‘….wonders and mysteries…’

For the next session with Rosen class I wanted to further develop the investigations with reflective materials and kaleidoscopes following the interest the children had shown in ‘looking through things’, and to use the ‘lanterns’ we had made to explore magical transformation  effects.

I also thought it would be interesting to extend our tactile making into clay and devised an open ended activity based on the ice magic theme….the mysteries and imagining inspired by animal tracks in the snow…

the children had really enjoyed the previous slideshows I had shown them so I created a new one to help them make connections and reflect on previous learning.

‘wow’!…the children were amazingly responsive to the images of ‘aurora borealis’ and had some wonderful interpretive ideas… ‘looks like a dragon is firing green fire….looks like the paint is blowing all over the place……the circle is swallowing the trees inside….like a ghost…’

and the tracks generated all sorts of ideas about who, what and where…?…. ‘might be a mouse….maybe it leads to treasure….he’s going to his cousin’s house to see his family….someones’ walked in the snow….a million creatures!’

this sharing of ideas really excited them and they went off to create their own colour effects and model imprinted marks.

During our training session at the Totem Pole, the focus had been on ways to facilitate planning with the children, a key part of the High Scope ‘plan, do, review’ approach.

I suggested to Claire that we could use our ‘Thinking Tree’ as a central element in small group planning time, and find a way of capturing and recording the childrens’ intentions and decisions about their active learning choices.

I thought it would be a good idea to make this  a visual and tactile process, so that the children could start to make connections with their ‘thinking’ and the active learning zones that Claire was making in the classroom. My concept was to create a ‘planning strip’ for each area using colour, texture, materials and objects to reflect it’s character. These could then be suspended from the Tree as a visual reference for the children and teachers.

I was interested to see whether the children would make any associations when I introduced them to our small group planning time.

guessing which colour strip represented which ‘zone’ in the classroom was good fun and we talked about the patterns, textures, shapes and materials that had been used for each one. I suggested that claire could hang each strip with its zone in between planning time to help the children familiarise themselves with these.

I also gave two more blanks strips to the class for extra areas that the children and teachers could design and make together….I’m really looking forward to seeing what they come up with!

To personalise the strips we made badges from images of the childrens’ collage name badges from the first session. The children then used these to ‘plan’ which area they wanted to go to for their active learning time.

After strong winds and turbulence over several days the sensory ‘winter wonderland’ outside had evolved itself into a new kind of space with a number of hanging sculptures made using the materials I had left for Rosen class to continue to explore. Some elements had been transported inside the classroom like the ‘thinking tree’ and some of the arctic junk materials. This challenged us to rethink our illuminated lantern exploration so we decided to use the new ‘story cave’ structure instead and hung the lanterns up inside together with the reflective material.

Both the children and the teachers had really enjoyed making the ‘lanterns’….a very hands on sensory experience in itself!  They looked really lovely with their decorative additions of silvery ribbons and threads.





let’s see what happens when we light them up and create our own ‘aurora borealis’….!

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***…I wish I lived here all day….***

…..as I travelled home after a long and ‘interesting’ day setting up my visualised sensory space, I reflected on the many creative skills I had drawn upon to bring it together….imagination, risktaking…(trying something new with the very concept of the space, as well as teetering on the top of the stepladder!)….problem solving…lots! as the challenge of creating a structural framework for the space almost defeated us….collaboration….couldn’t have done it without the belief, support and suggestions of Claire, Faye, Sally and Graham, the helpful premises officer, and Ian, my heroic fellow artist whose tools and expertise helped me to finish the structure…..resilience and perseverance….digging deep when things seemed impossible….reflection….considering how my planning and preparation had evolved to accommodate challenges….

I hope that the active learning experiences I can introduce to the children in Rosen Class will sow the seeds of creativity in them and lead to them growing their own life skills in the future…

As dark turned to light the next morning the final touches transformed the space and it really did feel like a different place. The bright blue skies and brilliant sunshine added another element to the reflective surfaces and white tented sheeting, creative wonderful fluid shadows and silhouettes from the suspended stars and wrapped materials.   

