Session 8 Visiting Arrival exhibition in The Lexicon. Senior Infants, Dalkey School Project

Today we went on the no 7 bus to visit the exhibition in the Lexicon Gallery on the theme of Arrival. We worked in our table groups and looked at and chose pieces we particularly liked like Curators. We shared our favourites with our group and got a chance to talk about them together.

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Afterwards we made drawings inspired by what we had seen using chalk pastels. Then we made our own exhibition of our pictures.

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Session Two: ‘The One’

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Artist: Helen Barry

Teacher: Bríd McGovern

Class: Junior Infants (4&5yrs)

School: Our Lady Of Mercy School Convent

 I believe that I have just found ‘The One’ but not in the romantic kind of way we normally hear that term being used. As I observed Bríd attending to her class throughout the session I realized that she is ‘The One’; the attention to preparation; colour coding organizing systems that allow the children to naturally follow a routine; intermittently introducing movement exercises at key moments to help the children re-focus; clarity about aims and outcomes of the interaction with the children. I am certain that I will discover more along over the coming months as well as learning how to fine-tune my obsessive need for colour coordinated systems. Each time I embark on a new artist-in-residence with dlr Primary Arts I find the wealth of the teachers experience has a huge impact on my practice and approach to collaborating with children.

The focus of our second session was on building structures. Initially I have planned to work on a small scale in twos and threes and then move into a bigger build inviting the children to work as a class group. We had time constraints so we dived straight into the big build. We cleared the classroom of chairs and pushed the desks to the edges giving us as much room as possible.

We started with a few listening and stretching exercises. I showed the children our materials, highlighting the colour coding of each! Each child was given a 2 metre grey insulation pipe and two pieces of Velcro. We played, listened, bended, wrapped and wriggled our piping just to get the feel of it. The Velcro was used to tie the ends of the piping together around ourselves. Then to add to the challenge we linked our circular pipe to the person next to us. It was very fortunate that a few sixth class students were available to assist us. Once connected we moved about the room as if we were one single unit. The girls are junior infants and took to this extremely well even though this was quite a challenging task.

Now that we had a sense of what the pipes could do I introduced a series of cardboard boxes with pre-cut holes and all colour coded (Bríd was the first person to note the time it took to do this). The children then pushed a piece of piping into the corresponding hole in each cardboard box. The Velcro was added to strengthen our structure as it grew. The shape of the structure is an invitation to play, so naturally we responded and the children crawled in and out and explored the space a little. This became even more interesting when we added the transparent fabric on top of the piece.

As time was tight we were limited to how much time could be given to exploring and playing. I get a sense that the children would like to build on this scale again. Now that they have an understanding of what can be created with the materials it will really interesting to see where they take the idea of building and playgrounds. With minutes to spare Bríd suggested that the children assisted in deconstructing the piece as this was as equally important to the building of the structure. With almost 30 pairs of hands we had the room back to normality in good time leaving us time to plan for the festive season ahead.






Session 7 Paintings on the Theme of Arrival. Senior Infants, Dalkey School Project

We liked when we did painting.

Our water turned different colours.


In The foreground we see Luke’s painting.


Lola by Lena “I learnt how to make pink” 



Smyths (Toy Shop) by Ronan


No Idea by Matty


Living in a Palm Tree by Juno 
“I used Blue and Yellow to make green” 


Lving in The Trenches by Charlie


Holidays by Alice


Arriving at a restaurant by Holly


I by Leo


I am Arriving to Horse Riding by Zara


Dark Plane by Tristan



Pigs on a Pirate Ship by B.


