In year 2 in order to introduce the children to their new learning environment we started the residency by inviting the group to explore the building and choose a space somewhere in the egg building where they felt comfortable. We then invited them to select a set of materials and use them to animate the space somehow.
Lots of children created den-like spaces as the egg is full of nooks and corners perfect for small bodies to occupy.
A week or so later, the group saw the play ‘White’ which uses colour as a central theme in its storytelling. As a follow up, Lucy (Artist) created a provocation where the children were asked to choose one box of materials of all the same colour with which to create a room big enough for one adult and one child to sit in. The children divided themselves up and moved quickly towards the coloured boxes debating which colour to choose.
“It was really interesting how the children responded to the materials. The brown materials were the most poetic. The silver group wanted everything to be perfect.” Catherine (Artist)
The children were hugely independent and worked quickly to build structures that they then refined and played in. From overhearing conversations they were having with each other, and it was clear that they were creating worlds that had meaning beyond their physical dimensions.
“It’s like a secret base. A cave. A bat cave. You go down this pole (touching the rope) if you are in a hurry.” Eyad (Child)
“And this is the door bell (another rope hanging with a tube structure on it).” Klajdi (Child)
“Every single group was happy to show me around (make a video tour) and explain the world responding to the questions and often offering more.” Lucy (Artist)
One of the themes that then emerged through the reflection process was about survival in the wild, leading us to arrange a day at Hidden Woods where den building was a central and much enjoyed part of the day.
Following A Thread:
Love, Death & Loyalty
In 2013 we started the residency with the play ‘Something Very Far Away’, a beautiful story about love, loss and space travel performed through a variety of puppetry and live animation techniques.
Following a Q&A with the performers and technicians the group were then invited to start exploring some of the ideas and techniques from the play using a range of resources provided which included some pretty amazing technical kit allowing live filming onto a real TV screen.
The carousel of materials and techniques set up by artist Lucy Cassidy, for the children to explore was mind boggling to organise and pretty chaotic in action. At this stage the children were very new to the process and were looking to their teachers a lot for direction and advice, many children found it challenging to work with others and there was more than one disagreement! Some groups were able to co-operate and produced a film where they had created a story, Baby Joe, made the props and, with the help of a technician, filmed the action.
Over the following weeks we noticed in our reflections that themes from the play kept re-emerging. Coincidentally other plays also explored emotional intelligences and so a rich seam was formed for artists, educators and children to mine. The idea of creating puppet performances also re-emerged with many groups opting to use this medium to express their ideas. Victoria & Jack created a short tear-jerker of a film using shadows to tell the story of a man and his dog that dies. The film became a main topic of discussion and reference point within the group and delighted artists and educators with its simple and effective story line and inventive use of props (the dog is a plug!).
When it came to exhibiting the work created over the residency there was unanimous opinion that the film should be featured. By this point the children had become so much more emotionally literate and aware. One student Vinnie, who had previously put forward an idea to have an ‘Emotions Day’, suggested he could provide a commentary to the film and hypothesised around questions arising from the original film.
This expedition took the School Without Walls research to a further level of child-led democracy. Our induction to the day, led by inspiring and informative Barney [Outdoor Practitioner, Hidden Woods] was well received by the children and we were so proud of their practical responses and reflective musings: “Be careful where we are walking – in case we might step in a hole and wake up a sleeping badger”. Un-phased by the relentless rain, our journey across a water-logged path swirling with water kick-started a practice of looking out for each-other.
A loose sequence of provocations punctuated the day such as den-building, stripping bark, bead-making and of course, the highlight – eating from the camp-fire. Opportunities to make short foraging explorations in groups were also taken up with enthusiasm and instructions to remain within sight and calling distance adhered to.
The atmosphere of the overcast sky and curtain of rain added to the comfort and magic of the initial stages of the camp-fire building (the major request from the children) … There was something very elemental and respectful in the way each child followed the instructions to gently place one of their collected branches on the growing flames which later provided us with ‘The best food ever!’
Den-building was taken up with great enthusiasm and teased out diverse responses to the environment, some surprising followers and leaders and fruitful structural/creative alliances. Two of the most reticent children really blossomed on this expedition. Several of the children made small collections of their finds for the final sharing of their research. One child noted the symmetrical pattern of individual seeds on the back of a fern leaf and also brought another which did not share this feature to juxtapose in his collection.
An atmosphere of discovery and humour prevailed and the organic exchange of spontaneous observations, dialogue and sharing resources was I felt, the main feature of the day and it was abundantly clear that ALL of the children gained greatly from this Egg-gift which so perfectly met and went beyond the children’s requests. Catherine (Artist)
“Thursday morning began with Graeme’s inventive spy-scenario imaginatively tied in to learning around mathematical co-ordinates and a proposed exploration of the egg’s surroundings.” Catherine (Artist)
“After a recap of co-ordinates and compass directions, the children were introduced to Spy School and handed a set of instructions with clues about the meeting point of two enemy agents and a map of Bath. Our new junior agents were being asked to use the problem solving skills from the maths curriculum.” Graeme (Educator)
With the locations pinpointed, groups set off. Cue some high-quality teamwork: Eyad would use the map to point the way first and, barely restraining the impulse to charge off within one group, he learned to check the compass direction with Tomasz. Eyad and Tamara counted the steps and Chiara wrote everything down. Milyn documented everything with the camera. In the space of ten exhilarating minutes, this little group of spies taught themselves to orientate the map using the compass and to look for landmarks and street names to check location and directions.
“So where are you going Eyad?” Graeme (Educator)
“We’re heading south. Tamara suggested a better route so we’re giving it a try.” Eyad (Child)
All four groups soon converged at the Abbey and Abbey Green and began task two – identifying the spies. Suspicion fell on old ladies, men in suits, even dogs. Two women hiding behind newspapers became immediate suspects. The children began to construct their story-style reports and, with a little re-focusing, produced some nice description, action and dialogue. Soon they were lost in a rich world of role play in which, it seemed, no one could be trusted.
“Even the visiting Ofsted inspector looked suspiciously like one of the egg spies in her trench coat” Penny (5×5×5=creativity)
“My group surpassed themselves in taking up the challenge as detectives; highly observant, great connection-making and very inventive, much covert springing about between pillars and back-sliding along buildings came to pass, bemused by-standers also contributed briefly to the action (once approved to do so by the adults) and no stone was left unturned …even a slowly ambling duck came under suspicion. One boy formulated that the spy HQ was a large pit beneath Bath Abbey. Encounters with two members of the egg team, who made astoundingly convincing spies, were a high point and triggered further creative lines of questioning and rich written narratives.” Catherine (Artist)