Session Twelve, The completion of the Work.

For the final session the children had asked to complete ‘The Children’s Pavilion’ and rebuild their Cardboard City and to exhibit the two pieces together. They really wanted for all the other students in the school to see what they had created. They also wanted to talk about what they had been doing to others who had not been in the classroom and seen the whole process.
The excitement on our final day was further heightened by the announcement that the manager of the local shopping centre would be coming to the school to look at their art work and if their was enough space in the shopping centre their work would go in display yet again. Initially the session was planned for two hours but such a hive of activity we spent the entire day working on our pieces. Even though I was the artist I felt that I was surrounded by a team of artists, all investigating, creating, discussing ideas, finding solutions and completing the work. What was fantastic was the realization that I was not central to what was happening in the room the process had equipped the children with the skills and ability confidently to actively form and question an idea using a creative process.
As our day drew to a close the children looked at what they had created and seemed very satisfied with how their overall installation was presented and also knowing that the rest of the school would visit the Hall to look at their work. The senior infants day finishes earlier than the older children who class by class came to look at the work and ask questions.
The older children looked on with great admiration of the work and asked many questions. Though the older children would have been capable of creating similar work and exploring a similar concept their biggest obstacle would have been the word ‘can’t’. Over the long-term residency I realized that the senior infants never used ‘I can’t do that’ or ‘I wouldn’t be able to do that’ instead it was always ‘we are going to do this’ or ‘how can we do it’. The senior infants have set themselves no limitations and believe that everything is possible. I think that this is the key to why we achieved, created and learnt so much on an incredible and worthwhile journey.
At the end of the school day the manager of the local shopping centre arrived and he too like the older children was extremely impressed with what the senior infants had created. He had also identified a suitable space within the shopping centre where he felt ‘The Children’s Pavilion’ could be exhibited for all the community to see. Thankfully a group of enthusiastic parents have offered to help install the work in a few days time. The exhibition will remain in place for about 10 days and then

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Words, Words, Words Fill Our Space, Session 11 in Rathfarnham

It was clearly evident during the previous session that the written word had become a hugely important part of the lives of the children in the classroom. As an artist it is inevitable that whatever concerns us or stimulates us will manifest itself somewhere in our work. Using the children’s new writing skills we set about discussing what words did they use everyday in the classroom and what were their favorite words. Carol facilitated how best to enable the children to create their words by introducing ‘Our Word Bank’. Initially written in pencil into copybooks we took our chosen word and painted it in large letters throughout our pavilion.

Still focused on words we returned to the classroom. Our pavilion is quite large and now lives in the school hall. The children wrote information about themselves on Each child was given a large coloured triangular flag to write something about themselves, both carol the teacher and Mary the classroom assistant were also invited to write on a coloureful triangle. When complete we shall join the flags together and create bunting to add to the pavilion.

At the end of the session we discussed what we would do for our final session. We will divide the session into two. The first part we will complete the pavilion and the second part the children would like to rebuild the cardboard city they created in the first few sessions next to the pavilion linking the two pieces together with bridges. If we have time the children would like to invite the other classes to come and look at their pieces of work. And finally they want to talk about their experience on their journey through art.

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The Children’s Pavilion for Rathfarnham, Session 10

On my arrival at the school fo our 10th session I was thrilled to see the work of the children and parents. Together parents had volunteered to paint the different pieces of our structure in strong primary acrylic colours with small groups of children from the class. The piece looked strong and vibrant. The tubing mirrored the Pompidou Centre’s exterior though over all it reminded me of Corbusier’s Pavilion for Zurich.

Our piece is of a significant size and eventually we shall have to dismantle it. I want to be able to produce some element of permanency of the piece whilst capturing how the children interact with the piece. So for this session I decided to introduce animation where we could capture the playful nature of the piece with the children. I also wanted the children to develop the piece further by adding elements of individual and group identity.

Much to my surprise the children had experience in different types of animation, this was excellent as they understood the concept already. The animation I chose to use was similar to the process of shadow puppets, the children’s shadows were projected onto the walls and piece itself as they played and interacted with each other in our piece. Over the next week I will edit the footage and hope to create a short film for the children.

One of the incredible elements in doing a long-term residency is the opportunity to observie the changes and developments of the children. Within a relatively short space of time the entire group of children can now write. This has become a very important factor for the children and they have suggested that they would like to write something on the walls of their piece.

Whilst I was filming our animation the teacher Carol and parents who volunteer each week were in the classroom working on creating life size 2D body images. Working in twos each couple drew around the other and together they painted the images in. The body images, additional piping, tubing, colour and text will form the basis for our next session.

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Young Architects take over Rathfarnham, Session 8 & 9

My ambition with this residency is to allow the children to set the direction of each session. The children have grasped the ideas and concepts without hesitation and have been leaders in making choices as to what the content of each session will be. I am inspired with their ideas of what we can build and what materials we can use but at times I find it quite challenging to manage the production of the builds in the classroom. Our process demands teamwork that results in a lot of discussion and compromising. Though for 5 and 6 year olds the level of their dexterity is exceptionally high, there are times mid session when I question if the process demands too much from them. Their teacher Carol has supported the process from the beginning and has been crucial to working through the challenges that the process has given. This has given further confidence in my own belief that the creative process in the classroom has to have an equal partnership between the children, artist and teacher. My residency here in Rathfarnham is also supported by a group of parents who each week assist in each session and without their help we could not achieve the ambitious ideas of the children.

