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: creativelearningteam@aberdeencity.gov.uk

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!

Arts Across Learning Festival 2014: Week 1

A few pics from the first week of the 2014 Arts Across Learning Festival! Looking forward to week 2 getting underway on Monday 3rd March, with a fantastic list of events including Catherine Wheels Theatre Company, Alec Miller, Aberdeen Performing Arts, Soundsites, Nancy Fuller, Jess Smith and Ewan Cameron all going into city schools, Robert Aitken at the Gordon Highlanders Museum and Fiona Milligan Rennie at the Aberdeen Maritime Museum. And of course the CreativiTEA Rooms every day from 4 – 6 pm  at Aberdeen Arts Centre! See you there….