‘rainbow colours….sunshine and rain!’

For my final workshop session with Milne Class, we started with some visual images of rainbows and rich and varied colour textures to introduce the idea of colour stories. I encouraged the children to notice the differences and changes in colours and opened this up to exploration during our activities. Using the outside area, we started by using paint to experiment with large and small scale colour blending, enjoying the expressive markmaking.

Some children needed more support to gain confidence in the activity, others were very keen to get started and also very specific about which colours they wanted to work with. Two boys were working together with pink and purple to paint their strips. Whilst blending their colours they came up with the idea to swap brushes!

Despite some unexpected and torrential downpours, the children were very absorbed in this activity outside, while inside other groups created rainbow hangings with different materials. Problem solving included choosing from a selection of materials including beads, nets, etc, and threading with a needle. There were some lovely combinations produced and Karen was happily overseeing and providing support when needed.

Hanging elements were then completed using collage techniques and by the end of the day the classroom was filled with tactile sensory ‘rainbows’! *******

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‘islands, rainbows, and water thunder…weatherland!’

On my return to Rosen class it was lovely to see the ‘treasure map’ that we had made enhancing the story cave in the classroom. The children had added extra drawings and thoughts to it reflecting their ideas. It’s setting seems particularly appropriate as ‘story’ was the startpoint that the children had come up with for our making activity.

For our next session I planned to extend our mapping into the outdoor space, to enable the children to experiment with three dimensional forms, and to introduce a new sensory theme.

We started by looking again at the landscapes imagery, to which I had added some interesting pictures of different weather patterns, some of which were very dramatic! The children really enjoyed these; ‘…looks like it’s on fire!’, ‘water thunder’…’like roses’, and it sparked their imagination.

For the making activities I wanted to keep things open ended, so that the children could choose what to make and what materials to select for the task. It was a really beautiful sunny day so we were able to lay everything out in the playground and move around freely.

The children were very engaged and were initiating their active learning by independently making decisions about what to make, what to use, how to start, whether to work on their own or whether to team up with others to work collaboratively. It was lovely to see such a creative variety of ideas happening, and that the children clearly felt confident about learning in this way.

The children also had the opportunity to  create their own miniature 3D ‘island’ collages, using clay and other objects to give form to their ideas. Claire was really impressed with the air of ‘quiet busyness’ as the children explored expressed their imagination through colour form and materials: ‘I want to put footprints in leading to the mountain’.. ‘making a rainbow’…’first I put the mirror, the dark mirror, then I put the buttons…’

When installed in the outdoor space these created a sensory landscape of fantastic textures, colours, and intricate details.

By the end of the day the space had been transformed with hanging ‘weather’ interpretations, ‘a butterfly show’, and a rainbow of tactile objects….

Working with Rosen class has been a wonderful experience and I’m sure the seeds of creativity I have sown will continue to grow and be nurtured by Claire and her fantastic support staff…*******

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‘like a shooting star….!’

Our cosmic space was looking ‘otherworldly’, especially with the lights out, when the torches and tealights brought the illuminated surface details and colours to life.

The children were amazed as they entered this atmospheric environment and the ‘strangeness’ was enhanced by the soundscape I had put together which drifted in and out. Interestingly the children responded in different ways…one or two were hesitant; following their natural instincts to be wary of something unusual and different, but this was soon overcome by their curiosity and eagerness to explore and manipulate the sensory elements they discovered, many of which had been created by themselves in our previous workshop session.

Maddy, however seemed enthralled by the diversity and resonance of the sounds, becoming very calm and focussed, and indicating by her responses that she was excited and enjoying the experience. Though she has little or no vision it was incredible to watch her attention clearly focus on a tealight as it was moved around in front of her. It was wonderful that Maddy was completely happy to remain in the space for such a significant length of time, a whole hour!

The children were delighted with the colour and shape effects they could create on the lightboards, learning from eachother’s innovations and ideas, and moving things around to learn about ways they could transform the space.

It has been a huge effort to create this temporary experience for Milne Class and very exciting to consider what active learning opportunities this new space can offer them over the coming months. I have recommended a few simple but key structural additions which will give a more flexible but robust way to support any installations, and allow transformations to be more permanent and secure for the desired duration. The teachers and support staff were also inspired and excited by the different sensory elements I had created to include in the space, and it gave them lots of ideas for things they could introduce themselves to sustain engagement and to extend their own creative experimentation.

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‘cosmic wonders….’

When I met Milne Class for the first time it was interesting to think about where I could build on the learning initiated by Rosie, and develop it further. After discussions with Karen, the teacher, and observing the cloakroom space available, I suggested some ideas for delivery sessions.  For our first day I thought it would be good for me to get to know the children during some making activities, to see how different individuals engaged with materials and creative challenges. In Rosen Class the children had really enjoyed the activities I had introduced around ‘looking through things’ and illuminating them following our ‘aurora borealis’ experiments.  This linked really well with the projection work they had shared with Rosie, so I took that as a startpoint and Karen felt that they would enjoy making the ‘lanterns’ and exploring the ‘kaleidoscope’ activities.

I felt that we could make things to put into the cloakroom space for the second session, where the children could ‘rediscover’ them with light…again creating a sensory space for learning. The advantage of a darkened environment offered lots of opportunities and lent itself to a theme of ‘cosmic wonders’!

