Week 4 at the CreativiTEA Rooms: History, Myths and Truth …

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Welcome to our final week sharing of the conversations and exchanges at the CreativiTEA Rooms. Hosting our tea party this week were three storytelling historians, all with a very creative twist on how history can be made more vivid and relevant to primary pupils today.

The talking points were surprisingly convergent: the importance of communicating a sense of immediateness and visceral understanding of historical lived experience; the value in understanding timelines so that pupils can have a sense of  history as a connected and still unfolding whole; their hope to inspire teachers to more confidence in working with music and storytelling.

David Trouton brought music notation and human history together and shared a very creative way of demonstrating a 40,000  linear timeline by physically unrolling a 400 sheet toilet roll through the school. Each sheet represented 100 years of human history and the pupils in David’s workshops were able to track backwards century by century noting the key landmarks – and uncovering the chronology of music along the way. The work of Frances and Jo from Electric Voice Theatre strongly identified with David’s. Their festival workshops worked with children on a mapped floor grid to create a musical score using The Great Tapestry of Scotland as resource and inspiration. Both creative projects encouraged a highly interactive and physical approach which the pupils and teachers found enjoyable and stimulating.

Allan Burnett hosted on Tuesday and there was much discussion about how to connect with pupils in the short time frame of a workshop so that their experience is immediately different. Capturing pupils imagination and stimulating their creativity while inviting their sense of fun and adventure can, in the early stages, seem at odds with the teacher’s discipline and behaviour code. The two roles of artist and teacher can be very different but everyone agreed on the benefits of navigating those differences and finding  a positive partnership approach.

The issue of historical interpretation was discussed, and specifically in relation to the anniversary of the Great War and how writers and storytellers can enliven pupils understanding to discover greater truths beyond the facts, through creativity. Creative practitioners often bring the courage, freedom and curiosity to look at all facets of human experience and to relate that to the feelings and experiences of children today. Many boys, no matter how much they are discouraged, still find ways to make weapons and engage in battles with their friends. In current literature, the joy of going to war, the excitement of defeating the ‘enemy’ is now being written about and understood, alongside the well documented and depressing evolution of that experience.

This topic was also touched on during our Wednesday Specials Board when Andy Cannon talked about the importance of imagination to create a fictional or personal or emotional story within the context of historical dates and facts. He explored the idea that the play acting of battle, for some, might be an important stage to go through, in order to come out the other side and be able to explore all the facets of war in a more nuanced way. It was part of a deep and stimulating discussion with many around the table opening up and sharing their own thoughts, beliefs and experiences.

This openness and exploration of individual response seems to sit at the heart of creativity and perhaps goes some way to explain the value of artistic and creative practitioners in schools. Our different art form artists stepped into the schools bringing their resources and ideas and selves to the experience and they created enough space for the children to express, interact and discover in a multitude of ways. And the result is… that we all get to learn from each other.

This is the last CreativiTEA Rooms update for the Festival as the tea rooms are now closed! But there will be more photos and a final round up to come next week, sharing more festival photos and capturing some more aspects of the wide ranging creative conversations from the last 4 weeks….

Music and Musings…

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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!

Arts Across Learning Festival 2014: Week 3

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Below is a wee overview of some of week 3 of the Arts Across Learning Festival in images – a week that was full of authors, dance, theatre, physical activity, music, historic archives, printmaking and a shadow puppet theatre in a caravan!

This week is the final week of the Festival, can’t believe it has come around so quickly! It is also the last chance to come along to the CreativiTEA Rooms from 4 – 6 pm at Aberdeen Arts Centre each festival day. As well as the usual open drop in with artists and teachers popping by for a cuppa, a fine piece and a natter, tonight composer and musician David Trouton will be our Tea Rooms “artist in residence” and tomorrow we have writer, historian and performer Allan Burnett alongside the lovely folk from MAKE-aberdeen. Wednesday sees our last Specials Board taking place, with storyteller and theatre maker Andy Cannon in a conversation about passing on Scotland’s history to children and young people using creative approaches and drama. And Thursday is the last CreativiTEA Rooms and the festival close!

All of the Tea Rooms artists have been involved in the festival so come along for a blether, find out more about their festival workshops and what else they get up to, and generally pick their brains! See you there!

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: Week 2

A few pics from week 2 of the Arts Across Learning Festival as we head into week 3! And in the CreativitTEA Rooms this week:

Monday 10th March: Anthony Schrag; Tuesday 11th March: Aberdeen Performing Arts; Wednesday 12th March Tawona Sithole; Thursday 13th March: Tracey Smith – all of whom are also delivering festival workshops this week either in cultural venues or schools in Aberdeen City, along with Visible Fictions, Fly Right Dance Company, Fiona Milligan Rennie, Little Fawn Caravan Theatre Company, Linda Cracknell, Kelly-Anne Cairns, Melodie Stacey, Emma Snellgrove and Sara Sheridan!