Session Six: Blast Off

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13th February 2017

Artist: Helen Barry/Teacher: Sharon Smyth

Our rocket was coming to completion. I needed to attach the rocket head and rocket base to the main body of the rocket. With all parts attached it was going to measure almost 9 feet in length. The attaching of all the parts demanded a lot of patience and teamwork. It was a delicate task and each stage did not need all the children working at any one time. Hence it was important to create some other task to enable all of the children to be engaged in the process. Using a huge hoop with which I did a little warm up with (see photo). We drew and cut out a very large circle on sliver foil. I then invited the children to draw around and cut out their hands from the silver foil. The hands would become the stars in our galaxy and the very large circle the moon. We had come so far there was no point in cutting back now.

I asked one of the children to take charge of the camera and document the session. With lots of moving, balancing, holding and propping up we had all the parts firmly attached together. Before suspending the rocket from the ceiling our final task was to attach the portraits of the children onto the outer shell of the rocket. We literary have been to the moon and back for this session. Though I will be more careful in the future as some of the children thought that once our rocket was complete we would be actually travelling to outer space in it. There were a couple of very relieved children when we clarified things.

It was some feat to get the rocket suspended from the ceiling. My bragging of a wonderful high ceiling was now not such a great thing! But with a little tugging and a lot of sweating we are now on our first mission to outer space.





Session Five: Outer Space

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Artist: Helen Barry / Teacher: Sharon Smyth

6th February 2017

As I reflect on how we came to arriving in outer space I cannot recall but ether way I am delighted to have arrived here. Without a doubt expeditions to outer space are a must for everyone’s imagination. We all, myself included have allowed ourselves to become carried way with where our ideas have taken us.

Having done some extensive calculations, worked through lots of ideas and collected several more bundles of plastic containers in all shapes and sizes we were ready to build the final piece of the rocket – the rocket head. The children were invited to work in small groups or as individuals. I had my equipment at hand a very hot glue gun and with strict instructions not to touch the glue gun we were ready to start.

In the previous session the girls had had the opportunity to explore different ideas of construction; how to build things upwards and outwards and how best to balance things. Having had a practice session the children were much more adapt t choosing specific shapes of plastic for their designs. Ms. Smyth remarked that some of the children remained particularly focused on their pieces. Many of the children worked on their own and had very clear ideas of what and how they were going to build their pieces.

I was surprised at how decisive the children were. Again their approach was grabbed with both hands and worked through to completion. There is some discussion between the children but it is nearly always about the work we are doing. At times this group reminds me of a group of artists in a studio rather than children in a classroom.

When the children had finished their pieces we took everything into the centre of our huge classroom and looked and discussed each piece together as an overall group. There were some really beautiful pieces and some clearly demonstrated the children’s understanding of patterns and symmetry. We had completed a lot more structures than I thought we would and had to begin the discussion on which piece or pieces would make the most suitable rocket head. The children identify two pieces that they felt could be joined together that would make a perfect rocket head.

All the other pieces also looked fantastic displayed across the wooden floor that we decided that all of the pieces should become part of our voyage to outer space. Hanging everything will be next weeks task!





Session Four: Spaghetti Structures

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Artist: Helen Barry / Teacher: Sharon Smyth

30th January 2017

It is always with a little trepidation that I embark on a session with a teacher other than the normal class teacher especially with the younger classes. For the younger end of the primary school the teacher is crucial to the dynamic to the group, He or she is often the substitute parent and without them all ‘hell can break loose’! I was relived and taken aback at how the children got about their business for this session. Ms Smyth was unable to be with the children and a new teacher came to take her place and was also a new face to the children as well as myself.

The children in senior infants requested their task for the session and just got on with it. They needed very little direction and approached the task in small groups assisting each other and supporting each other’s ideas. I have never seen a group so young remain so focused using their initiative without their core teacher present. They seemed to be so responsible with the task in hand. We were working on structures building in 3D. We had been discussing construction and designing in 3D in the previous session. I had intended to use the spaghetti structures as a very brief activity primarily because the spaghetti has a very short lifespan. But unable to buy spaghetti I discovered long pasta tubes approximately 4 normal spaghetti thick. They did not break and were very robust. They results were fantastic and some were incredibly complicated and very interesting to look at. They children experimented, talked through their ideas with each other, held and supported the construction of the different pieces. They were disappointed when after an hour it was time to move on to the next part of the session. A note for myself: it was always the inferiority of the pasta that limited the children’s imaginations and concentration not the perceived limitations imposed on children themselves.

