Artist: Helen Barry
Teacher: Bríd McGovern
Class: Junior Infants (4&5yrs)
School: Our Lady Of Mercy School Convent
Session Ten was going to be our final session together. I had really enjoyed working with the children and of course with ‘The One’. I felt that I had learnt so much about teaching practice and how tone and positive language is so important when working with children. I hope to have absorb much of this new learning into my own practice.
For our last session I requested to use the hall. We were going to continue building but using very different materials, very long plumbing piping that demanded a much bigger space than the classroom. I have also been using this piping in my inventions in the studio practice situated in the National Concert Hall. I am designing and building musical installations for early years children (up to 6 years). I wished to show some of these to the children and test out how and what they could build from the same materials I was using.
The plumbing piping is not only safe and light to construct with but it also has wonderful acoustic properties. They resonate really well and conduct sound without distorting it. The pieces I have built are connected to pumps and can produce notes. I brought some of these along too for the children to lay with.
On entering the school hall the children were met with a white construction which was a little like a 2D drawing. The children looked and we tested how the sound worked through talking and listening through the piping. We took a look at how the pipes connected together and what was required to get something to stand up. The instruction tie over each group got the opportunity to build a structure of their own. We went back to working in four small groups again. Whilst one group built the others drew, played with the piping and/or wrote in their diaries.
I was quite impressed with how quickly each group built their structure, each one took a different form. One secure they tested the sound by telling stories through the piping to each other and of course they got to briefly play in it. The session went all too quickly and out time was complete.
The children had with Bríd’s guidance create a beautiful book of their favourite session. It is a wonderful document of the time we spent together. I had almost forgotten some of the things we did. It also seemed that the most popular session was the bridge building. I was also given a gorgeous pink lilies. I shall return to the school to watch the children’s performance of ‘The Ginger Bread Man’ in a couple of weeks. I am really going to miss my weekly session with this class.
Artist: Helen Barry
Teacher: Bríd McGovern
Class: Junior Infants (4&5yrs)
School: Our Lady Of Mercy School Convent
In our previous session the children really enjoyed leading the design and build of their structures. They had worked in small teams of 5 or 6. Further developing from this we invited the children to construct on a bigger scale in two larger groups. I was a little apprehensive about this as this demands communication and compromise that can often be extremely challenging for 5 and 6 year olds- hence the title for this!
Equipped with our materials we embarked on our constructions. Design would be key but getting an agreed design was definitely a challenge. For the most part the construction happened first that then set the direction for the build and builder as it progressed. Both Bríd and I were fully active and completely hands on participants for the entire session. I think one of the main challenges was communicating an idea to more than 4 or 5 others was almost impossible without intervention from Bríd and I. We each worked with a group.
The builds clearly became very different. One was extremely long and their ambition was to ensure that the entire group could fit it in at one time, a little like being on a train together. The other build centred on providing a structure or environment similar to a house. It had key rooms like the a kitchen, bedroom and a ‘cinema’. This group role-played quite extensively once we were finished the builds. It is very important to give the children the time to play in their constructions before we deconstruct.
If I were to do this again I would use the approach of the previous session, where the groups were smaller which allowed the children more control over the design and build. Using the approach of this session demanded that Bríd and I were too involved in some of the decision-making, taking away from the ownership the children had of their work in Session 8.
After the clean up I secured the colourful
The final exhibition took place on the 13th of March, just after the school hours. Patricia, the class teacher organized the whole event with invitations sent to parents and school community, which resulted in a great turn up! She also rearranged the class room to make as much space as possible for exhibits, visitors and the artists – who were prepared to talk about their works, making processes and experiences. I contributed to the installation of the show but the children were actively involved throughout the set up and Patricia made sure they created a very impressive installation! I stayed in the background, observing, listening to the little conversations detailing process and making and took photographs!
Our 10th and final session before the children`s exhibition took place in the school on the 26th of February. As we were approaching the end of the residency, I wanted to make sure that we spend some time to revisit and reflect on the project, trying to recall all that happened during the last few months.