Secret Hideout Treasure Colour Land by James GOB


Sweetie Land by Dylan


The Rainbow by Indy


Secret Hideout by James M


The Zip from Sidney


The Zipline by Lucy


I by Matt


Autumn Autumn Autumn by Sylvia


Spider by Annie


Colour Land by Luke R


Snow in The Horse by Mina


Back to the Past to the Dinosaur World by Peter (formerly known as Finn)
“I used grey and white to make Black” 


Me and Dylan on a playdate by Maud


Friends Playdate (with Coconut Trees) by Anna


Untitled by Warren


When I went out on the Sea by Brandon

The children had already been told that we were going on a trip next week so they were full of questions about that. I told them that we were going to see an exhibition where Artists were asked to respond to a theme. We discussed what a theme was first (using Halloween and Christmas) and then wondered about the theme Arrival that the Artists responded to in this exhibition. It wasn’t the easiest word for us, we nearly got diverted into A Rival and A Rifle, and we took a brief detour into Driving. I suggested we write a poem instead, but this idea was shot down and we continued with our discussion until we came to an understanding. I love that for this age group Arrival is all about Zip lines, Pirate Ships and Toy shops. I invited them to make a painting themselves on the theme of Arrival which was greeted with enthusiasm. We gave them some “dreaming time, eyes closed, heads down on the desk to think about what they would choose to do while we gave out Palettes, organised tables etc. Then, just before they began, we paused again to remember some of what we learnt from our previous session. They remembered both about mixing colours and also about how they should try not to put paint on the floor or paint their hands.

I liked when we stuck the titles on our paintings

As the children finished each made up a title for their painting (although some chose to leave them Untitled). This will help us have our own online exhibition of their paintings. This is also a beginning of story making. When we discussed how next week they will have a chance to make some Art in response to the exhibition, they wanted to know if their work would then be shown in the Gallery. So we decided that if there’s time we will have an exhibition in the Project Room, photograph them to make an online exhibition and then they can also bring them home.

Before I left we looked at the Lexicon on Google Maps and imagined our journey along the route as if it was a story.

We looked at how to get to the Lexicon on the Computer website. We learned that there is different places in Dún Laoghaire.

We then collected some reflections on the session on the whiteboard which you see quoted here.

We finished by looking at a picture of the Lexicon online and looking at our journey on the map. Finger Puppet Mrs Heart / Ban Uí Chroí had been requested earlier, so she came out of my pocket for a quick Hello and was given permission to accompany us next week.

The school supplied:

30 plastic trays / palettes (Recreate)

1-20 water containers,

Large and small brushes

Red, blue, yellow primary colours, white and black

30 A3 cartridge papers

Small pieces of paper for titles

I brought

Newspaper, folded sheets for under water / paint trays

A Puppet who loves colour in case we need her, and Mrs Heart.

Session 6 Dalkey School Project Senior Infants: A Solstice Celebration


The children who missed Christmas

As it was the last session before Christmas and the winter solstice it seemed apt to have some kind of celebration. The children have been asking to make some puppets, so I told them that although it would usually take more than one session to make a puppet we would make some very simple puppets in order to do it one, and that after Christmas we can look at more considered ways of making.
Just to underline what we had done the previous week however, which I felt had been important, we had a brief look at the blog first, and read out the headline quote one girl had made summarising their learning.
I then took out my Viking storyteller puppet, who is currently dressed as Mamaí na Nollaig, and she told them some short viking myths about the origins of Christmas traditions, and asked them to tell or create some winter or Christmas stories in return.

The Grinch, Red Ninja, Mary and Baby Jesus and a Skeleton Monkey

We asked them to work in their table groups to tell a simple story about winter or Christmas. We gave them a little time first to decide what is going to happen in their story.  Asking them to focus on choosing one or two places where it would take place, and three or four characters who take part. Reminding them that characters don’t all have to be human, they could be animals, or even talking objects if they like.

The Ghost flies Scrooge through the streets


The ghosts visit Scrooge in his bed


Tiny Tim and a ghost

When they were ready we asked one or two children in each group to volunteer to make a picture of the place(s) on an A2 piece of paper and the other 3-4 children to make simple card puppets of the characters in the story simply by drawing, colouring and cutting out the character. When these were done we helped them add a lolly stick handle underneath these. I also helped the set builders by doing some simple cutting out with a paper knife to help the puppets interact with them.