Claire and I had decided that we would take small groups of children into the space throught the day to absorb and explore the sensory surfaces, materials and objects.

For the children in the classroom I had prepared some investigating and tactile making activities leading on from previous sessions, and in response to ideas from the children. These involved creating miniature ‘kaleidoscopes’ with collage materials, and papier mache ‘lanterns’ which we would explore later with ‘looking through’ and illumination….all leading from our glacial theme, frozen ice collages, and thinking about the awe and wonder of the movement and colours of ‘aurora borealis’!

All the lovely colours and textures gave the children lots of opportunities to create their own 3D collages for exploring in different ways.

As the first group of children entered the sensory space we quietly sat down and let them look around and notice all the different things in it. The space felt quite ‘otherworldly’ and ethereal, with gentle aural detail created by the movement of wrapped materials and foil trays and stars.

As the children discovered new things they quickly began to manipulate and experiment with what they could do with them…..

As they played we noticed that the children watched eachother and soon latched on to new ideas and activities that they were initiating….this generated new language and connections and we captured what they were saying on the ‘thinking tree’: .….’ it’s fluffy like snow’ ….. ‘it pops like a bubble’….. ‘it’s like an ice lolly’….’this gives me an idea, we can make something’…’it’s like snowing on the ground’….’why is this round inside the square?’…’I wish I sleep here’…

This focal point for planning and reflecting will remain a feature in the space and the children will be encouraged to add to it themselves as they have new thoughts and ‘lightbulb’ moments. It will be fascinating to see what new learning comes out of this space over the coming weeks, and how the children introduce new things or take things from the space into the classroom…..I feel very happy that it has certainly inspired and engaged Rosen Class and look forward to discovering what I will learn from this experience.

As the day ended it was lovely to reflect on the words of one little boy….‘I’m having fun here!’

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***ice magic…sensory spaces***

During the last session, Rosen class had great fun creating individual and collaborative ‘constructions’ in the classroom, and painting backdrops as a startpoint for creating an area outside that could be used as an evolving space for active learning. Following this the class teacher, Claire, has been developing ideas based on the childrens’ interests, though a genuinely ‘arctic’ period put outdoor explorations on hold before Christmas.

I have been thinking very carefully about ways in which to transform the space in order to create a more enclosed and distinctly ‘different’ feel, with ways of engaging the children as they enter the space….continuing with our theme of ‘ice magic’.

I am conscious that although I want to offer ideas for actual investigative activities, I also want to introduce sensory materials and resources that inspire the children to initiate their own explorations and learning.

To facilitate this I have planned with Claire, to make changes to the area during the planning day, and then introduce small groups to the space the following day….hopefully creating a bit of ‘awe and wonder’ for them.

I hope to observe the children as they move around the space, explaining possibilities as they enquire, and sharing making and roleplay as it arises.

I am very open minded about what might happen or not, but it will be interesting to monitor their responses in what will be a very different environment to the classroom. This may overwhelm some children, or give others a unique stimulus for learning, but it may take some time and familiarity to build confidence and ideas for maximising the space.

Will they find the resources interesting? What will they do with them? What new language might emerge? Will they share learning with eachother, and with me? What connections might they make?

I just hope that we do not experience gale force winds or torrential rain….though a hard frost would be chilly but timely!

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***ice collages***

Whilst taking photographs for my ‘ice magic’ images I noticed leaves captured in frozen water so this led me to devise a a simple activity that the children could easily access and develop themselves…and to introduce a little wonder and discovery to the session.

Choosing a selection of natural materials…leaves, twigs, feathers, seeds, etc, I created circular discs of ‘ice collages’ that, when suspended can be looked through and catch the light. Watching them change as they melt is also fascinating. The children loved these and were really excited to be making their own!

Getting the balance of what to choose to put in their collages, and how much!!! Also they were all keen to ‘tie’ their own loops for hanging the discs up….a great problem solving and perseverance exercise….and children were offering to help eachother to do this.

The children placed their creations in the playground and the excitement and ‘what if element would be to see if the weather becomes cold enough to freeze the collages!

