Session Two: Learning to use shorter sentences

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At our last session one of the children, Nathan had suggested that we use drawings of our hands and feet in the piece we would create today. My intention initially suggested by the children was to create a warren of transparent tunnels that we would use to begin to explore space, construction and installation art. Again I wanted to use a strong element of play as a way of working with the children. Most of my work with children in primary schools had been with senior infants and first class, both groups familiar with the structure and routine of school. Junior infants are a new group and they themselves are only becoming acquainted with school and managing the huge leap from being at home, crèche or pre-school groups to school. If I had thoughts that this transition would hinder their confidence or their ability to know their own minds, session two made it very clear that the children would have no problem in letting me know if they didn’t like where I was taking things.

Session Two began with us drawing around and cutting out our feet, hands and heads. The intention was to put these aside and start to construct our warren but the children wanted to draw details on their body parts. It seems very important to the children to be allowed to draw on everything and to taking the drawings home. Though they are physically here at the school much of their conversation and attention to what they are doing is actually focused on home and family.

During the break I divided up the space using the tables to create corridors and tunnels similar to a maze for the children to play in and explore. As I am only just getting to know the children I am leaving it up to the teacher to pair up and group the children as she inevitably understands the dynamic of the class and which children will work best together. This is extremely important as many of the children do not have English as their first language and we are relying on the children themselves to assist us with communicating with everyone in the class.

During the session I felt that we were not progressing through our activities as quick as I had thought we would. Instead it was the children who set the pace and decided what they wanted to spend time on. There was a lot of laughter and attention on drawing. This enabled me to spend more quality time getting to know the children, learning how to focus their attention and laughing with them. I have also learnt that I need to give direction and explain things using much shorter sentences.

Session One: Learning To Learn in the Dominican Convent

It’s fantastic the school has a large spare room in which we can work each week. We have only just met and I am thinking and creating on a large scale. Hence for my initial session there was not a sheet of A4 in sight and incase the tables were too small we used the floor to stretch ourselves out and what we created from wall to wall. The children were able to move about freely and encouraged to use their entire bodies in expressive ways. Using the floor rather than tables also enabled me as the artist to mirror the stature of the children as I too can lie on the ground or crouch down with them meeting their eye line. I believe that this first session with the children needs to driven by play and offer different ways to express ourselves whether that is jumping up and down with excitement, being able to curl up in a tight ball or ask a question through pictures or gestures. At this early stage I am another adult who has entered their space and I wanted to create a gentle and fun atmosphere that sparks curiosity in all of the children and the teacher.

I specifically requested to work with children in junior infants who are aged 4 and 5 years as this would enable me to continue my focus with early years children and further explore how Aistear: the Early Childhood Curriculum Framework supports my practice and how in turn my methodology can support Aistear. My collaborative practice with early years children has contributed to my increasing interest in learning about learning, how we learn rather than what we actually learn. We are all learning together, I sense a slightly new departure for me and I left the school with a clear question. How best can I visually articulate the pedagogic processes and rhythm it creates within the classroom?

The children and their teacher will collaborate equally throughout this residency. We are in a unique position as this specific residency will be further supported by my Artist At Work residency in dlr Lexicon. This is a brand new building on the doorstep of the school and over the next few months the children will visit me in my pop up studio in dlr Lexicon to work on our collaboration whilst they explore what other things this new library building holds for them.

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