Salt in the playground


Unfortunately the session was a little rushed as we started a bit late and needed to finish early for a special assembly, so they hadn’t much time to play and practice the story. But after their break they improvised them for each other and Mary Mary. To save time I hung the sets beside each other. We had no time to prepare performance skills but the puppet was able to help mediate the stories a little bit for the watching children. I was interested to note how the audience were mostly quiet and attentive, keen to hear the others’ stories, despite the difficulties in doing so – the children playing the stories were mostly very absorbed, often to the detriment of the view of the “audience”.

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A3 pages / light card on which to make the setting images
Light card eg: from cereal boxes collected by the children and artist
Lolly sticks, approx 30
Blu or white tack to fix props to
Twistables and crayons
Pencils and rubbers
30 scissors
Pritt stick
I also brought
Cutting mats and knives for adults to help with any very detailed cutting.

Session 5 Dalkey School Project Senior Infants : Drawing what we see

“I learnt if you look at something you can draw it”

We started by looking back at our images on the website from the previous week. The children were very excited to see their work, although nearly half the class said they had also looked at it at home with their parents as Deborah had shared the link with them.

Reflecting on how we had done lots of abstract work, enjoying colours and shapes and textures for their own sake, I suggested it might be a good idea to challenge ourselves a new way this week, and see could we make some images of what we see around us.

We started by looking at our neighbour on the right, so that each child at the table was looking at the profile of another around in a circle. At first we did invisible air drawings – closing one of our eyes at a time to help us focus and drawing in the air with our finger in front of our friend, to trace and notice all the different shapes and kinds of textures and lines we could find in their head and shoulders.  Then each child was given an A3 sheet of white paper and the chunky pencils they are used to working with and were encouraged to draw and “copy” what they saw as much as possible, and to work as close to the actual size as possible too.

While many of the children understood and undertook observational drawing, it was quite a challenge. Recently they have been doing some cartoon drawing with the teacher, so some of them adapted some of this, so we talked about different kinds of drawing and had a look at what parts of the drawings came from observation and what part were from what they knew or imagined was there.

After the break, in order to simplify the task and give them another chance to observe and draw, we invited them to draw something from their lunch box. Again some children took alternative routes such as tracing around the objects first. Some people also found it quite hard to resist eating their subject! In order to keep the challenge simple, I had intended that they work only in pencil but some children went on to colour in their work as, again, this is what they are used to doing.

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Session One: Fingers and Thumbs, Taking a look at Dexterity

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Artist: Helen Barry

Teacher: Bríd McGovern

Class: Junior Infants (4&5yrs)

School: Our Lady Of Mercy School Convent

Art equips us with the skills to deal with life. Art is not what we make or do with our hands or our bodies: art provides us with the freedom to think for ourselves.                                                              Helen Barry 2017

It is particularly apt that our first session looks at Dexterity as it coincides with a publication from Creative Ireland that details my outlook and approach to working with children from 0 to 18 years. I strongly believe that the arts support personal and social growth on many different levels. When I embark on a new collaboration it is essential to plan with the teacher and the children. Every class/group offers its own dynamic and each school presents a new context. I also learn as we build a journey together. Before we embark I need to observe and listen. (A full statement can be read on page 31 through the link below)

Prior to our first session I had popped into the school to say hello to the children and take at look at the school building. The architecture of the schools reminds me a little of walking through a dolls house. It is spacious without being overwhelming. I know for the first few sessions together I will bring ideas into the classroom and use previously tested projects. This will enable me to get to know the children and the teacher and for them to get to know me. As each class has their own dynamic so too will each group present different levels of dexterity. I invited the children to draw, cut, push through and follow a series of instructions. The activity also asked the children to work with another child, take turns, observe, describe things and invent something. Initially I need to understand the skill set of the children and their ability to take an abstract concept and develop it in their imagination. I find children in the lower stream of primary school grab an abstract concept far more eagerly than older children. I also need to pace my own language to one that best suits the particular group.

