Music and Musings…


We’re musing this morning on the different ways we might describe or evaluate an experience. All of the Creative Learning Arts Across Learning Festival team have been immersed over the past 4 weeks in the artistic and creative activity of the festival and involved in lots of creative conversations, both superficial and deep. What part of ourselves we bring to the creative experience, what our intentions are, how open we are, will all influence how we talk about, remember and value that experience. The Festival programme presents an array of creative experiences, all unique, and how we evaluate these experiences raises some interesting questions.

On Monday we popped along to see A Slide too Far take their trombones into Loirston Primary School to give the P3-5s an amazing musical workshop encouraging rhythm, movement, learning and appreciation.

Back at the CreativiTEA Room later that day our artists were all musically minded and keen to share ideas and resources as well as dig deep into their own early childhood experiences and inspirations. One of the key themes that emerged in different ways is how easily children can be discouraged from creative exploration or artistic involvement. Most of us probably remember a moment where a ‘knowing’ adult told us we were not the right shape for dance, or should mime along with the choir to prevent putting others off, or perhaps didn’t notice us and our inner yearning to get up and perform. Those early experiences can become formative and often only if we are very lucky do we ever get the opportunity or find the confidence to question, challenge, and overcome them. The question of artform specific talent and its development is another complex area and like broader creativity and its facilitation, begs the question, what exactly is it….? How do we recognise talent and best nuture and support it in the young, in amongst everything else?

Another fab festival day full of workshops and discussions, and a particularly musical Tea Rooms! Today sees our last Specials Board taking place, with storyteller and theatre maker Andy Cannon in conversation about passing on Scotland’s history to children and young people using creative approaches and drama, see you there!

Creative Exchange, Fun and Learning in Week 3

Week 3 of the Arts Across Learning Festival brought creativity, challenge and learning to our all important pupil participants, but also to their teachers, the workshop artists and venue staff, and to us, the management and front of house team!

Out and about this week we dropped in on Paper Pop, an interactive and storytelling workshop led by Kelly-Anne Cairns and Melodie Stacey, where Primary 2 from Brimmond Primary School made beautiful flying butterflies and birds:

And then with the P7s from Ferryhill Primary School as they learned about living in the Arctic from the diaries of David Cardno, a 13-year old stowaway in 1866 who went on to spend his life as a whaler in the Arctic. The Special Collections team at the Sir Duncan Rice Library were able to show the pupils the actual diaries as an inspiration, before visual artist Tracey Smith helped them replicate the whaler’s activity of scrimshaw using screen printing methods. Cake for anyone who knows how the term ‘sciving’  came into use? (Clue is in the last paragraph!)

The end of day exchanges at the CreativiTEA Rooms have been fun and inspiring with the added bonus of tea and cake making it a great place to wind down or gear up. Please pop in Monday – Thursday next week which is sadly the final week of the Festival. If you can’t make it please join in our conversations on the blog – we would love to hear from you!

Tell us about your experiences of the workshops, your ideas about creativity, or who inspired you (or otherwise) and even share tips about how to make the most of the workshops. You can also comment on any of the themes which came up during the week – see whistle stop tour below.

This week we were joined in the Tea Rooms by lots of festival artists and partners including Tawona Sithole, Anthony Schrag, Michelle from Aberdeen Performing Arts, Sara Sheridan and Emma Snellgrove, Aberdeen City Archives, Gordon Highlanders Museum, Adventure Aberdeen and Fly Right Dance Company.  At Thursday’s Specials Board session Tracy Smith described her work and experiences working as a freelance artist with McManus Galleries in Dundee, sharing the ups and downs of her career as well as lots of practical tips and advice for emerging artists and students to take away. We had a packed house of students and teachers alongside our other commissioned artists and writers Kelly-Anne Cairns and Melodie Stacey, Linda Cracknell, Little Fawn Caravan Theatre and the M6 Theatre Company.

A whistle stop tour of the key themes which came up during the week:

Strong partnership approach is essential; Process of delivering a workshop is a learning experience for everyone; How getting it wrong is normal; What is the balance between enforcing discipline and encouraging focus; How do you create enough space for spontaneity and fluidity to take the workshop in other directions; Devising workshops so that the artist leaves having opened up a space for further activity and exploration; How Place affects us…..

There’s only a week left of the festival, and the blog, so let us know what you are interested in and what you want to hear more about and we’ll try our best to cover it in the remaining posts.


