and Education (YPCE) Bursary Award. The focus of my investigations included the development of frames and activities that engaged the sensory body in the outdoor environment of a school site. Over those Autumnal and Winter months the creative journey with many partners unfolded.

Developing the body’s sensory attunement through engagement with the site is an important element of my practice. I was spending a lot of time outside. I was out in the garden , fields, orchards, forested areas of the University campus. My explorations involved movement, writing, art making, gathering sounds and natural materials, reading and learning more and more about the natural environment that I was in.

I wanted to bring these explorations into the Virtually There project. I really looked forward to sharing these with Leanne and the children. I wanted to notice and hear their responses through multiple and different forms of documentation. I wanted to see what emerged through our collective journey.

Leanne shared my curiousity in this discovery process as we set about investigating:

 

We committed to holding an intention of listening to the needs and responses of each partner. We committed to capturing each of our responses to the tasks and activities. These responses might emerge in different forms, such as verbal, written, a gesture or movement, a photograph, a word, a drawing.

I felt my role was to invite and remind us to return to our body and the sensations and feelings we were experiencing right now in each moment.

And so our journey unfolded.

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

Leanne

At the first online session, the children introduced themselves to Lisa. They wrote a little about themselves and they read this to Lisa through the interactive whiteboard. We began to work on the leaf dance and talked about the different seasons. We were in the season of Autumn. We went outside and discussed how the leaves were falling and blowing in the trees. Lisa shown us her leaf dance. That really got the children thinking about what they would like to do. They had a lot of input. We created some sensory warm up audio clips with Lisa.

https://soundcloud.com/lisadance/virtually-there-warm-up

She was great to ask the children for their ideas. The children decided that they would like to bring things in from the outside. We played with different ways of using these materials in our warm up clips. This resulted in the children bringing in leaves and things like that. This then resulted in their favourite activity; leaf tattoos. The children loved this. It was so simple, yet so effective. This all tied in well with our topics in school because we look at the different seasons. It tied in with our literacy, particularly poetry. When we arrived at the season of Spring, we wrote poems. We’d explored so much by this stage. We looked at our hands, created drawings of our hands, gone outside to find natural objects to mark make on paper. Actually, this mark making was something they really loved.

The children, in small groups, began to form their own dances. They led the learning at this point. Some of them started to think and dance about trees being chopped down. This led us to a new topic, which I had never done before in school; the topic of deforestation, looking at the Amazon rainforest and the effect of deforestation. The children really led this bit. There were lots of woodcutters chopping down trees. But also planting new trees. This was really the chidren’s own ideas, which came from Lisa’s input. At a later stage in the project, the children made campaign posters to send to the Prince’s Rainforest Trust. We are a UNICEF school and it all tied into the modules of Your Rights and You Have a Right to Have an Opinion. The children had a right to voice their opinion that deforestation is wrong.  They led the learning completely.

I would say it was very collaborative project, a journey in working together.

Lisa

The intention Leanne and I brought to the development of our work together was to listen to each other and the children. In listening, we focused on attuning to the energy and responses of the children. How were they responding? At what moments did energy heighten and flow?

Indeed it was often a great challenge for me to notice and ‘feel into’ the energy of the children, the temperature of the room in response to an activity. My own sensory experience of been in the class room through the interactive whiteboard at times felt frustrating and even at times lonely. Looking at the classroom through the narrow screen of my laptop made me consider other ways of discovering and identifying the information I needed to ‘feel into’ and sense in order to learn about this room full of people. I had to ask specific questions to the children and Leanne to receive their feedback.

I will always remember Leanne’s description of the children’s response to the task of creating leaf tattoos. She described the children’s joy and laughter coupled with their attention in colouring and pressing leaves on their bodies.

Throughout the duration of the project, I continued to share elements and small samples of work from my own practice. From these sharings, Leanne and the children began to develop their own questions, tasks and creative forms of response and reflection.

I found it so exciting to see, hear and feel individual’s process, their ideas, questions and responses.

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

Leanne

I’ll start with a challenge. It was session 9. Everything had been going so well on our computer programme, Blackboard Collaborate. But on lesson 9, the technology would not work for us. Lisa couldn’t connect with us. I felt lost. The C2K school network in Northern Ireland is very strict. I couldn’t use facetime or skype to connect with Lisa. So we ended up communiciating via whatsapp. It was a whole new way of connecting with Lisa. We were able to communicate with Lisa using whats app voice messages. We sent photographs of what we did that day (which was a continuation of what we were doing). So when technology fails – that is a challenge.

The highlight was when Lisa came up to the school for two days in April. I will never forget that the time that she spent with them before we went out filming their dances. I will never forget that. The children will never forget that. It was amazing. We spent all this time working collaboratively online.  Then she was there in person. That was a highlight for me and the kids.

Lisa

Indeed, like Leanne, memories of session 9 haven’t softened for me. Our means of communiciation didn’t work. I lost a little confidence with the technology after this point. I felt anxious in the lead up to the next sessions. When technology fails, it definitely poses a big challenge.

But, because of the realisation that we could not rely on our online connection, we began to develop less focus on me as the leader of sessions. I look back now and realise that this was a really important moment of our journey together. After session 9, I think Leanne and the children really took off and entered their full flow. Up to session 9, we spent much time getting to know each other, exploring ideas, trying things out, engaging with our senses indoors and outdoors, experiencing each others small creative forms and experiments. I know that the children had developed skills and knowledge and were full of passion for creative movement and the natural environment around them. In stepping back a little, I created more space for this dynamic partnership (teacher and children) and individuals to embrace their own creativity. When I reflect on this, I smile.

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

Leanne

At the start I wasn’t really sure where it was going to go. I needed to take a step back and breath. Lisa encouraged us all to concentrate on the simple things. But the simple things turned out to be very effective.

In main stream schools at the minute, it’s all about getting children in touch with their senses again. There are so many children coming into school at the moment with sensory issues. With the warm ups, we focused on the sense of touch. Before each lesson the children were so excited about working with Lisa. The warm ups helped calm the children.

The sensory issue is a big thing at the minute in main stream schools. We recognise the need to support children to return to the basics, being calm in themselves and able to regulate themselves. The warm ups for me were great. They focused on touch and feeling, touching your arm, leg and head. From a sensory perspective, this was significant for me and I thought it prepared them well for their dances.

Lisa

Something I would like to share is how we endeavoured to document the process through gathering multiple means of documentation. Leanne is an avid photographer. She created, gathered and drew our focus to this form of visual documentation.

It feels now, following completion of the project that the engagement with multiple forms of documentation was a really important layer and container for the processes and choices that emerged throughout the project. Methods included: photography, film, writing, art, movement and the gathering of materials. These forms illustrated and offered many entry points for others into the work and processes of the project.

Has anything changed as a result of the project?

Leanne

Yes. The impact of the audio warm ups and our attention to the senses made me take a step back and realise everything in mainstream teaching is done at a pace. You are going at a rate of knots to try and get everything covered because there is so much curriculum to cover. At the end  of the day as society goes on, moves more into technology (and yes our project was based around technology), this project brought out the importance of just been still. Breathing and regulating yourself, mindfulness. Being aware of your space, being aware of your own body and senses, which alot of children at this age are missing. I’d say that has really made me think as a teacher.

Dance does not have to be very structured. It can made so creative and the children proved that. I was thinking where is this going to go with the boys? How are the boys going to get into this? And I not being a dancer, I was thinking, ‘gosh, where is this going to go? I think at times I worried about the end product. But I realise now it’s really about the process. The amount of work the children put into the process of it all was unbelievable. Those dances didn’t happen overnight. The children took ownership of their own process. I loved the days when Lisa worked with small groups, chatting to them about their dances, giving them feedback, hints and tips. The children loved this. It was really about the process but it’s also nice to have an amazing end product. But it really is about the process.

For me the parents really getting on board was important. It was a risk you take. Our sessions took a whole day. It was a whole day out of the normal curriculum; numeracy and literacy. For this day, you are dancing!

It was really important that the parents were on board with this. And they were. They kept involved all the time. Right from the class assembly, when we shared an interview between the children, teacher and artist. They absolutely loved it. They got to see Lisa. They had heard so much about Lisa from the chidlren. But they got to see Lisa and they were so keen to learn more about her. I think that was important, getting the parents on board and getting them involved. We created a DVD as part of our project. The DVD idea wasn’t my suggestion. It wasn’t the childrens or Lisas. It was the parents’ suggestion. Parents came to me after the class assembly and asked me for the footage. We had shown a film of an interview between Lisa and the children. We had two interviewers who asked Lisa questions. They did a super job and their parents were so proud watching the footage of  them confidenctly posing questinos. This project was inclusive of all chidlren in the class and particulary appealed to those chidlren who learn best through kinaesthetic learning.

Our final DVD came from the parents request to see footage of this interview. The parents wanted to see the children’s dances and share it with others. I think this is important. It is not just a partnership between the teacher, children and the artist. It is also a partnership with the parents.