In session 8 & 9 a full day the children wanted to create something they could ……. “walk in rather than crawl” Kaitlin. 13 feet lengths of cardboard tubing and giant cardboard boxes were sourced and delivered to the school. The session stared with a slide show of unusual buildings from across the globe. Buildings that did not look like buildings or buildings that were inside out like the Pompidou Centre, two buildings almost hidden in colour and a building with a dragon wrapped around it seemed to inspire the children most. The children were divided into 6 small groups and asked to design on paper a building or structure. Some groups were able to have clear designs but others found the group idea a challenge. I moved from group to group showing them how to construct their design. Though we had 6 individual builds we linked all of the builds together to make one larger build. As the process developed and the structure grew it reminded me of Corbusier’s Pavilion for Zurich and the Pompidou Centre.

At the end of the session we moved the build to the hall and between now and the next session some of the parents, teacher and children will paint the structure in strong primary colours. Strong images of Corbusier are brought to mind as I think about the next step for our structure.

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Session Six and Seven in RETNS

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As Helen mentioned in her last post, our most recent session was interpreted quite differently by the adults and the children. I felt that the children needed a lot more adult intervention to ensure they listened to each other. As I watched them build the two large dome structures, I saw that many of them were doing their own thing and didn’t seem to be working together with a common goal. However, once we sat down to discuss our work during the plenary session, the children spoke about the fun they had making their dens. They discussed their ideas, made links to their previous work and this led onto their plans for the next ‘Art Day’.
Every child’s ideas and thoughts are listened to and included in the planning of their work. They feel total ownership of this project. We returned to school today after two weeks holidays and the first thing the children wanted to know was whether or not we would be doing a full day of Art on Friday. Abbie arrived at the classroom door with a cardboard box ‘for Friday!’ Their enthusiasm has not waned in the slightest. Roll on Friday….

Observation & Feedback in Rathfarnham, Session 6 & 7

At the end of the last session the children suggested that they build something similar again but this time just work in two large groups. Ideally they would like to build something more permanent too but as this is a classroom perhaps not. The teacher Carol and I were a little apprehensive as to whether the children would be able to work in such large groups as this would demand a lot of discussion, planning and compromising as they figured out what and how they were going to build.

The materials and set up were similar to the previous session with a few extra items like the rings from a giant game of Connect Four I found in the school. I also had extra pieces of insulation piping with fairy lights attached potentially adding the possibilities of using a night and day theme to the structures the children built. As an afterthought I would not have mentioned the lights until after the children had built their structures as the ideas of lights influenced the ideas of what to build a little to much.

The entire school day was given over to the process of creating and building of the two structures. The adults assisted the children in the construction but the design was given over to the children. On observation it seems the discussion and creating of ideas and working as two very large teams was a challenge for most of the children. I was doubtful as to whether the interest of the children was going to become distracted very quickly especially as some of the children were working on individual projects rather than working with the group. There was a number of arguments that were quickly resolved but it seemed that the children were not enjoying the experience as they had done in previous sessions. Once the structures had taken shape and the adults ensured that the structures were quite sound the children embarked on the customizing of their builds. This they did with much enthusiasm and many of the children who had not seemed to participate much in the building of the structures had been working on smaller individual projects and objects that were to be part of the end piece.

Thankfully we had left plenty of time at the end of the day to discuss what had happened during the session. Much to our surprise the majority of the children enjoyed this session more than any of any of the others sessions. They enjoyed the discussions and in some cases arguments and were able to see how another idea was actually better than their idea at the start. They each seemed to find a role for themselves and at times a bigger or smaller part in the decision making, building or decoration process.

If we had not had this discussion with the children at the end of the session I would not have considered that the children would work in such large groups again but thankfully we did but though we will once again be working on one large scale build there will be several smaller projects within the one build at the next session. I am now trying to figure out what and how we can build things are getting even bigger as they want to……. “walk in rather than crawl” Kaitlin.

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Topsy Turvy in Rathfarham, Session 5

Upside down and two by two we lined up all of the yellow chairs in the middle of the classroom before the children arrived. No desks and upside down chairs sparked interest in many of the other teachers that popped their heads in to see what we were up too. For session 5 we were going to do some construction on a big scale. My own work involves building on very large scales and I find that by providing the children with materials to build on a very scale triggers their imagination and offers a new challenge as it demands teamwork.

The session started with a tunnel build which allowed the children to understand the mechanics of the materials, 2 metre foam piping and an insight to building structures. The children crawled through the tunnel we asked them to imagine where they were as each part of the tunnel was covered with different coloured see through fabric.