Adventures in Arts Education

Image © Laura Sullivan Doodle Monkey Illustration

Image © Laura Sullivan Doodle Monkey Illustration

The CreativiTEA Rooms are in full swing as we reach just past the midway point of the Arts Across Learning Festival, can’t belive we are into week 3 already!

The Tea Rooms are a great opportunity to meet artists and teachers involved in the festival, find out more about the festival, generally pick people’s brains and have a natter about arts in educational contexts. This week the Tea Rooms have been busy with festival artists, with Anthony Schrag and Alec Millar on Monday and Aberdeen Performing Arts, Fly Right Dance Company and Tawona Sithole all popping past for a natter on Tuesday.

Our Specials Board this week features visual artist Tracey Smith who will be on hand to talk about her “adventures” in arts education, reflecting on delivering creative learning for schools and children and young people within and in partnership with Galleries and Collections. If you’re an artist considering, or looking to expand, a career in arts education, or an educator interested in how aspects of the curriculum can be approached through an artist/gallery partnership this would be a fab Tea Rooms session to come along to. Tracey will be reflecting on both and might even get creative! 4 – 6pm Thursday 13th March, CreativiTEA Rooms @ Aberdeen Arts Centre.

Last Thursday drama practitioner Fiona Milligan Rennie and Kingsford Primary P7 teacher Richard Gall reflected on their partnership working with P7 pupils to explore substance misuse issues as part of the Health and Wellbeing curriculum. As part of the Extreme Project legacy, Fiona had already worked with Kingsford to explore creative approaches across a range of year groups and curriculum areas, including previously working with Richard using creative practice in the teaching of French.

Richard then identified that he wanted to look at using creative approaches in a more complex context, to work with his pupils in looking at substance misuse issues. Health & Wellbeing is a big part of Curriculum for Excellence, and Richard wanted to try a different approach to reach a class of children for whom this was a particularly relevant topic due to their soical environment, and one that needed honest communication and would really give pupils ownership of the learning process.

After careful planning Richard and Fiona decided an immersive drama would be an effective approach to take, with the entire class getting involved in a role play focused on substance misuse over an extended session in school. Pupils first had an afternoon of drama skills workshop with Fiona, followed by an afternoon session talking about substance misuse . Fiona and Richard devised key characters and the children were then allocated or picked roles.  The final session was “…a carefully planned dramatic construct” with children improvising within their allocated roles and the narrative structure of the drama. This approach gave the children more freedom to ask questions and explore the issues within the structure of the drama, giving them the opportunity to raise things that they may not otherwise have been comfortable discussing just in conversation with their teacher/ the class. The creative approach allowed more room to fully explore the reality of substance misuse for these children and to have honest conversations, and provided a strong structure for exploring issues where the pupils may otherwise have lacked the language to describe how they were feeling.

The session was a success in achieving learning outcomes for the pupils. All of the pupils were absorbed in the drama, and Richard noted that there were zero behaviour issues during the session. A critical key to the session’s success was the emphasis to the pupils of sticking to things that are truthful and honest within the drama – so if pupils started going off track / getting silly, the session was easily able to be brought back around by Fiona or Richard simply by them referring to what might be real or truthful in the context of the topic of the drama.

Having follow up activities in place was noted as important, and Fiona and Richard made sure to develop these in advance of the session, for delivery by Richard in follow up class time.

It was fascinating to hear about the development and delivery of the session, and to think about the ways in which creative approaches can be used to enable children to engage with a complex, sensitive, sometimes emotionally loaded subject matter and to enable children to really take hold of their own learning and thinking about a subject.

Quote of the evening from Richard: “Knowledge is power and I want no child to leave my classroom without that knowledge.”

This work undertaken by Richard and Fiona was funded through the Extreme Project legacy programme. Fiona & Richard are now going to work together again with Richard’s 2014 P7 class, adjusting and adapting the session for the new class, and the school have themselves allocated budget for Fiona to come back in to work with Richard.

If anyone would like further information about this project please get in touch via the this blog, or contact Creative Learning in the first instance:

The CreativiTEA Rooms blog can only capture some of the fascinating conversations that are part of the tea rooms on a daily basis, so come down and join us for a cuppa: 4 – 6pm Monday – Thursday @ Aberdeen Arts Centre – just follow the tea cups!