When Lisa came to the school in April, it was amazing to see the parent’s excitement. She got out of her car and they were all saying hello. She had never met them before. But they all felt that they knew her. It’s amazing how you can work with someone all year and ye’re at opposite ends of the country. When something like this comes together, it’s pretty special.

Lisa

I think what I am left with at this stage and what I would like to remember as I go forward with Leanne, the children, families and community of Aughnacloy PS, is my curiousity around makings connections and asking questions.

I have neither an answer or a method as to how to achieve these successfully. But I think we can rely on our intention to listen, trust and be curious.

Here is a note from my journal (which was written throughout the project).

What question(s) can be shared to offer permission for an experience to ‘unfold’.

I think there are different ways of thinking about this.

The possibility of making connections – learning about something and learning about myself simultaneously.

Again, what question(s) encourage openness and curiosity – giving ownership back to the individuals.

Recognise

Acknowledge

Acceptance – acceptance of where someone is right now.

A non-linear approach to learning and achievement.

What is between the teacher and the artist?

The known and the unknown. Staying at this edge. It might feel like a void or a delayed in-between stage.

Developing structures together which are composed from all the sensations of the work and materials.

A sense of intimacy and dialogue with the work – listening to it.

There is a need to explore and create frames and structures, which are away from the demands of an end product or production.

A project where we can all ask questions of each other.

“What do you know now?”

“How are you now?”

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

Sharon Kelly, Artist: This was the second year of working with Fionnuala at St Patrick’s Primary School, although I have been a ‘virtual’ artist in residence since 2010. In September 2016 we had agreed to base our explorations for this phase of the project around the idea of Balance. The ‘way in’ to this came to me as I was moving studio at that time, leaving a building inhabited since 1993, and moving into an old building that was once the main fishing tackle shop in Belfast. The former inhabitants left behind a lot of things, one of which was an old wages and salaries book from 1904, called Time Book. I thought this could provide inspiration to generate ideas about balance. Fionnuala was really open and willing to take this route, which seemed at first a little obscure.

What struck me was the old fashioned ink script that recorded names and hours worked, it was of course a balance of sorts, balancing the books, but what really interested me was the beautiful controlled letters flowing in ink, balanced between the lines on the page. I left the book at the school after an introductory first visit and waited to hear the children’s response as they held, looked and smelled the book! It was the starting point for investigating what sort of balance and control we try to exert as we write our names. I was interested in the WAY we do this, how we use our body. Importantly I have been collaborating with dancers over the past 3 years and that particular project was beginning to come to fruition. Awareness of the way we move, tempo and gesture interested me. I also facilitate drawing classes with young people and adults once a week and this experience has meant that we often take time to explore the way we make marks and the many aspects that affect mark–making/expression.

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

Sharon: The ideas developed through a process of questioning, taking something seemingly basic as writing your name and asking how do we do that. The P3/4 children were beginning to learn joined up writing, practicing making their letters flow continuously one into another. For our on-line sessions we spent time identifying what parts of our body we use to make letters as we write, mostly small movements with our hand and wrist. Together we began mimicking loops in the air and expanding the gesture to move more and more of our arm and then whole body. When we tried this in practice, the children discovered that if they utilized their whole arm and shoulders to make their loops, they could no longer write on small pieces of paper.

This exploration went from A5 size paper on their classroom desks to large scale loops on table-scale pieces of paper and out into the yard with chalk! The responses to this were very interesting because the children told me that they used a different energy and body weight to create these larger swirls. This real experience, supported by the wonderful way Fionnuala can elicit responses from the children for discussion, was a very important prompt before we took time to look at and take inspiration from the free-flowing script of Chinese writing and later the work of artists Cy Twombly’s Blackboard paintings from the 1970’s and the action painting of Jackson Pollock. (This was done by posting links to the classroom; the children and teacher would watch a video or view the work of the artists and a detailed discussion would take place).

Following this exposure to the action painting of Jackson Pollock in particular, Fionnuala thought it would be really worthwhile to allow the children to actually explore using paint and their bodies the way that Jackson Pollock had done. We planned that I would make a real visit to the classroom and we would all experience what it is like to paint on a large canvas surfaces on the floor and to engage our whole bodies in the process. It was an investigation into how much control we could use to drip, pour and splatter the paint. The children used many different implements to get paint onto the canvases  brushes; sticks; sports cones that dribbled out paint; syringes; baby bottles.

In a sense we were experimenting with balance, exploring how we balance our bodies to create a gesture on the canvas and allowing enough freedom for spontaneity. It was a very potent mix and the outcomes on the floor were amazing to all of us. This very intense activity was followed by discussion, both on how we made the floor paintings, and what we thought about them. To further cement our ideas about balance we engaged the help of a friend of mine, Marie Murphy, Professor of Health and Fitness at Ulster University. We connected online via Blackboard Collaborate software. Professor Murphy invited us all  to try some balancing postures, which proved to be a wonderful cool- down for the  busy activity that preceeded it! Through the whole process we questioned, tried things out and reflected on what we observed, felt and understood. These beginning explorations provided a rich well to go on and explore gravity, air pressue, movement through space and in drawing (animations) and finally to explore space itself beyond the classroom, the school and the boundary of our planet!

Fionnuala Hughes, Teacher: We made loopy movements in the air, and then we tried to recreate them on large pages using graphite sticks, restricting our movements by keeping one arm behind our back. Some of the pupils were able to create looped designs with amazing uniformity and regularity in their designs, showing a great deal of control and an awareness of the overall effect which was being achieved. There was again intense concentration involved. The children used a great amount of energy, travelling as they worked, all the time keeping their chalk in contact with their canvas and exerting a huge degree of control and balance over their own bodies as they moved through their wonderful loopy designs. The work was challenging physically, but the children were very focussed on the tasks and the end results were wonderful. We had an entire playground covered in unique loopy designs and spiral patterns.

Technically the work involved a great deal of concentration and energy as well as allowing time to drip the paint onto the surface. Jackson Pollock’s tools never actually touched the canvas on which he was working so the concepts of Balance, Control and Gravity were important aspects of the children’s work. Again there was immense concentration on the part of the children; many of them found that they had to restrain themselves from pouring the paint onto the canvas instead of allowing gravity to play a part and control how they could drip the paint onto the surface in fine angel hair lines and criss-cross patterns as well as the splatter effect which was more random. Encouraging the children to control the flow of paint, and to exercise patience and restraint posed too great of a challenge for some pupils who chose quantity over quality. Keeping the paint pots full as the groups moved around the boards was not a simple task, and altogether we used over 12 litres of paint as well as a fair amount of PVA glue and several litres of water. The end results were pretty amazing and the children were justifiably proud of their results. Moving the boards out of the room to dry proved tricky and there was some movement of paint took place during this procedure however it did not detract from the overall effect. We had a very interesting and physical session in which the children explored balance and control using their bodies. They were only too happy to participate in these activities and enjoyed the challenge of balancing using different parts of our body to control and distribute our weight. Professor Murphy, via collaborate link, gave the children some tips as to how they could distribute their weight and maintain their balance for longer. The children were fascinated by his apparent ‘scribbles’ and we discussed what we had just done and what his work suggested to us.

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

Sharon: The whole project, which has just finished for now, was a wonderful journey in so many ways and these beginning sessions were very memorable for me. It is also true to say that the sorts of activities we have pursued, painting using control and balance of our whole bodies, meant that there were several ‘challenges’ to deal with, the attitude of those involved in the project, Fionnuala, Eileen the classroom assistant and the Principal of the School, Mr. Madine, were wholly supportive and this led to the success of the project. When we communicate online it can present challenges, some are technical problems that have to be overcome or they can be certain challenges in the way we interact. Some things are not immediate, we have to wait; to give time for things to develop – but I see this as contributing to the important ethos of the overall purpose of the project. Exploring, working collaboratively over time. After the practicing large scale loops  and scribbles, Fionnuala made the observation that she had noticed the children’s handwriting had improved considerably, they were more confident with their joined up writing!

Fionnuala: The project enabled me as a teacher to get to know the pupils in my class very closely. I became the facilitator as opposed to the teacher and their project work was purely expressive. There was no right or wrong way and this enabled them to express themselves in whatever way they chose. Everything was valued. There was no fear. All was relevant. There was a lot of discussion where the children’s’ voices drove the ideas forward from session to session. Their engagement in the activities was always complete and they were immensely proud of any work which was produced as a result of the sessions. Their self-esteem and confidence grew with each session. The challenges were always practical. How can each child participate fully in each activity with equal access to the resources being made available? This involved considering the length of each of the activities ineach session and what order we might explore them in to allow time to rearrange the room during breaktimes,etc. we usually set up for art the day before so we had a blank canvas instead of a regular classroom to begin with!

On a personal level for me, the links which Sharon sent during our pre-session planning directing me to explore and discover the likes of Jackson Pollock or William Kentridge, neither of whom I’d heard of before. This prompted in me an interest into an area which I’d never delved into before. Involvement in the project broadened out my whole understanding of art as we began to ‘think outside the box’. Sharon was very good at lending me books from her own personal collection to develop my appreciation of art.

