My own art practice uses sculpture and drawing to explore the architectural spaces of buildings and spaces where communities and people come together. My current work is focused on buildings of prayer, churches of different faiths and mosques. These buildings offer an array of architectural symmetry, geometry, pattern, mathematics, colour, domes, all of which my own work investigates. Over the last two years I have been engaging with early years children aged 18 months to 6 years in one off and ongoing workshops exploring the theme of my work together.
Throughout my work with early years children I am exploring and working with the support of Aistaer; the new early Childhood Curriculum Framework for children from birth to six years in Ireland. Because early childhood marks the beginning of children’s lifelong learning journeys, this framework is called Aistear, the Irish word for journey. The aim of Aistear is to help every child to grow and develop as a competent and confident learner. Ultimately, according to Aistear, early childhood care and education must support a child’s sense of:
- Well-being: This theme is about children being confident, happy and healthy.
- Identity & Belonging: This theme is about children appositive sense of who they are, and feeling that they are valued and respected as part of a family and community.
- Communicating: This theme is about children sharing their experiences, thoughts, ideas and feelings with others with growing confidence and competence, in a variety of ways and for a variety of purposes.
- Exploring & Thinking: This theme is about children making sense of the things, places and people in their world. They do this by interacting with others, playing, investigating, questioning and forming, testing and refining ideas.
During the Spring and Summer terms of 2013 I am having a wonderful opportunity of working with early years children aged 5 and 6 years in Rathfarnham Educate Together School. Through planning sessions with the teacher Carol we are using key aims and objectives of Aistear to support how we work together and how we engage creatively with the children. Aistear uses a very holistic approach to supporting the development of the child and provides a shared language between Carol and I that will support the documentation and direction of the process, content and outcome. It also provides a framework of the different development stages that we are using as key markers in documenting the residency.
In the first session I wanted to explore the dexterity, grasping of a concept, thought process, levels of concentration and understanding of the children. With my initial idea and equipment in hand I asked the children to sit on their chairs in a very large circle as their chairs were going to become part of what we going to build. I wanted the children to explore the space of the classroom using as much of the room as we could in a way that they would have not done before.
I had brought with me lots of materials that were both colourful and textured. Each child was given about three metres of coloured wool wrapped around a plastic peg which made them look like a flock of tiny dyed sheep. Many of the materials had a series of pre-punched holes in them, were bendy and tube like to enable the children to weave, push and thread their wool and string through. This demanded high levels of dexterity that I was a little wary about but the children without exception managed this with ease and focus. On further discussion with the teacher their day starts with structured play that involves threading, weaving, folding, bending and balancing and sorting of things together which supports dexterity and hand eye coordination. As each child finished their piece one end of the wool was knotted to their chair leg and the other end to a central point in the room near the ceiling. There was much excitement and assistance from the children in building our triangular form. As it progressed the children decided that it looked like a teepee and they should have their lunch inside. Over lunch the children talked about what other things the triangular form looked like…
‘It looks like kites flying very high in the sky’..
Whilst the children were out in the playground we had to rearrange the piece to enable the classroom to return to a classroom. Once seated again we discussed what the children had enjoyed most during the session and what they would like to do in the next session. After much discussion the children decided that they wanted to build a city and we have a very long list of buildings, amenities, communities that their city will have…….
‘It will be beside the sea’
‘It will have skyscrapers and factories’
‘A shopping centre’
‘Lots of apartments and houses’