CreativiTEA Rooms Programme: Week 2


The Tea Rooms this week features Pete Stollery who will be “resident” on Tuesday to chat about uses of sound in creative and educational contexts, Renne Vincent-Hadley doing a practical creative drop in making good enough to eat felt macaroons on Wednesday, and artist Fiona Milligan Rennie and teacher Richard Gall talking about their collaborations at Kingsford Primary and the potential and pitfalls of partnership working on Thursday, all from 4 – 6 at Aberdeen Arts Centre. See you there!

Why Are You Here?

Last Thursday Paul Gorman and Katherine Morley had a cuppa and took time to reflect with a packed tea rooms, asking “Why are you here?”, chatting about Creative Learning’s Resonate project with the School of Education at Aberdeen University and looking at ways to share ideas around innovation and best creative practice in education. Conversation was stimulating and some of it was captured in Tea Rooms “Tweets” – you can read some of them below (click on the image/s to enlarge). Meeting new people to bounce ideas off and share ideas with, hearing new ideas and opinions, making new contacts, learning more about the arts in education, and finding out about other creative projects in the city were some of the top tweets….and of course the free cake…

Weaving Creativity Through Education


The Arts Across Learning Festival has kicked off and the CreativiTEA Rooms are open! It’s been a busy week with the festival launch on Monday and festival artists popping in and out, including the fabulous chamber ensemble Daniel’s Beard, creative facilitator Alec Miller, author Joan Lennon, and Half Moon Theatre Company. Illustrator Moira Munro led a Tea Rooms session on Tuesday with a really mixed group chatting about the key benefits of creativity in education and using creative approaches to explore difficult issues with teens such as self harm and depression, and textile artist and champion knitter Carol Meldrum yarn bombed the tea rooms on Wednesday!

Today’s session promises to be stimulating, with Resonate artists in residence Paul Gorman and Katherine Morley talking about their roles as Creative Catalysts within Aberdeen University’s School of Education and leading a discussion exploring what utopia for creativity in education  might look like. And of course drinking tea. And eating cake. Hope to see you there!

Thurs 27th Feb   Resonate: Weaving Creativity through Education

What would creativity in education’s Utopia look like? Join artists Katherine Morley and Paul Gorman as they talk about their involvement as Creative Catalysts with the University of Aberdeen’s School of Education in 2013-14 and playfully explore what factors support quality in creative learning.

CreativiTEA Rooms, Aberdeen Arts Centre, 4 – 6 pm – the session will be flexibly structured to allow for dropping in or coming to stay for the whole session.


Creativity in Education: Food for Thought


Paul Gorman and Katherine Morley asked some key questions about creativity in education in their thought provoking keynote at the Aberdeen Learning Festival last week which we thought we would share here as food for thought in the run up to the CreativiTEA Rooms and the Arts Across Learning Festival:

  • “So what’s this thing called creativity and how can we best capture its power in the learning environment?”
  • “Can creativity help me see things differently?”
  • “Will creativity allow me to find new approaches to the challenges we face?”


  • “Does creativity emerge from a shared experience or a new influence?”
  • “Can we practice and get better at being creative?”

Their presentation looked at the challenges we all face in taking risks, changing practice and using creativity in different teaching contexts, and they noted that it’s impossible to have a unified application of creativity in education, but offered suggestions of what it might look like:

  • Experimenting more
  • Adventuring into the unknown
  • Disrupting
  • Risk taking and failing
  • Placing value on the experience

They also shared some useful links from a variety of sources, more food for thought…..

People: Sugata Mitra; Susan Sontag; Richard Long; John Dewey; David Cameron (the real one)

Books: Dan Pink:  A Whole New Mind; Creative Scotland:  What is Creativity? Report (we will have some of these available in the Tea Rooms during the festival, come and pick one up!)

Web: TED talks; Shift Happens; CCE; Emporium of Dangerous Ideas

The Arts Across Learning Festival starts tomorrow and the CreativiTEA Rooms will be open Mon – Thurs 4 – 6 pm until 20 March. Come down to find out more about the festival and to chat with other artists, teachers, gallery educators and education practitioners of all stripes, about creativity in education or just about the cake. Hope to see you there!