If this happens the children will be able to hang them up and observe the changes, or ‘build’ with them. This fluid creativity offeres possibilities for all sort of experiments, and I also showed them a sample I had made with coloured papers, yarns and threads…..!

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….constructions and collaborations….

On the delivery day session at Fulbridge at Fulbridge many of the children in Rosen Class were out of school for religious celebrations, so I thought it would be an opportunity to share the activities with the children in Dahl class next door.

I set the materials and spaces out as before and was very open-minded as to how the childen chose where, how, and who to work with.  Claire had encouraged the children to collect ‘recycled’ materials and I bought a good ‘tactile’ selection of papers, cardboards, cloths, strings, twines and tapes, with the emphasis on natural materials…     

The children happily moved around to select their ‘construction’ materials….exploring how to balance, hold, attach, connect, stick….and deciding on which ‘tools’ and surfaces were best for ‘the task in hand’…and how to resolve problems if things did not work as planned.

Some children preferred to work on their own while others happily worked together on larger contructions…negotiating their own contributions to the design and supporting eachother’s ideas.




Although the weather was chilly we were able to take the  painting elements of the activity outside and the children had a great time creating a backdrop for our winter landscapes…

We are hoping to continue to develop these  activities and support the children  in initiating these activities to develop and evolve an area in their outdoor space into a magical winter environment. Over the weeks we hope to add some reflective surfaces to echo the frozen seascapes around the icebergs, and the glistening natural ice sculptures that familiar objects are transformed into in cold climates….

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Ice Magic ***

Following on from the ‘character collage’ activity, Claire and I had discussed ways of developing creative explorations using some familiar startpoints that children accessed in the classroom, and then seeing how we could extend and link these startpoints to themes and topics.

During my first visit I had noticed several of the boys being very involved in ‘constructing’ at the Art table. As the children had really enjoyed working together in the other creative sessions, I felt we could all share a 3D collage activity in the same way. Again, by offereing a selection of different ‘materials’ to choose from, and to ‘build’ with, I was curious to see what kinds of responses might transpire.

I really wanted to introduce a sense of the ‘outside’ and nature into the activity, and plant some ideas of what kinds of landscapes could be introduced to change the areas outside the classroom space.

The day before the delivery session we had a wonderful overnight frost in Leicestershire. As I walked the dog down the lane I I thought it would be lovely to show the children some images of ‘Ice Magic’….twigs, leaves, grasses, berries and webs…all magically transformed!

My own eye is always drawn to the ‘detail’, and I wanted to share this this sense of visual awareness with the children…perhaps on their own walks or journeys to school, or around their own gardens and homes they might ‘notice’ elements of ‘magic’!

Linking this idea of frozen landscapes and natural environments to our ‘construction’ activity in school, I also collected together some wonderful images of winter mountains and icebergs, whose fascinating surfaces, shadows and shapes might suggest the forms that the ‘contructions’ could evolve into…..again making visual and tactile connections…

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creatures and stories…sowing seeds

To extend the idea of individually expressive tactile collages and to link it in with the current story theme about ‘The Gingerbread Man’, I introduced a simple way of creating ‘characters’ .

Following on from the first session I wanted to assess the way in which different children might start to work more independently and initiate experiments and find solutions to making activities. I am also interested in how the children support eachother and help to build confidence in trying new things.

I am always amazed and delighted at the wonderful visual feast children create given an open ended activity and an array of tactile materials.  I think of my role as sowing the seeds of possibilities, suggesting a variety of startpoints, and supporting and sharing ways to explore and interpret these.

Claire and I included a reflection session at the end of the activity so that children could talk about their individual creations, what they had done and how they had done it. We are keen to encourage the children to share their thoughts with eachother, and become familiar with recognising and celebrating that different is good, and that there are no ‘wrong’ ways of doing things.


We have also asked the children what else they would like to do and plan to build this in to a regular reflection time, so that their ideas contribute to what might happen creatively in their space.

We have discussed ways in which we may offer opportunities to develop investigations inspired by these first sessions, and Claire is going to try different ways of recording and evaluating the learning impacts on individual children.

for our next creative adventures….watch this space?!

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