As Rosen Class had responded very positively to visual imagery I put together a themed slideshow of galactic scenes and objects to illustrate the variety of colours, surfaces, forms, and pattern that can be found to inspire ideas. Fantastic planet images would link well to our own suspended cosmic lanterns, and painted rockets and comets!

To give the children the opportunity to make things on a larger scale I decided to introduce a painting activity to create backdrops for the sensory space, which involved choosing different painting tools and making bigger physical movements to create the effects. The children really enjoyed this and were more than happy to don a full protective outfit so they could immerse themselves fully in active learning!

Karen and the other teaching staff were delighted to see the children so focussed on the lanterns, and surprised that they helped each other well and persevered with  the challenges of a tricky process for a significant length of time.

The clay work  also offered new ways to engage with material, and it was really interesting to observe different children initiating their own ideas and selecting tools to use and make their own pieces.

Some of the children just had a lovely time exploring all the different materials and tools, and some significant engagement and rare smiles were observed.

***** For next time we will be creating our own sensory ‘cosmic space’ for the children to discover and investigate with torches and light and reflection…..

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‘ X marks the spot….!’

Clare had captured the children’s thoughts and recorded them on the ‘thinking tree’ and we used these as a reference and startpoint for our next activity. I felt it would be a new learning experience for the children to share their ideas and collaborate to create a large scale map, which would open up different kinds of possibilities and creative challenges for active learning skills…engaging physical dynamics as well as imagining and problem solving. For this we would need a big space and we were lucky enough to be able to borrow a school hall for the day, which also gave the children a new space in which to learn.

I designed the space so that the children would be encouraged to move about and independently choose materials and create areas for their map.

As our giant map developed it was interesting to observe the different ways in which individual children were engaging with their learning…some were very specific about what they wanted to add, some were quietly making their own bits for the map….others were working together…some were quite happy being independent, while some asked for more support from adults.  As the sun shone through the hall windows there was a lovely sense of shared creative buzz and industry…

Our images and ideas were sometimes used as reference points but the session was very open ended. As new groups of children took their turn through the day the map became evermore complex and diverse….with wonderful textural and linear details emerging from the choice of materials and techniques….

…snaking rivers…bear caves…volcanoes…jungles and roads all appeared on our map….the teachers were amazed at the focus and sharing that the children were demonstrating through the session.  As we finished the day and wondered how we could transfer this fantastic creation to Rosen classroom, Clare had the wonderful idea of draping it over the story cave which positions it perfectly to be enjoyed as a stimulus for language, roleplay, and  story….

for our next session we are planning to take our mapping into the outdoor space…??!

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When I visited Fulbridge to plan for the next session some of the children were keen to show me how they had continued to experiment with using collage to explore ‘looking through things’….as it was a lovely bright sunny day we were able to play with layering and mixing colour outside with sunlight instead of torches!

Some of the children in Rosen Class had been talking about a new game they had devised which had fired their imaginations….’treasure hunt the king!’, which involved pirates on an island, digging for treasure, a volcano, bigfoots and giant eating plants! I thought this might be an interesting startpoint to some active learning activities and give more interesting opportunities to explore materials and story.

Taking the theme of treasure islands and maps I wondered if it might good to link this to the children’s previous explorations with collage and surface in 2D and 3D, and thinking about different spaces and places and how we might recreate these.

The children had really been inspired by themed images I had shown them and this had stimulated lots of excited responses and imaginative language, so I put together a selection of landscape imagery to increase their awareness of the diversity of colour texture and features in different environments around the world.

We talked about what they could see and what the pictures were like and the children responded with some really lovely descriptive ideas….’rock castle’…’looks like a snake’… … ‘an octopus’…’shiny lake’…’where many trees grow’…

we also talked about maps and what they were…’it leads you to somewhere that’s interesting’….’it shows you a picture’…and one little boy drew an example, with the numbers representing how many steps it would take to get to the treasure!

After discussing all the different kinds of places and things we might need for a treasure island map we were ready to create our own…and I thought it would be interesting to make one on a grand scale….!

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lighting them up….

We decided to use the new ‘storycave’ as an intimate space to explore the lanterns that the children had made. To link the sensory feel of the space to our ‘winter wonderland’ outside we lined the cave with reflective surfaces, which also helped to darken the space to make the illumination more effective. I suspended the lanterns inside and also moved the light board inside as a blank canvas for creating our ‘aurora borealis’.

In small groups the children squeezed in and it was lovely to share their wonder and excitement as they discovered the transformations they could make with their torches. The combination of movement of light and colour as the lanterns danced and glowed created a wonderful energy and atmosphere that was reflected in their faces.

Along with the lanterns there were the kaleidoscope pots and collages to experiment with, and it was very interesting to observe how each child experimented with the effects they could create. Some were quietly taking it all in, some were excitedly trying everything, others shared their discoveries and created dynamic light compositions by working together with their torches….delighting in the painterly effects of layered colour and texture.

though the children could only experience a taster of this magical space at this time, Clare is going to keep this as a learning area over the coming days so that the children can access it themselves and take their time to explore and be inspired by this active learning environment.

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