CreativiTEA Rooms at Aberdeen Learning Festival

The CreativiTEA Rooms were in residence at the Aberdeen Learning Festival today with a Creativity Cafe featuring drop in mini screenprinting workshops with visual artist Tracey Smith, a keynote talk from artists in residence Paul Gorman and Katherine Morley, and creative education seminars with creative practitioner Fiona Milligan Rennie.

Lots of cake and creative chat – here’s some pics from the Cafe, with more in depth reflection of the day’s sessions to follow:

Creativity, Culture & Education’s Habits of Mind

Habits of Mind CCE

Part of Fiona Milligan-Rennie’s workshop back in September looked at Eric Booth’s creative Habits of Mind. As Eric Booth has noted, ‘The metaphor of “habits of mind” is growing in importance throughout education, provoking new pedagogical thinking and practice.’ This month Creative Learning attended a Creative Learning Network workshop led by Paul Collard, from the organisation Creativity, Culture and Education. During this workshop we looked at CCE’s version of creative Habits of Mind and we thought it would be useful to share them here in the run up to both the Aberdeen Learning Festival and the Arts Across Learning Festival.

Based on the work of Claxton et al (2005), Creativity, Culture and Education has identified 5 ‘habits of mind’ as indicators of creativity:

1. Inquisitive: wondering and questioning; exploring and investigating; challenging assumptions.

2. Persistent: tolerating uncertainty; sticking with difficulty; daring to be different.

3. Imaginative: playing with possibilities; making connections; using intuition.

4. Disciplined: crafting and improving; developing techniques; reflecting critically.

5. Collaborative: cooperating appropriately; giving and receiving feedback; sharing the creative ‘product’

There is increasing recognition that students who are encouraged to think creatively and cultivate creative habits of mind are more resilient, more effective learners and have greater ownership over their learning. What do you think? We’d love to hear any examples you have of  seeing this in action. Or how might you be using or encouraging the creative habits of mind in your school – or, if you’re an external organisation, when working with school groups visiting you?

There’s an interesting overview of Eric Booth’s Habits of Mind here and if you don’t already know about them you can find out more about CCE here.

Integrated Children’s Services Workshop

On 30th September 2013 an Integrated Children’s Services conference took place at Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre. Called This Is The Modern World, the conference was an exciting opportunity for staff working with children in Aberdeen to find out about changes taking place to the way services are delivered to children and young people.

As part of the conference, and as the first in the series of funded CreativiTEA Room linked sessions,  4 half hour workshops on the theme of Future Proofing: Developing Resilience to Meet the Challenges of a Fast Changing World were delivered, led by Creativity Practitioner Fiona Milligan Rennie.

The Future Proofing workshops aimed to support individuals working with children in a range of settings to explore how they cope with change and how creative approaches, used across many fields, may provide useful tools.  Using short games and exercises and a range of theatre, creative educationalist, NLP and creative writing techniques, participants were led on a 30 minute personal journey to reflect on just how they respond to feelings of change and how they can engender a sense of resilience in ever changing environments.

The short workshops looked at unlocking creativity in both children and those working with children and the value of the creative thinking process in addressing the challenges of the modern world. For those working with children, in a world where the rate of change is astronomical, a primary question is ‘How do we equip future generations to navigate a world we can’t envisage?’. How do we prepare children for the modern world? The workshops touched on the notion that a tool for the job is creativity, and that creativity isn’t just the domain of artists. The arts and creativity in education provide a valuable mechanism to support and develop creative thinking skills, innovation, adaptability, entrepreneurialism and problem solving skills, in both children and in those working with them.

The work of Eric Booth was touched upon, with his Habits of Mind highlighted:

‘These are the key processes, actions and attitudes activated when we invest ourselves in the flow of creating. These can be focused on and developed as habits of mind.’  Eric Booth

Talking about schools based education, Booth postulates that ‘…the single most potent school reform goal would be to place the highest priority on individual creative engagement, and to shape schooling to develop the habits of mind that constitute creative engagement.’ Although Booth here is talking specifically about schools, his framework of habits of mind could equally be used in many other settings where children are learning. You can read an in depth essay by Booth on habits of mind here.

HABITS of MIND Eic Booth

The sessions ended with some general feedback and discussion. Although necessarily short due to the conference framework, sessions generated some interesting conversations, questions and food for thought. A good start to the knowledge sharing and conversations around creativity in education that the CreativitTEA Rooms hope to be a focus for over the next academic year.

ICS Evaluation 1