Session Ten ‘Testing, Testing 1,2,3 Testing’

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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.

 

 

 

Session Nine ‘Being Brave’

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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

Session Eight ‘Construction on a grand scale.’

Artist: Helen Barry

Teacher: Bríd McGovern

Class: Junior Infants (4&5yrs)

School: Our Lady Of Mercy School Convent

In our previous session we had concentrated on construction, building bridges on a smallish scale and teamwork. Each team consisted of 3 children. Some found this worked well and others found it more challenging. The children are really enjoying the designing and building in 3D hence we are going to focus on this until the end of our time together.

In Session Eight we divided the children into 4 groups keeping the children in their table colours. The children were familiar with the materials of foam piping, cardboard tubes and Velcro straps. They also had a good understanding of the building possibilities of the materials. In our previous sessions the children explored stability and structure so we were off to a good start. We also gave the children the option to turn the tables and chairs upside down. What was very different this time when using these materials was the this would be completely child led. In previous session I invited the children to follow a specific pattern in order to build a specific design, this time the children would do the design and then build.

In some groups the design came first and for other the building offered the potential for the design. I was pleased with how well the children worked in their small teams. Both Bríd and I worked hands on with each of the groups. As each group worked their designs and builds all took their own shape. Some builds focused on high arches, another a long piece and another a low series of sections. As they build the children were eager to play in what they were creating. The children worked fast and their structures stable.

When they had completed their builds I asked the children to draw what they had created. I really enjoyed watching this, on the pages the most beautiful designs for playgrounds appeared. During the break I put transparent fabric over each of the builds. And afterwards the children finished the drawings, ate a snack and got to play in their structures.

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Naturally the deconstruction was as energetic as the build itself.

 

Session Seven ‘London Bridge Is falling down, falling down, falling down….’

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Artist: Helen Barry

Teacher: Bríd McGovern

Class: Junior Infants (4&5yrs)

School: Our Lady Of Mercy School Convent

I had overestimated and underestimated two key things that would be essential in planning this session; one the children’s continued interest in self-portraits and two how difficult building a cube from green garden sticks could be. Both of these I had originally intended us to focus on. Thankfully I did some rethinking and decided to get back to our construction on a more imaginative and experimental basis rather than asking that they build a perfect cube.

I spent a couple of hours in the studio building the cubes and found it to be quiet challenging especially as green garden sticks aren’t really straight. But with their self-portraits attached on the sides of the cubes they are beautiful and ready to be installed back in the classroom.

Instead Session Seven focused on designing and building bridges. We had already tested out construction on a large scale and both Bríd and the children were eager to return to this again. The previous build had involved the class working together following a set of directions I had developed to build a large stable structure that they could play in.  This time the children would take the reins and build a bridge of their own design. At the start of this session we looked a different traditional and contemporary designs for bridges from around the globe. Many of the children were able to describe bridges they were familiar with. E.g. The Ha’penny Bridge and Dundrum Luas bridge. I asked the children to look at the context of where the bridges were set, the materials used in making the bridges and who and what would use the bridges.

The task then was for the children to work in groups of 4 to design and build a bridge using basic arts and craft supplies. The ends of each bridge were anchored between two tables. The idea was to discuss and sketch the designs for the bridges before embarking on the build. It was interesting to see the different approaches of each group. Some children found teamwork enabled a more ambitious build and others found working as a team quiet challenging. A few of the groups drew possible designs but most of the children used the materials to shape the design of the bridge. I think most of the children found this enjoyable but challenging. The process demanded that Bríd and I were both very hands on with the builds. Some groups focused on the structure where as others focused on decorating the bridge once it was built.

I think if I should do this theme with children again I should make a bridge of my own!!!

 

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Session Six: ‘My Fish Can Ride A Bicycle’

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Artist: Helen Barry

Teacher: Bríd McGovern

Class: Junior Infants (4&5yrs)

School: Our Lady Of Mercy School Convent

Judging the pace of where the energy is focused on any given day takes practice. I need constant reminders to stop and be aware of where the children are at, at a given moment. Working side by side of a teacher I hope to learn more each day, new skills, techniques to enable me to hone my intuition and allow myself to respond to the immediate dynamic rather than forcing a direction. In session six I realised that ‘just one second’ or ‘wait one minute’ bares no resemblance to actual time. If I want the children to wait for one minute, it ideally needs to be a request to say for an example a poem that will take the child 60 seconds to enjoy saying it and ‘My Fish Can Ride A Bicycle’ is a perfect fit.

My fish can ride a bicycle
My fish can climb a tree
My fish enjoys a glass of milk
My fish takes naps with me

My fish can play the clarinet
My fish can bounce a ball
My fish is not like other fish
My fish can’t swim at at.

