Howard Primary School

Image
Howard Primary School

Howard Primary School sits on the edge of Bury St-Edmunds and has recently joined Anglian Learning, a trust with a deep commitment to the arts.  CCI has joined their working party to research together how the arts can support this school to work more closely with their community and take advantage of the extraordinary spaces around their school site. There are many many opportunities here to establish the practice of artscaping.

Image
Howard Primary School

Staff joined us first for a twilight workshop to talk about CCI’s practice and think about the importance of art and nature in our own lives - you can pretend you are somewhere else… it is playful and imaginative and relaxing…beautiful and relaxing…looking at paintings is a way of exploring and escaping.

Now we are beginning to meet the children. Artists Filipa Pereira Stubbs and Caroline Wendling, supported by volunteer Amanda Morris-Drake, will be working with the youngest three classes in the school during 4 days this November – children from the nursery, reception class and year 1. Small groups of children aged between 3 and 6 will be going out into the wide open fields that belong to the school but also spending time together inside too, in a newly established art studio.  Posts below will share a flavour of these days.

Bury Free Press - lead article of their Education News

Image
Bury Free Press today - lead article of their Education News

Link to pdf here.

The Making and Theatre Room

30/11/20

Image
The Making and Theatre Room
The Making and Theatre Room

(by Ruth Sapsed) As light left the room we sat as a group of educators and artists reflecting on the project and this new space for nourishing creativity that is evolving at Howard Primary School. Confidently named by Danny (5) on this last day of the project as The Making and Theatre Room, we discussed its transformation from a storage space just three weeks ago and shared stories of the children who had adventured in here.

Forty children have worked with artists Filipa and Caroline and volunteer Amanda over the five days of the project, together with their educators Michelle, Lorraine, Julia, Kate, Marta and Leila. Our emphasis had been on working with small numbers of children of mixed ages (from 3 to 6 year olds) which meant that each child had only engaged directly in the project for five hours, though the location of the room did mean they could pop in to say hello and see the space evolve as they changed their shoes and got ready for home time.

It was striking to reflect together on the impact this space has had for the children but also all the adults. Here are just some of the observations made by the early years and KS1 team

Image
The Making and Theatre Room
A portrait of the educators by Jared

It was such a lovely beginning to the week – the beautiful music, noticing the sky and what’s around us. It’s so different to everything else we do at school where everything is planned to the last minute so sometimes it can feel as though the children are not given enough space to answer. Here they had it. They had time and space. You gave them a lot of space and this space made them feel important and they like it. You could feel them coming back into the classroom much more peaceful.

That encouragement you’ve given them to try things out and make their own suggestions has meant they’ve all  been so immersed into this exploratory space

I really liked how inclusive it was, this way of working with different age groups. Seeing the year 1 children be so kind and everyone helping each other. They weren’t competitive at all.

Showing the children their work is important to us. It’s so important for them to come and see their work still here. We  want to work here again with them but we need to ask them how we might move their work around. It is their space. It can be so hard for us as adults who are used to being in control. We need to remember that and step back – we must keep that ownership and identity that this is the children’s space

We are going to come in here on a weekly basis – having all this space with nothing on the walls and no distractions means things can evolve, we can add things. Just simply rolling around on the paper has been so joyful, they’ve loved the noise of the floor and being invited to draw on the floors and the walls.

Thinking about C, she has lots of difficulties with her speech and language and can be very withdrawn and confused. Seeing her today so excited. She was laughing and rolling around and talking and noticing. She was talking about things that were relevant and really immersed. We noticed how she kept wanting to come back and say goodbye to you. She wanted to make relationships with you. It was so powerful for her communication and social skills. Watching her throw those leaves – she was in heaven.

Thinking about N. She often chooses not to talk but today she said her name twice. She was really keen to come in. I’ve seen how she is becoming braver and starting to speak out. She would benefit coming back in here more without the noise of the classroom. Her language could come out more.

Thinking about P – I noticed how he was really concentrating in class today. He often finds that difficult. He asked if he could lie down like he’s been doing in here. It’s given him more skills and conversation. He’s so enjoyed the different experiences.

Thinking about I -  she described the outside as cold and a place for the bins on our first day and then seeing her today pressing her face into the grass and telling that story was amazing.

Image
The Making and Theatre Room

We’ve carefully documented all the wonderful work in the room and will be working next to create some more permanent displays for the school. It has been a pleasure to work with this group of educators and share our practice. We are looking forward to working with some of the older children in the school as part of the eco-capabilities research programme next term.

Once upon a time there was a very special school....

23/11/20

Image
The king said shhh


(By Filipa Pereira-Stubbs) For the first time, our groups were divided into some children going outside, some staying inside.  Before separating we continued with our conversations about what is the outdoors, what is art, and how do we bring the outdoors inside. We noticed how many more words were used – there was a wider palette of ideas: art was no longer only ‘painting’ but was now about sculpture, clay, shaping, tearing, drawing, chalk, reading a story, making, and pinching and music to name a few.  The outdoors is also growing in our minds: raining, cold, birds, trees, forest, grass, flowers, and more grass.  The den is outdoors and is flowers and grass - Sahil,3, told us confidently.