Following the deconstruction of the tunnel the class of 30 children was divided into 5 small groups. Each group was allocated a number of upturned chairs and a desk, several 2 metre lengths of piping and tape and invited to build their own ‘den’. This demanded much negotiating as the children had lots of individual ideas but needed to work together. We watched and listened to the children as they discussed, compromised and came to their decisions of how and what they were going to build. Once the structures got their quality approved sticker and fabric coverings the children ate their lunch inside their ‘dens‘ and ‘domes ’.

I had underestimated how involved the children would become in the decorating process. We extended the session to allow the children to create the world that existed inside their ‘dens’ and ‘domes’. Using quite basic dry art materials we watched the imaginative worlds unfold though ideas of St. Patrick played a part in all of their worlds.

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Session 4 in Rathfarnham, People & Places

For this session we moved the city into a lightly larger space within the school, to give us a better idea of the layout and perhaps look at it with a view for a more permanent piece. Initially the children recalled what they had made and explained to newcomers (adults) in the group what each building meant and who lived in them. And what they were used for. In this session we wanted to encourage the children to think about the wider community, new people coming to the city and what needs they would have.

As yet our city had no people and the children want to put themselves into their city along with their families, friends, firemen, guards, teachers, bus drivers, lifeguards and many others. Carol the teacher and Mary the classroom assistant spent much time preparing the tiny stand up figures of each child each with a photographic image of each child.

As the city grew and became populated the children became more confident in how their city functioned and many of the children began to role play with their cardboard characters. Their imaginations fueled the growth of the city and whilst some children were influenced by fantasy, fairy tales, computer games and space age others focused on the details of their building creating full scenarios. E.g. a Garda station was created, including a cell with bars and a prisoner, a Garda van and cctv cameras. The two children making the Garda Station were rewarded by a chance visit by the local Community Guard who inspected their work.

Our city is now almost complete but it is without a name and a few small buildings and amenities. The children have been invited to add the extra pieces throughout the week creating and building at home or in the classroom. I am looking forward to be told the name of the city in the next session.

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little artists with big ideas

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The Senior Infants in Rathfarnham Educate Together can barely contain their excitement each time I tell them that Helen Barry, the artist in residence working with our class, is coming to work with them. From her first visit, Helen sparked their imaginations and encouraged them to discuss their ideas. The children created a beautiful teepee of wool strings. Each string of wool was adorned with feathers, sparkling paper, pipe cleaners and a range of other materials provided by Helen. At the end of the busy morning, they were delighted to have a picnic underneath their creation.

The next session was a full day of art. The children had already discussed their plans for the “Art Day”, deciding that they would design and build a cardboard city. From a teacher’s point of view, it was fantastic to watch the children collaborate with the artist and each other. They worked individually, in pairs and in groups. Every child was completely engaged and engrossed in what they were doing. They shared ideas and materials and there wasn’t one argument throughout the whole day! The children even voted to stay in the classroom working on their different buildings during yard time, which is a very unusual choice for a group of five and six year olds!

During the most recent session the children finished building their city. They made cars, boats and bridges and populated it with little figures of themselves. They are so proud of their work and excited for Helen’s next visit on Friday.

Here are some of the artists’ thoughts about their work:

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Building The City in Rathfarnham, sessions 2 & 3

Following the first session with the class, the teacher and I agreed that the as children’s focus and creativity is extremely strong that we asked the children if they would like to spend an entire day doing art. The children all agreed therefore sessions 2 and 3 were facilitated on one day.

We had asked the children and their parents to collect cardboard boxes, including the left over Christmas gift packaging and adding another 8 weeks of shopping we had quite a collection to start our city that the children decided that would like to build during a day long session.

The day started with the tables and chairs moved aside, materials and equipment ready and the children sat in a circle around our cardboard box collection in the middle of the room. We went through our very long list of buildings, requirements, amenities and people needed for our city whilst asking them to consider other elements they may have forgotten. We wanted to encourage the children to think of what is needed for the wider community and the people who live in it and what makes a community good to live in.

The children were invited to work on their own or in small groups. Much to my surprise most of the children formed small groups and taking their supply of boxes they worked together discussing how and what they could build and who could use their building. Sticking, building, negotiating, painting, printing, sculpting, cutting, gluing, drawing, playing and talking, not one child was without an idea for an entire day. It was brilliant to watch and support the children to carry out their ideas. In the middle of the day the children took a break for a half hour dance class during which I built a river with many tributaries and placed roads to mark the city layout in the middle of the classroom.

As the children completed their buildings and the amenities required they placed the buildings around the city. As some buildings expanded, one grew an observatory tower, another a roller coaster, others balconies, gardens, swimming pools other children focused on making traffic lights, cars, bridges, boats and fish for the river and sea. As the day drew to a close the children sat around their city and looked to see if and what they had forgotten. Content with what they had provided for themselves it was the lack of community amenities that they identified as ‘ we need to build next time’ a fire station, a Garda station, bus stops, more schools, a farm, more parks, a church, and of course people.

It was fantastic to watch the ability of the children, the speed and independence in how they are able to work. Thankfully the school has the support of parents who often give their time to school activities therefore our day long session was further supported by the energy of parents.

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