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

Sharon: The emphasis on process and discovery is really significant in this project and while Fionnuala and I plan sessions, they are generated out of what happened in the previous session and after a period of reflection. I am always interested in ‘disrupting’ the space of the classroom and the way the children spend so long sitting at desks. Many of our online sessions require that the space of the room be used differently. Fionnuala is always great at organizing the space to suit our activities. The children experienced drawing inside, outside, in the air, on the classroom floor and in many different scales.

I particularly liked the fact that we took something like writing your name, in school we must do this repeatedly usually in a particularly small scale, and analyzing everything about the way we do that. The practice of creating loops and giant scribbles and the feeling of ‘being in your work’ was invaluable since it helped generate ideas that we continued to explore about movement, balance, counter balance and feeling. Also in school we are not encouraged to ‘scribble’ for the sake of it and I found it so refreshing that Fionnuala embraced all aspects of this activity. She clearly valued what the children were doing and she was always willing to create the necessary space both physical and importantly the creative mind space. This was so evident when we explored  during the real visit, the way we could control and balance our bodies to ‘paint’ the canvases on the floor of the classroom, taking Jackson Pollock’s work as inspiration. The inevitable ‘mess’ created was never a barrier! The important thing was that the children were able to have a significant experience.

Fionnuala: The project has had a significant impact on the children’s personal growth and development. It has also encouraged them to work together in teams to produce composite pieces. It was a whole new type of learning in which they were encouraged to get to know themselves, their bodies and how to use their bodies to create and draw. The activities usually meant that the children were up and out of their seats. Desks disappeared and the classroom became an art studio. The only boundaries were the children’s imaginations. We travelled across the globe, to outer space and back again, exploring concepts such as balance, control, and gravity, using their bodies and minds in harmony, to suspend disbelief and make the space become whatever they needed it too. The children worked closely and in harmony together. I do believe that the art session with Sharon was a special time in the week, when the children could forget about their worries and do something for themselves. They became totally engrossed and involved. Their inhibitions disappeared. The fact that another adult, a real artist, was placing such a significant value on their contributions raised their self-esteem enormously.

The day we did the “Jackson Pollock masterpieces” the children had such enormous fun exploring the whole concept of control and dripping the paint onto the canvas. The sheer size of the canvas was enough to excite them as they had this massive area to work in and there was no-one telling them what to do. It was pure self-expression and they absolutely loved it. The animation sessions were also very appealing to the children and the idea of making moving images from still drawings inspired the way they looked at movement and how much we take for granted without thinking how much work goes into a single animation.

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

Sharon: Working on Virtually There Project continues the notion of the artist, children and teacher sharing explorations together and the spirit of this feeds into my thinking in my own work in a more subliminal way. Sometimes it can elicit an idea for a piece of work, something a child says in response to something has triggered an idea. However mainly it’s the way that you are able to develop the relationship over time, that allows you this wonderful window into the life of the school and those who pass through it, this has an impact on my thinking and contemplations about what I consider in the studio and outside.

Fionnuala: I feel that my approach to art in the classroom has changed in that I no longer focus on just the end product but I now value the whole process of doing and creating something. I tended to stick to drawing still life, and everyone created something similar, whereas now I see the value of providing the children with the tools, discussing ideas and letting them express themselves more freely. We had opportunities to use artistic medium which the school normally wouldn’t provide, such as willow charcoals, oil pastels and paints, as well as a range of papers, brushes and implements to create and express.

The best thing about the project is the insight it has given me into my pupils, and that special time we spent together during the sessions, as a class, creating and bonding. The relationship with Sharon has been central to that process, as she is always positive, questioning the children in a way that elicits very personal and interesting responses. It’s been great having the opportunity to work closely with Sharon, sharing ideas as we journeyed through the school year together. I look forward to working with her again in the future and feel privileged that I have the opportunity to work with such a talented person as Sharon, on an arts in education project which contributes to the holistic development of the children in such a positive way.

Julie ForresterJulie Forrester is a visual artist based in Cork City. She has been working with all kinds of people in all kinds of settings since her return to Ireland in the 1990s. Her work celebrates process and open ended enquiry into materials and context. Julie Forrester is currently in residence with Kidsown Publishing Partnership at Killard School, Co Down.

Artist Blog Post 1:

Art enables a magical way of being in the world.

A conscious turn from routine can transform one’s approach along a spectrum from lacklustre ennui to one of tantalising attention. Objects take on significance, the ordinary becomes enriched, moments collide in fascinating ways. Sharing these ideas connects us in new and interesting conversations. We notice things that lead us to explore the nature of things and we are led on an adventure at once wild and exciting. Our senses connect to our brains our perceptions change…….but there is no need to say any of this here – suffice to say that I am motivated and captivated by a magical sense of being. Working with children expands the possibilities here. A sense of discovery leads into new territories for both myself and the child.

Working with teachers in the classroom is a very privileged place to be. The teacher is the holder of the space (s)he creates the environment for learning. (S)he is also a creative partner. The collaborative relationship between teacher and artist gives the structure to support and wings to let loose the children’s explorations.

This 3 way relationship is at the heart of the Virtually There residency project run by Kids’ Own Publishing Partnership. Here the Artist/Teacher roles are very much foregrounded by the challenges and limitations of online presence. In Virtually There the artist is not in residence in the classroom but in a virtual space that hovers between classroom and studio. Her visual presence is contained in a frame, on a screen. Aurally her presence can be heard through a speaker, often as gremlins or in delay. Like wise the artist’s experience of the classroom is on screen and remote, tiny moving ants, often backlit by classroom windows, occasional face to face conversations and a virtual whiteboard. The teacher often takes up the role of mediator between screen and room. Gremlins come and go ransacking the airwaves. It’s today’s technology but it feels archaic. Two distinct worlds form at either end, in parallel. I imagine being in a submarine at the periscope communicating by radio control, sometimes it even feels like we are feeling our way via sonar echolocation, at once remote and intimate.

One develops strategies to incorporate this technology, it becomes another collaborator, the fourth partner in the equation. Experiments often begin with instructions as jumping off points, and in the sense of a Chinese whisper, one is anticipating the return of something wild and wilful from the original.

The interactive whiteboard becomes a shared ground where ideas are thrown up and moved about. During my residency at Killard House I worked in one to one conversation with children from year 10, using the whiteboard as our ‘visual speech bubbles’. I captured this activity using screenshots. Digital capturing does not at all represent a record of the session. It creates its own truth through a punctured narrative where elisions reign, occluding vital moments, replacing them, punctuating them with knots of captured stasis, warping time and concentrating attention in offbeat places. Human fallibility has its place of honour here, turning the machine/system into poetry or farce. The children’s voices push dynamically through the images they share and the sequencing of their thoughts. For me it is the perfect medium to test the narrative capabilities of stop motion animation.

Meanwhile classroom activity continues with teacher, the dynamic Ms Davey, elaborating on our prepared activities, the children coming up to webcam at intervals to intercept the dialogue with some extraordinary observation, discovery or piece of work to share.

In Virtually There time with the teacher between sessions is invaluable, here we are able to explore and adapt our project, pushing out ideas, extending chance encounters and developing these into a mutual understanding for creative play, the collaboration is always live, as we share our differing approaches, responses and strategies to all that is thrown up. There is also a hovering of all that I have missed from my submarine.

For more on the Virtually There Killard House Blog please click here 


!!!! Kids’ Own Celebrates 13 Years of the Virtually There Project

Kids’ Own Publishing Partnership

Date: 7 March 2020

Kids’ Own is really proud to be celebrating thirteen years of their virtual arts in education project, Virtually There, with a large-scale exhibition and special launch event at Belfast Children’s Festival.

On Saturday 7th March 2020, a new exhibition will open in Belfast to showcase work developed by children, artists and teachers over the past three years. Funded for eleven years by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation since 2016, Virtually There was developed by Kids’ Own with a pioneering approach whereby artists connected virtually from their studios with children in the classroom.

Kids’ Own has partnered with Belfast Children’s Festival, Young at Art and University of Ulster to develop this exciting exhibition for public audiences, which runs from 6th-28th March.

A special exhibition opening event takes place at the Ulster University Belfast Campus on Saturday 7th March, 1pm-3.30pm. This event will include the launch of Open Space: An action research report from the Virtually There project by Dr Bryonie Reid. It will be launched by Dr Ali FitzGibbon, Lecturer in Creative and Cultural Industries Management, Queen’s University Belfast.

There will also be a panel discussion entitled What does collaboration really mean? This discussion will be chaired by Mark O’Brien, director of axis, Ballymun, in conversation with artists and teachers who participated in the project.

