I have been facilitating workshops all week and I can truly admit I was grateful for a little lie in today, I think its been tiring mostly because I was running 2 classes between 9am and 12pm and then walking home, getting in the car and driving to uni where I’d be until late into evening! The workshops have been great and actually worked out just as I’d imagined. The adults I spoke to during the process were supportive and believed it to be an important aspect of their school day and learning experience. The play-time is usually just considered as a ‘break’ to get fresh air and for kids to let off steam, yes this is very true, but this time shouldn’t be taken for granted. I have tried to incorporate a running dialogue whilst facilitating the painting workshops, with the adults present as one TA had quite rightly pointed out as soon as I’d met her, that its the adults that we are teaching here not the children! That was refreshing to hear also learning that this lady had a lot in common with myself and we both have worked at Fosseway (a special school).

Welton Primary has been very supportive and welcoming this week and it shows that I am acting as a catalyst rather than someone who is ‘teaching’ them about play. The teachers seem to agree that the children need more from their playtime and they involve as much opportunity for the arts, PE and playfulness to their classroom environment. When observing the playground, the children will huddle round in groups, play group games and run around with a football. But with the fantastic space that they have there could be so much more variety.

When running the workshops with the huge rolls of paper and paints I have managed to keep the task in hand whilst giving them the freedom to express in various ways. I explained what I was asking of them and insisted on the ‘opportunity’ for them to say what they want to change. A lot of them especially little ones drew pictures of characters from games they play ie Spiderman or extravagant items like swimming pools and death slides. I think there was a confusion of distinguishing between what they already do/like and what they want/need from their playtime whether that be stuff/space/projects/equipment. Then its distinguishing what stuff would be useful to them or what WE as adults would consider useful to them, teachers and playworkers may have different ideas about usefulness.

The younger children, I gave a longer rein for ideas and as the ages got older I would start task off with an explanation about how these ideas couldn’t cost a lot and that they’d need to think about spaces and experiences rather than things/equipment/toys alone. The initial approach I took was the design of a poster given to each class that aimed at getting them thinking before the week. It asked “What would you like to do in your playtime? Let’s see your ideas through art!”

I started the project thinking that all the kids would ‘care’ about their playground. But I realised why would those who don’t care about school in general, care about one hour out of their frustrating day? The teachers assisted with these situations where some would draw offensive sketches or sentences that were not related to the task, so this was when I was out of the equation and the teacher would step in. Working in a school you are constantly reminded that these children are not being let to ‘play freely’ or allowed to test authority like they would be allowed to in most play-settings. Their freedom is limited as there needs to be a certain amount of control at all times, when in the playground their learning is not tested but they are being watched, and when breaking a rule there are repercussions. So, when working in a creative bubble of my workshops, I tried to give as much freedom as I could but was noticing the need for recording by early-years teachers and the reinforcement of learning outcomes not only by the teachers but by myself. One example of this was, “When you share a piece of paper you need to respect the space of other’s and ask when you want to move and work in a different area”. Thus teaching team-work and respect. I didn’t mind being part of the ‘schooling’ as I had to remember I was in a school.

Apart from these external elements of control, the children were free to express what they wanted on the paper. I enjoyed seeing what was made with their hands, crayons, colour and the use of words. Also it was interesting to observe how they interacted with each other during the process. I overheard one boy say to another, “That’s silly because it would be so expensive!”

When I’m back in the school the week after next, the large peices will be presented as one tapestry, (one tutor at uni seen this as brilliant – I was inspired by Grayson Perry’s work – but another tutor recently queried why I called it a tapestry when it wasn’t fabric…grrr!) and I hope to curate a show for the children to display these vivid paintings for a time to reflect, interpret and discuss changes to the current environment between the children, staff and parents.

I will upload some photos of the work when I get a chance, got a busy day today preparing for tomorrow’s Flying Saucer conference and next week in Eastborne. 🙂

L x