We returned to work on our self-portraits in this this session. The children had been practicing them and family portraits since the previous session. It is fantastic to see how quickly their skill and observations of proportions improved in such a short space of time. We started the session with a quick sketch, I give each child a small mirror to look at themselves, how the shape of each face was unique or how arched or straight their eyebrows were. Once our warm-up sketches were complete I gave the children a sheet of acetate each and an overhead marker pen. The sheets of acetate are quite stiff and will become the sides of our cubes. I wanted to continue the theme of 3D shapes so I had made a cube structure as an example from green garden sticks. It had proven to be quite challenging to get exact. Initially I thought the children would be able to make the cubes but I have decided to make them myself.

The overhead marker pens require the children to hold them with their hand away from the page to avoid smudging. Thankfully they dry quickly. The children were then given a selection of coloured transparent cellophane that they used to add colour to their self-portraits. They are all very different and I am looking forward to seeing the completed colourful cubes.

 

 

 

Session Five: ‘Linking to the Curriculum’

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Artist: Helen Barry

Teacher: Bríd McGovern

Class: Junior Infants (4&5yrs)

School: Our Lady Of Mercy School Convent

 Central to my practice is the exploration of the curriculum to discover how and why we learn. I am a kinaesthetic learner and I use my preferred methodology in my work in the classroom. It is important for me to identify current learning tools and achievement within the classroom to support the creative process. I do not use the curriculum as my starting point and I do not believe that the artist’s role in the classroom is an aid to supporting the curriculum. The opportunity for the children to work side by side with a professional artist is a unique platform for growth on many different levels.

In session five I wanted to take elements of what was achieved in the previous two session through more detailed exploration on an individual basis. It seemed that the children thrived on challenges, play and words. In my experience with working with junior infants the learning and forming of words both orally and on the page is a distinct marker in the child’s first year at school. Whilst I am still trying to figure out how we can bring the words with us I know where the direction of 3D constructions is going. The children are fast learners and dexterous with the hands. In session five I want to challenge their visual dexterity and set out a series of tasks that are based on observation, portraits, construction and drawing.

I introduced the session by looking at sphere/circle/oval/ovoid. I used different samples to show the children. We looked at the difference between the shape of a child’s head and an adult’s head. Using a balloon I demonstrated the proportions of the face. We further explored this by inviting them to work with a partner and draw each other. I had to encourage them to draw on a large scale. The children tried this a few times before they were will invited to draw each other without looking at the page.

After the break I gave the children some magnetic shapes and ask then to build 3D shapes. We also used pasta and play dough to further explore building 3D shapes. I left the magnetic shapes with the children to use for the next week. When using playdough it is good to note the amount of the stuff that gets all over the floor and the bottom of shoes!!!!

Whilst the children explored building in 3D at their desks I took a few children at a time to draw each other through transparent sticky contact paper. I had attached the contact to upturned table legs. The children worked in pairs one child drawing whilst the other sat and then swap over. When the portraits were complete we stuck them directly onto the windows.

I set the children a task to draw the people at home or who they spend time with, to get more practice. I also asked them to practice drawing themselves.

 

 

 

Session Four: Building Knots, Words & 3D Shapes’

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Artist: Helen Barry

Teacher: Bríd McGovern

Class: Junior Infants (4&5yrs)

School: Our Lady Of Mercy School Convent 

Our fourth session is the second part of session three. In session three we had built the walls of our installation using colour, shapes and patterns. During the week Bríd got the girls to re-stick some of the patterns onto the yellow cellophane. Pritt stick is not always the strongest choice. Bríd had also demonstrated 3D shapes with the girls. Whilst the children were at assembly I upturned 4 tables and popped the cardboard tubing and cellophane walls back in place.

Initially the children reattached a few straggling shapes back into place. We were going to be tying wool linking the cardboard tubing together creating a roof like piece over the four cellophane walls. Before tying the wool I needed to make sure the children could tie knots. This proved an interesting challenge but we got there surprisingly quickly. Bríd was probably more skilled at teaching the children at how to tie knots that I was. We practiced on yellow wool which the children suggested that we all made bracelets from and have a sort of club, naturally we did this.

Once our knot tying was up to speed the children worked in twos to string the different coloured wool across the top of the space we had created. As our space/installation began to take shape I asked the children to look at the roof and find different shapes the wool had outlined. There were probably hundreds of different shapes for us to find.

After the break I invited the children to choose a word that they liked the sound of, ideally a new word. Bríd helped the children with the spelling as some of the words were quite tricky and not words that they would at this stage be spelling in the classroom. I was surprised at some of the words the children choose and struggled with spelling them correctly myself. The children re-wrote their word on a coloured piece of card which I tied to the wool roof of our installation.

When we had completed all of out task we sat in a circle in the installation and spoke a little about why we had chosen each word. I think the children were extremely proud of what they created and I definitely was. It was really beautiful and demanded a lot of hard work and attention from the whole class.

Here are a selection of the words chosen by the children.

Hibernation

Installation

Resident Bird

Mc Cambridges

Solitude

Migration

Perimeter

Trapezium

Gymnastics

Delicious

Alphabet

Solitary

Carbohydrates

Murmuration