Date & Time

Saturday, 7 March 2020. 1pm – 3.30pm

Venue

Belfast College of Art, York Street, Belfast

Refreshments will be provided. Please RSVP to info@kidsown.ie

For further information go to kidsown.ie/kids-own-celebrates-13-years-of-virtually-there-project-at-belfast-childrens-festival/

!!!! Guest Blogger: Chris McCambridge – Teachers Blog No. 4

Christopher McCambridge is a Special Educational Needs teacher at St. Colman’s Primary School, Lambeg. St. Colman’s Primary is a mainstream school of 400 pupils with two learning support unit classes. Christopher is also an active member of the Belfast art scene. He co-founded the arts organisation Belfast Platform for the Arts (Platform Arts) in 2010, which continues to provide an exhibition space and studios for artists.

In 2016 Christopher and his Primary 6/7 class were chosen to take part in the Kids’ Own Publishing Partnership ‘Virtually There’ project. ‘A virtual artist in residence project which explores the potential for creative engagement between artists working from their studio and children and teachers in the classroom using video conferencing technology’. (Orla Kenny, Creative Director of Kids’ Own Publishing Partnership). Now in their 3rd year, artist John D’Arcy has been working collaboratively with Christopher and his class at St Colman’s P.S as virtual artist-in-residence. 

Away Day – Blog 4

2018 marked the completion of my 2nd Year working as part of the Kids’ Own, Virtually There project.  The two years have flown in and I have found that the pupils throughout those years have been given an enjoyable and unique experience. This project has also helped me to develop creatively as a teacher and an individual. This development was furthered through the ‘creative away day’ that the Kids’ Own organisation offered to all the teacher – artist groupings. Each teacher-artist grouping would be able to organise their own creative away allowing us the opportunity to re-charge our creative batteries, broaden our horizons and prepare for the next project year.

After much discussion, John D’Arcy (Artist) and I decided to take a day trip to Dublin to view a number of exhibitions that we both found of interest. These exhibitions included Land / Sea / Signal at RUA RED in Tallaght and ‘Prototypes’ by Doireann O’Malley, Rachel Maclean ’Just be yourself’ in The Hugh Lane gallery. The exhibitions involved the use of digital technology, an aspect that has been integral to our project.

The journey to Dublin provided us both with an opportunity to reflect on the project from the previous year. Discussing aspects such as the pacing of the individual elements of the project, aspects of planning, pupils’ enjoyment, as well as discussing what we felt worked well or could be improved. This time, especially outside of term time, was invaluable as it allowed us to discuss the project without any other distractions.

In Year 2, the central theme of our project was Hacking.  This word was the starting point from which all other ideas would develop from. I felt this worked particularly well as it meant we could develop ideas from this central theme, allowing ideas to either develop as stand-alone lesson or develop into their own mini-project . This flexible approach, gave me more confidence in allowing each idea to develop at its own pace, with the children developing and realising their ideas across a number of weeks. Thus, allowing for a greater insight into the work. This is an aspect which I hope we further refine, allowing the children to critically reflect on their workings within each session.

During our first two years working together, technology has played an important role within our projects. This year the use of apps had allowed the children to explore hacking in a variety of ways. In one of the mini-projects we focused on the ‘hacking of time’, exploring how we could speed up or slow down different movements from the mundane, the children completing work, to the more exciting, running a race. This mini-project was achieved through the app Hyper-lapse. I felt the variety and use of different apps had engaged the children. These apps were later used by the children to create a ‘coded film’ which the viewer was required to hack, using a code developed by the children during our sessions. Due to an interest in technology, I was interested in viewing these exhibitions in Dublin.

The exhibition, Land / Sea / Signal, was a group show featuring artists, Alan Butler, Gregory Chatonsky, John Gerrard, Nicolas Sassoon & Rick Silva and Santa France. The exhibition brought together these artists whose practices ‘mediated on the materiality of internet infrastructure and the complex socio-political conditions that are embedded within them.’The exhibition examined our modern day relationship with the internet, particularly how we ‘maintain, update and adjust our relationships … and reconfigure ourselves through technologies and with one another.

Image copyright artist Alan Butler - Land / Sea / Signal at Rua Red

Image copyright artist Alan Butler – Land / Sea / Signal at Rua Red

As with any exhibition, there were artworks which held my interest longer than others. In Land / Sea / Signal, the artist Alan Bulter piece was one of these. The artist documented the lives and experiences of the homeless … within the video game, Grand Theft Auto V. Upon first viewing I had initially mistaken these photographs as documenting real people in the outskirts of rundown cities. Once realising my error, I was taken aback by the uncanny resemblance to the real-life and how unfortunate circumstances can lead to these positions for people.

After exploring RUA RED, we moved on to the Hugh Lane gallery to view the exhibitions by Doireann O’Malley and Rachel Maclean.

Dorieann O’Malley’s exhibition Prototypes was a multi-screen film installation exploring ‘transgender studies, science fiction, bio politics and psychoanalysis, AI and experimental music. She skilfully ties these to phantoms of modernist utopias, epitomised by the post-war architecture of Berlin, which serves as a dreamlike scenography for the main, protagonists’ ghostly actions’ [Jury Statement, Edith Russ Haus fur Media Art Stipendium, 2016]

Some of the work of Doireann O’Malley was as a result of collaborative methodology, using a combination of CGI, film and Virtual Reality of interest. This was of interest to both John and I, as we have discussed the use of Virtual Reality as a line of enquire in Year 3 of our project.

Rachel Maclean’s exhibition ‘Just be yourself!’, also at the Hugh Lane gallery, was a series of video installations and digital artworks. Her work uses “satire to critique consumer desire, identities and power dynamics … she parodies fairy tales, children’s television programmes, advertising, internet videos and pop culture … combining her interests in role-play, costume and digital production in works of cinematic collage.

Image copyright Rachel Maclean - ‘Just be yourself!’, at the Hugh Lane gallery

Image copyright Rachel Maclean – ‘Just be yourself!’, at the Hugh Lane gallery

I would like to thank Kids’ Own and their funders for giving John and I the opportunity to organise this creative away day. It has provided us with the opportunity to discuss and critique our project work to date and allow us to view exhibitions that could influence our thinking for future ‘Virtually There’ projects.

Year 3 of our ‘Virtually There’ project is currently underway, and as documented in my previous post, we are exploring the theme of ‘Radio.’ We have developed our own radio identity, WECHO FM. Since my last post, the children have created their own DJ names, such as Smooth T, Aidan Big Shot, Jump Bam Sam and Charley KAPOW to name a few.  They have also used these names to design portraits, using a variety of different materials and techniques, which reflect their radio personalities.

As the project continues to grow and develop, the children are beginning to record talk shows, news stories, weather reports and create music and jingles, advertising WECHO FM and their own individual shows. At the end of the project, we intend to visit a local radio station, where we will have the opportunity to play our content to a live audience.

The ‘Virtually There’ project continues to allow the children the opportunity to express themselves artistically, as well as giving me the confidence to step outside my comfort zone and develop as a teacher.

!!!! Guest Blogger: Chris McCambridge – Teachers Blog No. 3

Christopher McCambridge is a Special Educational Needs teacher at St. Colman’s Primary School, Lambeg. St. Colman’s Primary is a mainstream school of 400 pupils with two learning support unit classes. Christopher is also an active member of the Belfast art scene. He co-founded the arts organisation Belfast Platform for the Arts (Platform Arts) in 2010, which continues to provide an exhibition space and studios for artists.

In 2016 Christopher and his Primary 6/7 class were chosen to take part in the Kids’ Own Publishing Partnership ‘Virtually There’ project. ‘A virtual artist in residence project which explores the potential for creative engagement between artists working from their studio and children and teachers in the classroom using video conferencing technology’. (Orla Kenny, Creative Director of Kids’ Own Publishing Partnership). Now in their 3rd year, artist John D’Arcy has been working collaboratively with Christopher and his class at St Colman’s P.S as virtual artist-in-residence. 

WECHO FM – Blog 3

A new school year, a new ‘Virtually There’ project!

The majority of the children were meeting John for the first time. They were unsure what to expect as a lot of them had never experienced or used video-conferencing technology before.

After a few technical difficulties on my end, we finally connected to John. Introductions were made by John and the children, we got straight into introducing our new project theme … RADIO!

The children discussed their knowledge of radio … Tyrell said that it was “where you could listen to things, like a music box.” Aidan said he thought of it as a “jukebox” to listen to songs. Sam stated that different types of sounds could come from it, not only music but also advertisements. Daniel, Adam and Charley thought that even though it played music there were other programmes on the radio such as the news, weather forecasts or traffic reports. Adam also said that he had listened to documentaries on the radio. The children were asked what they thought we would be creating during the project, to which they replied, “A RADIO SHOW!”

Not only were we going to create a radio show, we were going to create our own Radio Station.

We discussed the different programmes that could be on our radio station, ideas for programmes included Music, Documentaries, Cartoon or comedy shows, discussions about the news and about our interests such as gaming. With an idea of the content, we were set the task of developing our visual identity. John displayed a number of symbols that the children all were able to recognise easily, e.g. the Nike swoosh, the golden arches, the apple mac symbol.