The second part of the session we referred back to the suggestion Olivia made in the previous session in putting forward ideas for creating the cone shaped rocket head. What shape would it be, how and what we could make it from. Olivia suggested that we constructed it like a staircase, wider at the bottom and gradually building inwards. I was very impressed at how she understood the logistics of this and was able to explain her idea to the rest of the class. They completely understood what Olivia was saying. The children had brought in a large collection of plastic containers that would be lightweight and relatively easy to work with.

I rolled out a very long and very pink sheet of paper. This was our design pad. With pens, markers and lots of plastic containers the children constructed and deconstructed in small groups. We did not glue anything in place but experimented and discussed the potential of our designs in order to practice for the final designs we would glue on place in our next session.

dlr Primary Arts Rathmichael N.S with visual Artist Jane Groves.

8.3.17 Session 9,  ‘We’re all going to the beach’..

As I drove to the school I thought that we’d definitely need our raincoats for our trip to the beach this morning but as we left the classroom all wrapped up and ready, what a delight! the brooding clouds had disappeared revealing a brilliant blue sky and a warm sun to shine upon our adventure! whats more Miss Mccoy, the ever fantastic Steff, the children and I were joined by Sams mum Jana, who happens to teach mindfulness meditation amongst other things! ( many thanks Jana)

Before setting off I had asked the children to bring along their visual diaries to create not only a record of the beach itself but ,maps of the journey, some noted smells, others sounds, some looked at different emotions, colours or signs of spring.

Theres something about a beach that breaths an extra burst of energy into children, the excitement was palpable, so for a bit of grounding we started with a mindfulness exercise led by Jana

After getting a sense of our bearings, from Dublin to Wicklow, looking out to Dalkey island and talking about the people who may have lived there and the marks left behind, I invited the class to create their own mark on the on the beach, looking for treasure around them and collaborating in the creation of a sculpture. The exciting thing about this is that out of the classroom setting  is that the children are not only free fabricate things in a different way but are learning in a experiential  way, asking questions like, ‘ what is this rock made from?’ If you dig down will you find water?’ ‘does the sea break things down?” How do tides work?’ etc


As if I had panned it ( I hadn’t! ) some of the children found a deposit of clay soil on the beach,  we were able to see where clay comes from. I had bought some refined clay with me and invited the children to create some sea creatures with it, together with any stones or shells they could find.

we gathered together again and after talking about the sea changing from land to water ( discussing the petrified forest off this coast) Jana finalised with a little mindfulness meditation before we headed home. taking a lot of inspiration with us! 

l love making art and learning outside its sometimes where the best things happen!


dlr Primary Arts, 3rd Class Carysfort National School  8th Dance Session, 23rd March – Smooth & Rough !

dlr Primary Arts, 3rd Class Carysfort National School 8th Dance Session, 23rd March – Smooth & Rough !

Artist: Robert Connor, Dance Theatre of Ireland

Today we started with the two dances that comprise our warm-up, and the students really DANCED them.  They are now well-versed in the vocabulary of these dances, which have been part of nearly every lesson.

Following this we revisited the Fiesta dance, which was the focus of our first several lessons, but we haven’t done since the February mid-term break.  We took some time to review the movement and revise the partnering parts, so that each pair had a 32 count phrase of their own making that included a jump, a turn, change of level and contact with each other.  Once we had a look at their phrases, one half of the class at a time, we did the whole dance from start to finish.  It was amazing to see how the students have grown into theses three dances.

After the break, we focused on improvisation with attention to texture and time…moving “smoothly” for 8 beats, and holding for 8 beats in whatever shape/pose the movement dictated.  Encouraging changing levels, and facing, the element of space could also be explored.  Smooth didn’t have to be slow, some students moved at different speeds over the 8 beats.  We then tried moving in an opposite quality…”rough”…again moving for 8 beats and holding for 8.  Rough had a more rhythmic, angular, quicker, sharper quality about it.

This led to a paired improv.  In each pair one person moved for 8 beats and held a pose for 8 beats.  While they moved the other person observed their movement, so when the first person stopped, the other person moved, taking something from the first person’s movement and interpreting / adding to it in their own movement.  After 4 or 5 of theses exchanges, they swapped, so the other person became the initiator.  We did several rounds with the “smooth” texture and then several rounds of “rough”.