I brought with me lots of different coloured and textured paper including handmade made papers, card and tissue paper. The children drew around their hand and cut it out. They needed to ask the assistance of the child sitting next to them to draw around the other hand. I decided to jump straight into building an installation that would alter the look of the classroom and show the children something less traditional in art terms. Each child threaded their paper hands onto a very long piece of fishing gut, separating them with pastel coloured straws. During the lunch break I installed a fishing gut grid system from the ceiling that we shall use over the coming weeks. The first pieces attached are the pieces made in our first session together.

In the week prior to the first session with the children I had set the children a task to observe birds, how they fly, how they move, how they walk etc. I reminded the children as they went out on lunch break. On their return we took some time to describe and show some of the movements they had observed. We spoke about how birds move together in flocks. In the distance their detail cannot be seen but we recognize their V like shape moving in the sky. To further explore this image I gave the children small pieces of coloured sticky contact paper. The children cut 3 or 4 V shapes that the teacher and I stuck directly onto the window to create a flock of birds. Whilst we did this the children watched two short films, one on ‘murmuration’ and the other a excerpt from ‘Swan Lake’ showing the dancers bird-like movements.




Session 4 Dalkey School Project Senior Infants: Re-Framing, Story Dreaming and Collage.

I liked making the abstract painting with the little frames and it was actually quite fun

The huge abstract paintings they had done collaboratively had hung in the school during the week and now I thought it might be good to revisit them. I had made each child two L-shaped pieces of paper so they could re-examine their group work and choose to re-frame sections of it, and ultimately choose one. We photographed each child’s choice to create a new piece of abstract (and some figurative) art. We used their name tag or their name on their book, to ensure we knew which way around to read the work. I had been worried that they mightn’t “get” this exercise but they totally did, and also seemed to really enjoy it.

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I made a diamond with my frame

Referencing the way they had responded to the abstract artworks I had shared with them at the last session by “reading” them as stories, or titling them in imaginative ways, I asked them to do the same with these new pieces they had created now. We gave out their ideas books from the second session to write or draw these down. After a while, partly also to quieten down the room as everyone was becoming very excited, we also played a piece of music I had chosen to assist in story dreaming: Peter and The Wolf. Some children were very absorbed with creating stories in the books, but for some others there was probably too much else going on.


I liked writing in the books

After some discussion, we decided to cut the children’s chosen pieces out of the original large paintings, so that they could take them home. Having something to bring home is very important to some of them. It was interesting to notice that once this was established and the children were asked to trace in pencil around the inside of their frames, some of the images grew! One girl needed some other parts of the picture also – a butterfly, and her name.

We then invited the children to use their framing devices around the room to find some “abstract” or other images they liked. I photographed as many of these as I could capture before break time. Again I was delighted at how they grasped and ran with the idea with such enthusiasm.

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In discussion then with Deborah about how the painting cut offs would be good for collage work, she suggested we do it after the break and was able to provide black sheets for them to work with. We chopped the cut offs into smaller pieces and shuffled them between the different tables so when the children came back it was easy for them to pick and choose and cut them up further into the shapes they wanted. Again they completely “got” and enjoyed the exercise and the work is lovely. I had mixed in some sheets of pure coloured paper, but it is interesting that most of them were happy to work with the painting pieces.

I liked when we cut out the pictures and made like one big picture

I learned about shapes

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I liked when we were cutting the pieces out and sticking them onto the piece of black paper because I like sticking and cutting up stuff

Afterwards Deborah asked them what they had liked from the session and what they had learnt and I recorded their answers, some of which are transcribed here in italics as the sound quality is quite poor. Looking back at the photos I am amazed at how much ground we covered today in just over two hours.