He told us that we would begin the process of developing a visual identity through the exploration of sound. The children began this process by listening to a variety of sounds that John had created; they then had to interpret them as a drawing. They generated a lot of great ideas, which included random symbols and jagged lines that varied in sizes. John then asked us to interpret drawings that he had created as sounds. Kevin, Sam, Daniel and Kyle all had a go at trying to interpret these drawings, with lots of different and random sounds and noises being made.

In the final part of the process, the children had to name each of the sounds that John created. He explained that the name could be a made-up word or a series of letters. The children found this extremely entertaining and generated a lot of random words for the sounds, including wobe, weeoloublue, breeeeee, dweenen, dulllung, dener, dedzen, wecho, bler and weow. After a short selection and voting process, the children picked WECHO, as our radio station name. WECHO FM was born.

The children were then set the task of creating our visual identity and the background for our radio station. We had to choose two colours, one would be for our background and the other colour would be used to create our visual interpretation for the sound of WECHO.

Each child explored the sound WECHO in their own unique way. This session was great fun and challenged the children’s ideas on what art could be. As the project develops, we hope to explore different aspects of the radio station such as, DJ names and identities, jingles and radio sweepers, sound effects and different radio programmes. At the end of the process we hope to visit a local radio station to gain a better understanding of the inner workings as well as possibly playing our own jingles and songs.

!!!! Guest Blogger: Chris McCambridge – Teachers Blog No. 2

Christopher McCambridge is a Special Educational Needs teacher at St. Colman’s Primary School, Lambeg. St. Colman’s Primary is a mainstream school of 400 pupils with two learning support unit classes. Christopher is also an active member of the Belfast art scene. He co-founded the arts organisation Belfast Platform for the Arts (Platform Arts) in 2010, which continues to provide an exhibition space and studios for artists.

In 2016 Christopher and his Primary 6/7 class were chosen to take part in the Kids’ Own Publishing Partnership ‘Virtually There’ project. ‘A virtual artist in residence project which explores the potential for creative engagement between artists working from their studio and children and teachers in the classroom using video conferencing technology’. (Orla Kenny, Creative Director of Kids’ Own Publishing Partnership). Now in their 2nd year, artist John D’Arcy has been working collaboratively with Christopher and his class at St Colman’s P.S as virtual artist-in-residence. 

Art as a Gateway – Blog 2

A recent article in the Guardian newspaper, discussed the importance of prehistoric art. In particular, that of the Neanderthals and Homo sapiens. The art critic, Jonathan Jones, was examining the significance of the findings that Neanderthals had painted on cave walls in Spain 65,000 years ago, tens of thousands of years before Homo sapiens. The Neanderthal artwork in question was a stencilled red ochre handprint on rock. It wasn’t the discussion about whether or not Neanderthals were the first true artists or if this honour should belong to another early human species, Homo erectus, or because of the quality of the representational artwork by Homo sapiens, they should be considered the first ‘true’ artists, that piqued my interest, it was the significance that art had on moulding a species. That ‘art’ constituted the beginnings of intelligence, the “capacity to imagine and dream” and within our own species Homo sapiens “the birth of the complex cathedral of the modern mind … [opening] the way, in modern human history, to everything from writing to computers” (Jonathan Jones, 2018). – read the full article www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2018/feb/23/neanderthals-cave-art-spain-astounding-discovery-humbles-every-human

Within the education sector, the Northern Ireland Curriculum has been developed to cater for all subjects, allowing children access to a varied education. The reality is, that as children progress through primary school, teachers can be under pressure delivering the curriculum, often focussing on the areas of numeracy and literacy to the detriment of other curricular areas, particularly art. This can be evident in Primary 6 and the first term of Primary 7, when a substantial amount of time is spent preparing the children for the GL and AQE transfer tests. These pressures can sometimes be self-imposed, a teacher perhaps feeling that it is important for the children to develop these skills and after the tests have been completed, delivering those other areas or perhaps they can be pressures by other stake-holders within the school community. Regardless of this, the Guardian article reinforced my own view that Art should be on-a-par with those supposedly ‘key subjects or areas.’ If, works of art have been “held up as proof of the cognitive superiority of modern humans,” this should mean that art can play an important role in the curriculum.

As a Special Educational Needs teacher, teaching Primary 6/7 pupils, the pressures of the GL and AQE tests are not applicable to the children that I teach. Like all primary teachers the delivery of the Northern Ireland Curriculum is still essential. However, without these testing constraints, there is an opportunity to embed art throughout the curriculum to a greater extent. It does not need to simply be an add on or linked to a world around us topic. My project work with Kids’ Own has been successful in facilitating this. As I detailed in my last post, I am now in my second year of working within the Kids’ Own project and in-particular working with the artist John D’arcy.

At the beginning of Year 2, we set about choosing a word that would encompass everything. The word we chose was Hacking. This would be the jumping off point, from which all mini-projects or lessons would stem from. John and I found that this liberated our planning, allowing for greater flexibility. When we discussed the word with the children, it ignited their enthusiasm, prompting new avenues of learning that John and I had not previously considered.

Throughout the Hacking project, we have included aspects of numeracy and literacy. A particular favourite being a session exploring ‘codes and language’. This session included: Semaphore, Morse code, the phonetic alphabet, emoji’s and Makaton. After the session had been completed, I was amazed to see children with difficulties in sequencing the alphabet testing one another on the use of Makaton and the symbol to letter correspondence. The project has also allowed the children to develop their creativity and problem-solving skills. They have become more expressive when discussing topics, themes or their own work. This has had an impact in other avenues such as their social and emotional well-being.

I began this post, examining the importance that art had on our evolution as a species. So, I feel it is relevant to question, if it had such a bearing on our evolution, then why can it not have the same impact upon our education of young children?

 

 

 

 

!!!! Guest Blogger: Chris McCambridge – Teachers Blog No. 1

20180125_220635_edit2Christopher McCambridge is a Special Educational Needs teacher at St. Colman’s Primary School, Lambeg. St. Colman’s Primary is a mainstream school of 400 pupils with two learning support unit classes. Christopher is also an active member of the Belfast art scene. He co-founded the arts organisation Belfast Platform for the Arts (Platform Arts) in 2010, which continues to provide an exhibition space and studios for artists.

Virtually There Year 1 – Blog 1

In September 2016, my Primary 6/7 class were chosen to take part in the Kids’ Own Virtually there project. The Virtually there project is an innovative virtual artist in residence project … exploring the potential for creative engagement between artists working from their studio and children and teachers in the classroom using video conferencing technology (Orla Kenny, Director of Kids’ Own Publishing Partnership).

Our class were paired with artist, performer and composer, John D’Arcy. John’s work focuses on the use of sound and voice in intermedia art events. As a primary school teacher, teaching children with special education needs, the art mediums that I tend to explore within the curriculum include drawing, painting, ceramics, printing and 3-D sculpture. The use of sound as an art form or event, outside of musical lessons and choir, was an intriguing concept that I was eager to engage with.

Throughout the course of the fourteen weeks the pupils explored natural and man-made sounds in a variety of different environments and locations. Initial sound explorations focused on our school environment and ranged from birds chirping, the wind howling to high-heel shoes walking down the corridor or the buzzing of the whiteboard and the hum of the lights. These discussions concentrated on getting the children to describe the sounds they heard and attempt to recreate them using their voice. Throughout the sessions the children began to show greater confidence and clarity when describing different sounds.

“How could you tell it that the sound was high-heel shoes? Can you describe the sound?

“It went clip clop … the sound was spaced apart … the sound was short and repeated … it was getting quieter as the woman walked down the corridor … it sounded like my Mum’s shoes in the kitchen.”

As the sessions progressed, John began to ask the children to interpret the sounds we could hear as drawings. He taught the children to understand the concept that a drawing of lines, symbols or both can represent a sound, an abstract idea that the children loved because it frees them from trying to make a realistic drawing.  After a visit to the Belfast Zoo, John asked the children to interpret the animal sounds that they heard and recorded through drawings.

He discussed with the class, what might the sound of an animal or bird look like?

The parrots talking resembled a curved line to Kevin because the ‘sound went from low to high and it was a short sound’.

Daniel drew a series of circles of different sizes joined by lines for the sound of the parrots. The sounds ‘went from loud to quiet … it was like the parrots were talking to each other.’

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Caitlin – Monkey

“I was imagining the monkey making ‘oh, oh’ sounds, that is why I picked an O [to draw]. I drew a line because it was joining the sound together. I the red sound was an angry sound and the purple sound was a lower sound

Oscar – Parrots

“I drew this shape because it looked like a parrot’s beak. The triangle is getting bigger as the sound is getting louder and angrier.”

The project continued to evolve developing drawings and sounds into graphic scores, which would later be performed and recorded by the children as an abstract musical performance pieces. The children’s confidence grew as they began to interpret drawings that John had given them as sounds. The children were then able to use the sound recording app Keezy, to record eight sounds and arrange them into an abstract sound piece or follow a graphic score that John had arranged. Throughout the project it was a delight to see children that were initially reluctant to take part in the performances and recordings began to grow in confidence and express themselves through sound, drawing and performance as well as being able to articulate their thoughts and descriptions with greater clarity.