We did this with one half of the pairs at a time, so they had more space and also the other half could observe.  After each round we took time to hear observations, both from the “audience” and from those doing the improv.  They observed and remarked on choices that were made, e.g. to repeat movements, when someone was or wasn’t really moving as a response to their partner, things they found humorous, and impressions they had, such as someone’s “rough” movement looking robotic.

We finished with each group copying in pairs, one person in the pair moving from choices of smooth or rough or stillness, and the other to copy in the same moment, to be as precisely the same as they could possibly be.  Again we did this in half the group at a time, followed by time for observations.  The copying overall seemed easier, as one student observed, they didn’t have to remember what their partner had done.  It required a more immediate response.

No one seemed to find it hard to improvise movement, their confidence in moving from their own resources has grown, and they seem more at ease exploring dance on dance’s own terms.

Ms. Barry has made a cool collage of photos and dance words.

Dance Collage Carysfort NS 3rd Class

dlr Primary Arts, 3rd Class Carysfort National School  7th Dance Session, 16th March – Abstraction as a Take-Away!

dlr Primary Arts, 3rd Class Carysfort National School 7th Dance Session, 16th March – Abstraction as a Take-Away!

Artist: Robert Connor, Dance Theatre of Ireland
Assistant Artist:  Joan Somers Donnelly

Leaving our choreographies to the side for today, the first part of our session today was classroom-based. Robert asked some questions to start.

What is a collection?
What is a curator?
What does the word abstract mean?

We said that a collection is a group of things that someone has chosen, and that a curator is the person who chooses what goes into a collection. Ms Barry pointed out that a lot of people in this class are curators of pokemon card collections. We talked about what the word abstract can mean – taking something away, or showing part of something (in art) but not as we see it in the world. We can do that in dance as well, abstracting an idea, so that we’re not necessarily telling a story but showing images or movements that represent different ideas.

We had a sneak peek at some of the paintings that we will see in the exhibition in the Lexicon library gallery in Dun Laoghaire in May, and talked about what things from the natural world were represented in them, in what way those features were abstracted, and what the artist might have been trying to say through that representation. One was this painting, by Elizabeth Magill, “Roches and Rooks” which features a flock of birds. We talked about why birds fly in a group (for protection), and said that when geese fly in a V they take turns to lead the flock so that no one bird gets too tired.

We tried to come up with words that related to movement, specifically the flying movements of birds:


For the next part of the session we got on our feet, and after a short warm-up we divided into two groups and practised ‘flocking.’ To flock, everyone in the group had to be close to one another, without touching, and the person at the front led the group in the direction they were all facing. Once the group found itself turning, for example when it was approaching a wall, the person who happened to be at the front, now that everyone was facing a different direction, became the new leader. It took some getting used to, but being attentive enough to be able to change direction and leader as a group, communicating with the body rather than through discussion, made for a more fluid and efficient movement through the room, which was also beautiful to watch.

We finished the session by playing a game called Signatures. Standing in a circle, with music playing, one person did a short dance move. The person beside them then took something from that move, for example the shape or the body part used or the quality of the movement, and created their own move. Then the next person took something from that second move and created their own, third move, and so on all the way around the circle. We did this a few times, so that the group could practise allowing themselves to be influenced by the move that came before as well as adding something original or new. It was lovely to see a ripple of evolving movement go around the circle, a common thread influenced by different movement ‘signatures’ of individuals in the group.

Joan Somers Donnelly

Ballinteer ETNS – Session 6 – Artist: Tunde Toth

13 February 2017

Assistant Arts Practitioner: Kim Jenkinson


Following on from previous conversations and sketches/mind maps in the diary we continued with a fun process of Blind Drawing: children were asked to try to draw each other (connecting to ideas of portraiture) while not looking what they are drawing – we placed a sheet of strong paper over the pencils to create `blind drawings`. As it often happens, some children have been a bit slower to `let it go`, draw without control and `perfection`. Others just had fun straight away, having a good laugh at the outcomes… The important experience of no right or wrong and the acceptance of whatever the outcome combined with the understanding of the senses – and what happens when one of the senses is restricted…


Thanks again to Criona Murray the class teacher: there is another beautiful display awaits everyone in the class room and the spacious corridor area leading to the class room!! She did find the time to select and mount(!) prints by each child for a striking display that truly shows the quality of the work done by the children!