Monday, 21 February 2011

Back to school

The Year 1 Illustration students were asked to think about and produce work that comes from imagination. This promotes individuality, sense of self and inventiveness in their drawing. It is a challenge for most. To encourage this process and for the students to remember how freely and uninhibited they worked as children, we collaborated with Year 1 and 2 children of St Matthew’s Church of England Primary School.

Lat week, over four afternoon sessions, the students took over the school classroom for a series of drawing workshops aimed at stimulating and exciting the children. There were approx 58 children involved and 19 students who attended the classroom in smaller groups of 6 – 7.

Day one: Looking at pictures that tell stories.
The children were shown Indian Paintings. These were beautifully colourful and visually rich, telling tales of a place unfamiliar to the children. The children copied these pictures using coloured paper, pens and collages materials. They discovered new shapes, figures and spatial relationships.

Day two: Drawing from observation.
The students up a series of still life displays across the tables. These were made up of curious objects and trinkets from the their homes. The children’s drawing from the previous day were integrated amongst the objects. The children drew from the displays, then invented stories about the random collision of objects that appeared on the page.

Day three: Puppet theatres and Puppets
Prior to the visit, the students prepared theatre sets made from cardboard boxes. They also photocopied many of the drawings from the previous visits with a view to making puppets. A group of children made their own theatres sets, using materials to invent curtains and backdrops. Another group of children made paper puppets in sticks, then decorated them using tissue paper and chalk pastels. A group of children made their own storyboards for an Indian folktale. The final group of children played with making their drawings move using split pins. They made a short animation based on an invented story.

Day four: The end
The final session took place in the school hall. The puppet theatres and the hand-made puppets were set out for the children to play freely with. Long rolls of drawing paper were provided for the children to draw from the theatre sets and the stories invented. A shadow puppet theatre was shown to the children from the previous days storyboard and the children copied and embellished this story. To say thankyou the students ‘performed’ a couple of stories of their own for the children.

The workshops were cajoled and initiated by myself as I am under-taking a research project to support my teaching. This is to explore if 'Play' is Valued in the HE Art and Design Curriculum. I am really interested in ways in which children engage with creative activities. I wanted to know if this experience at the school did in anyway help my own students. Whilst at the school, I the students direct the workshops, allowing the students and children to take the tasks off in their own direction.

The event benefitted both the students and the children. Primary school teacher Marjorie Callan said;

"Working with the students generated a lot of excitement amongst our Key Stage 1 & 2 children. The children were keen to experience all the wonderful art activities the students provided. Some excellent art projects were completed and a memorable time was had by all. The children and the staff enjoyed every one of your workshops and we were saying how much literacy work we can do with the puppet theatres next half term. It has been so beneficial - Thanks you once again."

The students were interviewed after the experience to elicit what they took from working alongside the children they said;

“ Children have amazing imagination because nothing is ‘wrong’ in their mind.”

“I loved watching the way in which they made drawings so naturally and very expressive…..I can over labour my drawings.”

“They were in each in their own little world”

“They didn’t worry about making it look exact”.

“There was so much variety and personality in the drawings.”

They weren’t self conscious, they just did it!”

“They were so excited to tell me all about their drawings and show them off. The drawing sparked conversation.”

“They had brilliant imaginative ideas, they asked questions about the pictures / objects they were drawing from”.

We did also find that the children loved praise, liked to have examples to work from when they felt un-confident, looked to each other and their elders for reassurance/ guidance, took time to find their own way to engage with a project, need space to relax in the initial stages and they didn't like tidying up!

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