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We have now entered into the second year of working within the Kids’ own project. John and myself are continuing to explore art mediums, that as a class teacher I would have been reluctant to try without his assistance. The first year and a half has been an extremely worthwhile experience not only for myself, but more importantly for the children in my class.

!!!! A Sensory Experience of Place

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

Leanne Kyle, Teacher

We were working with Kids’ Own Publishing Partnership on a project called Virtually There. In this project the artist doesn’t actually come into the classroom. We correspond mostly via the interactive whiteboard. I was ICT coordinator and this project really appealed to me. It was different and offered  a new experience for me and the children.

Initially the artist (Lisa) came to meet us at the school. It was great day because we were able to chat and have a planning session. We went on a walk around the school. We decided to use nature and the actual school environment as a beginning point. I wanted to use the school garden and create links to the eco-school ethos. We tied this all together into a project which focused on the topic of ‘senses’. This topic is very popular and suitable for P2 and 3. Later we narrowed this down further to the sense of touch with many trips outside working with the trees. It was Autumn time so we began to focus on the leaves. Lisa taught a ‘leaf dance’. From here, it just took off with a focus on nature and touch.

Lisa Cahill, Artist

My ‘Virtually There’ journey with Kids’ Own Publishing Partnership, Leanne Kyle and the P2 & 3 Class of Aughnacloy began in September 2016. At this time I was also Dance Artist in Residence at the Froebel Department of Primary and Early Childhood Education at Maynooth University. The Autumn of 2016 marked the final phase of the three year residency. I had received an Arts Council, Young People Children and Education (YPCE) Bursary Award. The focus of my investigations included the development of frames and activities that engaged the sensory body in the outdoor environment of a school site. Over those Autumnal and Winter months the creative journey with many partners unfolded.

Developing the body’s sensory attunement through engagement with the site is an important element of my practice. I was spending a lot of time outside. I was out in the garden , fields, orchards, forested areas of the University campus. My explorations involved movement, writing, art making, gathering sounds and natural materials, reading and learning more and more about the natural environment that I was in.

I wanted to bring these explorations into the Virtually There project. I really looked forward to sharing these with Leanne and the children. I wanted to notice and hear their responses through multiple and different forms of documentation. I wanted to see what emerged through our collective journey.

Leanne shared my curiousity in this discovery process as we set about investigating:

 

We committed to holding an intention of listening to the needs and responses of each partner. We committed to capturing each of our responses to the tasks and activities. These responses might emerge in different forms, such as verbal, written, a gesture or movement, a photograph, a word, a drawing.

I felt my role was to invite and remind us to return to our body and the sensations and feelings we were experiencing right now in each moment.

And so our journey unfolded.

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

Leanne

At the first online session, the children introduced themselves to Lisa. They wrote a little about themselves and they read this to Lisa through the interactive whiteboard. We began to work on the leaf dance and talked about the different seasons. We were in the season of Autumn. We went outside and discussed how the leaves were falling and blowing in the trees. Lisa shown us her leaf dance. That really got the children thinking about what they would like to do. They had a lot of input. We created some sensory warm up audio clips with Lisa.

https://soundcloud.com/lisadance/virtually-there-warm-up

She was great to ask the children for their ideas. The children decided that they would like to bring things in from the outside. We played with different ways of using these materials in our warm up clips. This resulted in the children bringing in leaves and things like that. This then resulted in their favourite activity; leaf tattoos. The children loved this. It was so simple, yet so effective. This all tied in well with our topics in school because we look at the different seasons. It tied in with our literacy, particularly poetry. When we arrived at the season of Spring, we wrote poems. We’d explored so much by this stage. We looked at our hands, created drawings of our hands, gone outside to find natural objects to mark make on paper. Actually, this mark making was something they really loved.

The children, in small groups, began to form their own dances. They led the learning at this point. Some of them started to think and dance about trees being chopped down. This led us to a new topic, which I had never done before in school; the topic of deforestation, looking at the Amazon rainforest and the effect of deforestation. The children really led this bit. There were lots of woodcutters chopping down trees. But also planting new trees. This was really the chidren’s own ideas, which came from Lisa’s input. At a later stage in the project, the children made campaign posters to send to the Prince’s Rainforest Trust. We are a UNICEF school and it all tied into the modules of Your Rights and You Have a Right to Have an Opinion. The children had a right to voice their opinion that deforestation is wrong.  They led the learning completely.

I would say it was very collaborative project, a journey in working together.

Lisa

The intention Leanne and I brought to the development of our work together was to listen to each other and the children. In listening, we focused on attuning to the energy and responses of the children. How were they responding? At what moments did energy heighten and flow?

Indeed it was often a great challenge for me to notice and ‘feel into’ the energy of the children, the temperature of the room in response to an activity. My own sensory experience of been in the class room through the interactive whiteboard at times felt frustrating and even at times lonely. Looking at the classroom through the narrow screen of my laptop made me consider other ways of discovering and identifying the information I needed to ‘feel into’ and sense in order to learn about this room full of people. I had to ask specific questions to the children and Leanne to receive their feedback.

I will always remember Leanne’s description of the children’s response to the task of creating leaf tattoos. She described the children’s joy and laughter coupled with their attention in colouring and pressing leaves on their bodies.

Throughout the duration of the project, I continued to share elements and small samples of work from my own practice. From these sharings, Leanne and the children began to develop their own questions, tasks and creative forms of response and reflection.

I found it so exciting to see, hear and feel individual’s process, their ideas, questions and responses.

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

Leanne

I’ll start with a challenge. It was session 9. Everything had been going so well on our computer programme, Blackboard Collaborate. But on lesson 9, the technology would not work for us. Lisa couldn’t connect with us. I felt lost. The C2K school network in Northern Ireland is very strict. I couldn’t use facetime or skype to connect with Lisa. So we ended up communiciating via whatsapp. It was a whole new way of connecting with Lisa. We were able to communicate with Lisa using whats app voice messages. We sent photographs of what we did that day (which was a continuation of what we were doing). So when technology fails – that is a challenge.

The highlight was when Lisa came up to the school for two days in April. I will never forget that the time that she spent with them before we went out filming their dances. I will never forget that. The children will never forget that. It was amazing. We spent all this time working collaboratively online.  Then she was there in person. That was a highlight for me and the kids.

Lisa

Indeed, like Leanne, memories of session 9 haven’t softened for me. Our means of communiciation didn’t work. I lost a little confidence with the technology after this point. I felt anxious in the lead up to the next sessions. When technology fails, it definitely poses a big challenge.

But, because of the realisation that we could not rely on our online connection, we began to develop less focus on me as the leader of sessions. I look back now and realise that this was a really important moment of our journey together. After session 9, I think Leanne and the children really took off and entered their full flow. Up to session 9, we spent much time getting to know each other, exploring ideas, trying things out, engaging with our senses indoors and outdoors, experiencing each others small creative forms and experiments. I know that the children had developed skills and knowledge and were full of passion for creative movement and the natural environment around them. In stepping back a little, I created more space for this dynamic partnership (teacher and children) and individuals to embrace their own creativity. When I reflect on this, I smile.

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

Leanne

At the start I wasn’t really sure where it was going to go. I needed to take a step back and breath. Lisa encouraged us all to concentrate on the simple things. But the simple things turned out to be very effective.

In main stream schools at the minute, it’s all about getting children in touch with their senses again. There are so many children coming into school at the moment with sensory issues. With the warm ups, we focused on the sense of touch. Before each lesson the children were so excited about working with Lisa. The warm ups helped calm the children.

The sensory issue is a big thing at the minute in main stream schools. We recognise the need to support children to return to the basics, being calm in themselves and able to regulate themselves. The warm ups for me were great. They focused on touch and feeling, touching your arm, leg and head. From a sensory perspective, this was significant for me and I thought it prepared them well for their dances.

Lisa

Something I would like to share is how we endeavoured to document the process through gathering multiple means of documentation. Leanne is an avid photographer. She created, gathered and drew our focus to this form of visual documentation.

It feels now, following completion of the project that the engagement with multiple forms of documentation was a really important layer and container for the processes and choices that emerged throughout the project. Methods included: photography, film, writing, art, movement and the gathering of materials. These forms illustrated and offered many entry points for others into the work and processes of the project.

Has anything changed as a result of the project?

Leanne

Yes. The impact of the audio warm ups and our attention to the senses made me take a step back and realise everything in mainstream teaching is done at a pace. You are going at a rate of knots to try and get everything covered because there is so much curriculum to cover. At the end  of the day as society goes on, moves more into technology (and yes our project was based around technology), this project brought out the importance of just been still. Breathing and regulating yourself, mindfulness. Being aware of your space, being aware of your own body and senses, which alot of children at this age are missing. I’d say that has really made me think as a teacher.

Dance does not have to be very structured. It can made so creative and the children proved that. I was thinking where is this going to go with the boys? How are the boys going to get into this? And I not being a dancer, I was thinking, ‘gosh, where is this going to go? I think at times I worried about the end product. But I realise now it’s really about the process. The amount of work the children put into the process of it all was unbelievable. Those dances didn’t happen overnight. The children took ownership of their own process. I loved the days when Lisa worked with small groups, chatting to them about their dances, giving them feedback, hints and tips. The children loved this. It was really about the process but it’s also nice to have an amazing end product. But it really is about the process.