After recalling and discussing creative processes, we focused on unfinished works that were waiting in the children`s folders: paper cuttings and dyed papers which gave a great opportunity to revisit techniques of paper folding, pattern drawing and cutting.
We also gave a little more attention to the long wall paper collage piece that the children started at the Project Room of the Lexicon the week before, responding to the exhibition they visited. Taking the collaborative process yet a step further, we assigned the children to a spot by the collage (randomly) and they were asked to add drawings to the piece in a way that they create / recreate / join / re-join images that are already there. I felt that, this time, the process is more fun and less disruptive for the children, somehow they got the idea that they can work on or contribute to other`s works in a positive way. This time nobody was upset about his or her collage being altered by others!
The collection of the paper works in the folders have been tidied up and we talked about the possibility of an exhibition in the class room. This is the first time we mentioned it – and everyone got pretty excited about it! Patricia discussed it with the school and the date of the 13th of March was set for the exhibition.
On the 20th of February we had a gallery visit (always a highlight of a school based art project!): we went to see “Double Vision” – an exhibition by sisters Diana and Shirley Copperwhite at the Municipial Gallery in DRL Lexicon. It was a great and very busy outing, the children had fun visiting the Lexicon and were interested and responsive in the gallery space. We walked through the exhibition and looked at patterns, shapes, layers, textures, materials – and tried to find more and more shapes wherever we could!
We had the Project Room set up for a workshop for the class where they participated in a collaborative making process again: creating collages on a long sheet of wall paper using randomly cut shapes of coloured paper. There was one rule: every little piece of paper had to be used, no cut-offs were to left over.
I decided to combine these two sessions here because this collaborative process took two days to complete
Our 7th session took place over nearly three hours on the 6th of February.
Following a number of previous discussions with Patricia, we decided to introduce collaborative working processes encouraging the children to try to work together and not only alongside each other. The process included the planning of images and collaborative decision making on large scale drawings. The class was divided for 8 groups, so we had 3 or 4 children in each group only, making it all a little easier perhaps. The large scale drawing responded to the theme of “light in nature”, linking the work to the original broad theme of “light”.
The process proved to be difficult and challenging for many children in the class, they had to spend time to understand that making a picture together, collaboratively doesn`t mean that they work alone using a separate section of the large drawing paper. Once finished, each picture was presented to the class by one member of the group and discussed by the other children.
We didn`t mark group numbers or names on the drawings as we wanted to take this process further to explore ownership and authorship of collaborative works. The pictures were collected and given to a different group to draw large, simple shapes on the back of the paper. These shapes were then cut out without considering or checking the drawing on the other side. Some children felt that this was clearly destroying their previous work and they found it difficult to accept that their ownership of the work is so profoundly questioned. I was hoping to hold onto the fun elements of the process, trying to focus on funny and unexpected outcomes and make sure that it is a good experience for all involved. We regularly discussed what we are doing and frequently reflected on the possible answers that came up when we asked “Who made this picture?”, “Who created this funny image cut in half?” etc.
The 8th session on the 13th of February continued this process by taking the cut-up pieces and reassembling them into a random narrative, using simple story making / story telling in a way you would use the Story Cubes. The groups were rearranged for this again, so each piece of drawing has been now handled and changed by a number of hands along the way. This story making proved also difficult for many children in the class as they had to agree on a story line as much as possible and they were now working in larger groups.
It will be interesting to hear feedback from Patricia now, a couple of months later, to see if this creative process has benefited group dynamics, group work, connections in the class.
Our 6th session took place on the 23rd of January in the school.
We introduced another another process connected to Batik: using hot wax from burning tea-lights to create images and patterns on paper. There was some silence in the class room!
We set up a space for each child with the burning tea-light, a small paint brush and paper and started a slow drawing process with the melted wax. As the paintbrush and the wax has cooled down relatively quickly, everyone needed all their patience to create their pictures.
The pieces were then painted all over with fabric dyes. A separate, un-waxed sheet of paper was also painted in a pattern or design, decided or chosen by the children.