For me the parents really getting on board was important. It was a risk you take. Our sessions took a whole day. It was a whole day out of the normal curriculum; numeracy and literacy. For this day, you are dancing!

It was really important that the parents were on board with this. And they were. They kept involved all the time. Right from the class assembly, when we shared an interview between the children, teacher and artist. They absolutely loved it. They got to see Lisa. They had heard so much about Lisa from the chidlren. But they got to see Lisa and they were so keen to learn more about her. I think that was important, getting the parents on board and getting them involved. We created a DVD as part of our project. The DVD idea wasn’t my suggestion. It wasn’t the childrens or Lisas. It was the parents’ suggestion. Parents came to me after the class assembly and asked me for the footage. We had shown a film of an interview between Lisa and the children. We had two interviewers who asked Lisa questions. They did a super job and their parents were so proud watching the footage of  them confidenctly posing questinos. This project was inclusive of all chidlren in the class and particulary appealed to those chidlren who learn best through kinaesthetic learning.

Our final DVD came from the parents request to see footage of this interview. The parents wanted to see the children’s dances and share it with others. I think this is important. It is not just a partnership between the teacher, children and the artist. It is also a partnership with the parents.

When Lisa came to the school in April, it was amazing to see the parent’s excitement. She got out of her car and they were all saying hello. She had never met them before. But they all felt that they knew her. It’s amazing how you can work with someone all year and ye’re at opposite ends of the country. When something like this comes together, it’s pretty special.

Lisa

I think what I am left with at this stage and what I would like to remember as I go forward with Leanne, the children, families and community of Aughnacloy PS, is my curiousity around makings connections and asking questions.

I have neither an answer or a method as to how to achieve these successfully. But I think we can rely on our intention to listen, trust and be curious.

Here is a note from my journal (which was written throughout the project).

What question(s) can be shared to offer permission for an experience to ‘unfold’.

I think there are different ways of thinking about this.

The possibility of making connections – learning about something and learning about myself simultaneously.

Again, what question(s) encourage openness and curiosity – giving ownership back to the individuals.

Recognise

Acknowledge

Acceptance – acceptance of where someone is right now.

A non-linear approach to learning and achievement.

What is between the teacher and the artist?

The known and the unknown. Staying at this edge. It might feel like a void or a delayed in-between stage.

Developing structures together which are composed from all the sensations of the work and materials.

A sense of intimacy and dialogue with the work – listening to it.

There is a need to explore and create frames and structures, which are away from the demands of an end product or production.

A project where we can all ask questions of each other.

“What do you know now?”

“How are you now?”

!!!! Virtually There with St Patrick’s P.S. Co Armagh

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

Sharon Kelly, Artist: This was the second year of working with Fionnuala at St Patrick’s Primary School, although I have been a ‘virtual’ artist in residence since 2010. In September 2016 we had agreed to base our explorations for this phase of the project around the idea of Balance. The ‘way in’ to this came to me as I was moving studio at that time, leaving a building inhabited since 1993, and moving into an old building that was once the main fishing tackle shop in Belfast. The former inhabitants left behind a lot of things, one of which was an old wages and salaries book from 1904, called Time Book. I thought this could provide inspiration to generate ideas about balance. Fionnuala was really open and willing to take this route, which seemed at first a little obscure.

What struck me was the old fashioned ink script that recorded names and hours worked, it was of course a balance of sorts, balancing the books, but what really interested me was the beautiful controlled letters flowing in ink, balanced between the lines on the page. I left the book at the school after an introductory first visit and waited to hear the children’s response as they held, looked and smelled the book! It was the starting point for investigating what sort of balance and control we try to exert as we write our names. I was interested in the WAY we do this, how we use our body. Importantly I have been collaborating with dancers over the past 3 years and that particular project was beginning to come to fruition. Awareness of the way we move, tempo and gesture interested me. I also facilitate drawing classes with young people and adults once a week and this experience has meant that we often take time to explore the way we make marks and the many aspects that affect mark–making/expression.

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

Sharon: The ideas developed through a process of questioning, taking something seemingly basic as writing your name and asking how do we do that. The P3/4 children were beginning to learn joined up writing, practicing making their letters flow continuously one into another. For our on-line sessions we spent time identifying what parts of our body we use to make letters as we write, mostly small movements with our hand and wrist. Together we began mimicking loops in the air and expanding the gesture to move more and more of our arm and then whole body. When we tried this in practice, the children discovered that if they utilized their whole arm and shoulders to make their loops, they could no longer write on small pieces of paper.

This exploration went from A5 size paper on their classroom desks to large scale loops on table-scale pieces of paper and out into the yard with chalk! The responses to this were very interesting because the children told me that they used a different energy and body weight to create these larger swirls. This real experience, supported by the wonderful way Fionnuala can elicit responses from the children for discussion, was a very important prompt before we took time to look at and take inspiration from the free-flowing script of Chinese writing and later the work of artists Cy Twombly’s Blackboard paintings from the 1970’s and the action painting of Jackson Pollock. (This was done by posting links to the classroom; the children and teacher would watch a video or view the work of the artists and a detailed discussion would take place).

Following this exposure to the action painting of Jackson Pollock in particular, Fionnuala thought it would be really worthwhile to allow the children to actually explore using paint and their bodies the way that Jackson Pollock had done. We planned that I would make a real visit to the classroom and we would all experience what it is like to paint on a large canvas surfaces on the floor and to engage our whole bodies in the process. It was an investigation into how much control we could use to drip, pour and splatter the paint. The children used many different implements to get paint onto the canvases  brushes; sticks; sports cones that dribbled out paint; syringes; baby bottles.

In a sense we were experimenting with balance, exploring how we balance our bodies to create a gesture on the canvas and allowing enough freedom for spontaneity. It was a very potent mix and the outcomes on the floor were amazing to all of us. This very intense activity was followed by discussion, both on how we made the floor paintings, and what we thought about them. To further cement our ideas about balance we engaged the help of a friend of mine, Marie Murphy, Professor of Health and Fitness at Ulster University. We connected online via Blackboard Collaborate software. Professor Murphy invited us all  to try some balancing postures, which proved to be a wonderful cool- down for the  busy activity that preceeded it! Through the whole process we questioned, tried things out and reflected on what we observed, felt and understood. These beginning explorations provided a rich well to go on and explore gravity, air pressue, movement through space and in drawing (animations) and finally to explore space itself beyond the classroom, the school and the boundary of our planet!

Fionnuala Hughes, Teacher: We made loopy movements in the air, and then we tried to recreate them on large pages using graphite sticks, restricting our movements by keeping one arm behind our back. Some of the pupils were able to create looped designs with amazing uniformity and regularity in their designs, showing a great deal of control and an awareness of the overall effect which was being achieved. There was again intense concentration involved. The children used a great amount of energy, travelling as they worked, all the time keeping their chalk in contact with their canvas and exerting a huge degree of control and balance over their own bodies as they moved through their wonderful loopy designs. The work was challenging physically, but the children were very focussed on the tasks and the end results were wonderful. We had an entire playground covered in unique loopy designs and spiral patterns.

Technically the work involved a great deal of concentration and energy as well as allowing time to drip the paint onto the surface. Jackson Pollock’s tools never actually touched the canvas on which he was working so the concepts of Balance, Control and Gravity were important aspects of the children’s work. Again there was immense concentration on the part of the children; many of them found that they had to restrain themselves from pouring the paint onto the canvas instead of allowing gravity to play a part and control how they could drip the paint onto the surface in fine angel hair lines and criss-cross patterns as well as the splatter effect which was more random. Encouraging the children to control the flow of paint, and to exercise patience and restraint posed too great of a challenge for some pupils who chose quantity over quality. Keeping the paint pots full as the groups moved around the boards was not a simple task, and altogether we used over 12 litres of paint as well as a fair amount of PVA glue and several litres of water. The end results were pretty amazing and the children were justifiably proud of their results. Moving the boards out of the room to dry proved tricky and there was some movement of paint took place during this procedure however it did not detract from the overall effect. We had a very interesting and physical session in which the children explored balance and control using their bodies. They were only too happy to participate in these activities and enjoyed the challenge of balancing using different parts of our body to control and distribute our weight. Professor Murphy, via collaborate link, gave the children some tips as to how they could distribute their weight and maintain their balance for longer. The children were fascinated by his apparent ‘scribbles’ and we discussed what we had just done and what his work suggested to us.

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

Sharon: The whole project, which has just finished for now, was a wonderful journey in so many ways and these beginning sessions were very memorable for me. It is also true to say that the sorts of activities we have pursued, painting using control and balance of our whole bodies, meant that there were several ‘challenges’ to deal with, the attitude of those involved in the project, Fionnuala, Eileen the classroom assistant and the Principal of the School, Mr. Madine, were wholly supportive and this led to the success of the project. When we communicate online it can present challenges, some are technical problems that have to be overcome or they can be certain challenges in the way we interact. Some things are not immediate, we have to wait; to give time for things to develop – but I see this as contributing to the important ethos of the overall purpose of the project. Exploring, working collaboratively over time. After the practicing large scale loops  and scribbles, Fionnuala made the observation that she had noticed the children’s handwriting had improved considerably, they were more confident with their joined up writing!

Fionnuala: The project enabled me as a teacher to get to know the pupils in my class very closely. I became the facilitator as opposed to the teacher and their project work was purely expressive. There was no right or wrong way and this enabled them to express themselves in whatever way they chose. Everything was valued. There was no fear. All was relevant. There was a lot of discussion where the children’s’ voices drove the ideas forward from session to session. Their engagement in the activities was always complete and they were immensely proud of any work which was produced as a result of the sessions. Their self-esteem and confidence grew with each session. The challenges were always practical. How can each child participate fully in each activity with equal access to the resources being made available? This involved considering the length of each of the activities ineach session and what order we might explore them in to allow time to rearrange the room during breaktimes,etc. we usually set up for art the day before so we had a blank canvas instead of a regular classroom to begin with!

On a personal level for me, the links which Sharon sent during our pre-session planning directing me to explore and discover the likes of Jackson Pollock or William Kentridge, neither of whom I’d heard of before. This prompted in me an interest into an area which I’d never delved into before. Involvement in the project broadened out my whole understanding of art as we began to ‘think outside the box’. Sharon was very good at lending me books from her own personal collection to develop my appreciation of art.

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

Sharon: The emphasis on process and discovery is really significant in this project and while Fionnuala and I plan sessions, they are generated out of what happened in the previous session and after a period of reflection. I am always interested in ‘disrupting’ the space of the classroom and the way the children spend so long sitting at desks. Many of our online sessions require that the space of the room be used differently. Fionnuala is always great at organizing the space to suit our activities. The children experienced drawing inside, outside, in the air, on the classroom floor and in many different scales.

I particularly liked the fact that we took something like writing your name, in school we must do this repeatedly usually in a particularly small scale, and analyzing everything about the way we do that. The practice of creating loops and giant scribbles and the feeling of ‘being in your work’ was invaluable since it helped generate ideas that we continued to explore about movement, balance, counter balance and feeling. Also in school we are not encouraged to ‘scribble’ for the sake of it and I found it so refreshing that Fionnuala embraced all aspects of this activity. She clearly valued what the children were doing and she was always willing to create the necessary space both physical and importantly the creative mind space. This was so evident when we explored  during the real visit, the way we could control and balance our bodies to ‘paint’ the canvases on the floor of the classroom, taking Jackson Pollock’s work as inspiration. The inevitable ‘mess’ created was never a barrier! The important thing was that the children were able to have a significant experience.

Fionnuala: The project has had a significant impact on the children’s personal growth and development. It has also encouraged them to work together in teams to produce composite pieces. It was a whole new type of learning in which they were encouraged to get to know themselves, their bodies and how to use their bodies to create and draw. The activities usually meant that the children were up and out of their seats. Desks disappeared and the classroom became an art studio. The only boundaries were the children’s imaginations. We travelled across the globe, to outer space and back again, exploring concepts such as balance, control, and gravity, using their bodies and minds in harmony, to suspend disbelief and make the space become whatever they needed it too. The children worked closely and in harmony together. I do believe that the art session with Sharon was a special time in the week, when the children could forget about their worries and do something for themselves. They became totally engrossed and involved. Their inhibitions disappeared. The fact that another adult, a real artist, was placing such a significant value on their contributions raised their self-esteem enormously.

The day we did the “Jackson Pollock masterpieces” the children had such enormous fun exploring the whole concept of control and dripping the paint onto the canvas. The sheer size of the canvas was enough to excite them as they had this massive area to work in and there was no-one telling them what to do. It was pure self-expression and they absolutely loved it. The animation sessions were also very appealing to the children and the idea of making moving images from still drawings inspired the way they looked at movement and how much we take for granted without thinking how much work goes into a single animation.

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

Sharon: Working on Virtually There Project continues the notion of the artist, children and teacher sharing explorations together and the spirit of this feeds into my thinking in my own work in a more subliminal way. Sometimes it can elicit an idea for a piece of work, something a child says in response to something has triggered an idea. However mainly it’s the way that you are able to develop the relationship over time, that allows you this wonderful window into the life of the school and those who pass through it, this has an impact on my thinking and contemplations about what I consider in the studio and outside.

Fionnuala: I feel that my approach to art in the classroom has changed in that I no longer focus on just the end product but I now value the whole process of doing and creating something. I tended to stick to drawing still life, and everyone created something similar, whereas now I see the value of providing the children with the tools, discussing ideas and letting them express themselves more freely. We had opportunities to use artistic medium which the school normally wouldn’t provide, such as willow charcoals, oil pastels and paints, as well as a range of papers, brushes and implements to create and express.

The best thing about the project is the insight it has given me into my pupils, and that special time we spent together during the sessions, as a class, creating and bonding. The relationship with Sharon has been central to that process, as she is always positive, questioning the children in a way that elicits very personal and interesting responses. It’s been great having the opportunity to work closely with Sharon, sharing ideas as we journeyed through the school year together. I look forward to working with her again in the future and feel privileged that I have the opportunity to work with such a talented person as Sharon, on an arts in education project which contributes to the holistic development of the children in such a positive way.

!!!! Guest Blogger: Julie Forrester, Artist Blog 1

Julie ForresterJulie Forrester is a visual artist based in Cork City. She has been working with all kinds of people in all kinds of settings since her return to Ireland in the 1990s. Her work celebrates process and open ended enquiry into materials and context. Julie Forrester is currently in residence with Kidsown Publishing Partnership at Killard School, Co Down.

Artist Blog Post 1:

Art enables a magical way of being in the world.

A conscious turn from routine can transform one’s approach along a spectrum from lacklustre ennui to one of tantalising attention. Objects take on significance, the ordinary becomes enriched, moments collide in fascinating ways. Sharing these ideas connects us in new and interesting conversations. We notice things that lead us to explore the nature of things and we are led on an adventure at once wild and exciting. Our senses connect to our brains our perceptions change…….but there is no need to say any of this here – suffice to say that I am motivated and captivated by a magical sense of being. Working with children expands the possibilities here. A sense of discovery leads into new territories for both myself and the child.

Working with teachers in the classroom is a very privileged place to be. The teacher is the holder of the space (s)he creates the environment for learning. (S)he is also a creative partner. The collaborative relationship between teacher and artist gives the structure to support and wings to let loose the children’s explorations.

This 3 way relationship is at the heart of the Virtually There residency project run by Kids’ Own Publishing Partnership. Here the Artist/Teacher roles are very much foregrounded by the challenges and limitations of online presence. In Virtually There the artist is not in residence in the classroom but in a virtual space that hovers between classroom and studio. Her visual presence is contained in a frame, on a screen. Aurally her presence can be heard through a speaker, often as gremlins or in delay. Like wise the artist’s experience of the classroom is on screen and remote, tiny moving ants, often backlit by classroom windows, occasional face to face conversations and a virtual whiteboard. The teacher often takes up the role of mediator between screen and room. Gremlins come and go ransacking the airwaves. It’s today’s technology but it feels archaic. Two distinct worlds form at either end, in parallel. I imagine being in a submarine at the periscope communicating by radio control, sometimes it even feels like we are feeling our way via sonar echolocation, at once remote and intimate.

One develops strategies to incorporate this technology, it becomes another collaborator, the fourth partner in the equation. Experiments often begin with instructions as jumping off points, and in the sense of a Chinese whisper, one is anticipating the return of something wild and wilful from the original.

The interactive whiteboard becomes a shared ground where ideas are thrown up and moved about. During my residency at Killard House I worked in one to one conversation with children from year 10, using the whiteboard as our ‘visual speech bubbles’. I captured this activity using screenshots. Digital capturing does not at all represent a record of the session. It creates its own truth through a punctured narrative where elisions reign, occluding vital moments, replacing them, punctuating them with knots of captured stasis, warping time and concentrating attention in offbeat places. Human fallibility has its place of honour here, turning the machine/system into poetry or farce. The children’s voices push dynamically through the images they share and the sequencing of their thoughts. For me it is the perfect medium to test the narrative capabilities of stop motion animation.

Meanwhile classroom activity continues with teacher, the dynamic Ms Davey, elaborating on our prepared activities, the children coming up to webcam at intervals to intercept the dialogue with some extraordinary observation, discovery or piece of work to share.

In Virtually There time with the teacher between sessions is invaluable, here we are able to explore and adapt our project, pushing out ideas, extending chance encounters and developing these into a mutual understanding for creative play, the collaboration is always live, as we share our differing approaches, responses and strategies to all that is thrown up. There is also a hovering of all that I have missed from my submarine.

For more on the Virtually There Killard House Blog please click here