Image
The king said shhh
Image
The king said shhh

Inside we were thinking about the nest one group had made using sticks from outdoors, and spent a lovely long time exploring a real nest, filled with objects to hold, feel and imagine into - broken shell, acorns with tiny holes, and even tinier feathers.   That’s where baby birds come from said Paisly, 4,  with absolute authority.  We imagined other creatures that might want to enjoy being in such a nest.  We thought more about creatures and spent time looking at the beautiful book The Lost Spells where we discovered otters, owls, crows and more.

Image
The king said shhh

With so many ideas about animals it was time to make our own, one group using our very special pastels to draw animals, and the other groups shaping them using plasticine. The pastels were so beautiful it was lovely to organise them carefully. The plasticine was so exciting sometimes we wanted to gather huge bits into massive shapes. As we shaped we listened to quiet music, and imagined stories about the animals. Sometimes other things were made like boats, and rockets. There was total absorption.

Image
The king said shhh
Image
The king said shhh

The spaces and things we made became our inspiration for telling each other Once Upon a time stories…Sophie began the story And then she started to ride a horse without a hood…and she had rainbow wings…and Jago continued…he saw a king…and the king said Shhh…and Filipa continued …there are wolves in this forest….and somewhere in these woods there is a special hedgehog hiding…We would have liked to have told stories for much longer.

Grown by the Rain

23/11/20

(by Caroline Wendling)

Image
Grown by the Rain

We have been thinking how the spaces around the school grounds could be managed to allow for more spaces for adventuring. One simple idea is to leave some areas unmown and see what might appear. I invited some of the older children in the group to help me mark out these spaces today and we set out together today despite the cold. Each group defined a space with hazel sticks and wove wool from one stick to the other. Parker in the first group was really diligent and paid great attention to the task. Daisy showed us how she could tie a knot! The children seemed to really enjoy choosing the wool and weaving. The first enclosure being made, it was time to get the second group.

Image
Grown by the Rain

It was lovely to realise that the children noticed straight away that something had changed outside. They all had their own interpretations:
For children who are part of shows Pixee
To build a ship Dominic
It’s a field Kay
Like a tent Gracie
Where the bees make honey Amelia

Image
Grown by the Rain

I explained that we were marking spaces for the grass to be left to grow long. In the spring we might see plants flowering. It might become a space for butterflies and bees.
The long grass is going to be in the space grown by the rain.  Pixee

Image
Grown by the Rain

As we walked back to the classroom Pixee told me I wish I had a computer to tell my Mum and Dad that I made a space.

Danny picked a half closed daisy, examined it and pointed to how it looked like a pot. He was thinking about our Monday clay session and shape making – he is developing the designer’s eye.

In the spring many more flowers might inspire designs for pots and much more.

Clay and the hand

18/11/20

Image
Clay and the hand

(By Caroline Wendling) We offered the children clay to feel, manipulate and make with. Mrs Biggs told us that the children had never worked with clay. Darcey’s first reaction was that clay is gluey, sticky and straight away said I hate it.  Jago thought it was soft. We made the most of our hands as we played together and discovered that we could make pots with thumbs and fingers. The clay in Danny’s hands became so warm that it transformed from soft to hard. Danny discovered with delight that he could draw with the small dried out bits of clay, later he also discovered that he could erase his clay drawing with a ball of soft clay and that was really exciting.

Image
Clay and the hand
Image
Clay and the hand

The bowls were taken outside and we looked for special things to place inside them. Daisy positioned a large leaf on top as a shelter for my stuff. Olivia picked a daisy for my mummy. Mia said this is a hideout. Cody exclaimed this is amazing it’s all closed up. When we asked what will happen to the bowls; Mia thought that the bowls might grow, maybe they are going to shrink; Parker said they might dry.

Image
Clay and the hand
Image
Clay and the hand

We wanted to see what might happen when we offer ourselves as canvasses for exploration? Filipa invited me to curl up on the floor and to become the outline shape for the construction of a large nest. Children gently placed branches and twigs collected from the outdoors around me. The children couldn’t wait to be in the nest and to experience what it feels like! They then placed their bowls in the large nest and added stories to it through drawing. Might this be art? Amanda used the word installation.

Image
Clay and the hand
Image
Clay and the hand

We left the nest in pride of place in our making space surrounded by the children's work.

Image
Clay and the hand

We even become birds and fly across the room

17/11/20

Image
We even become birds and fly across the room

(by Filipa Pereira Stubbs)

Image
We even become birds and fly across the room
Image
We even become birds and fly across the room
Image
We even become birds and fly across the room

What is Art, what is the Outdoors - and how do these come together in an inside space?  Albeit not your ordinary classroom, this is a room with large paper on the walls and paper on the floor - an atelier, a Studio, a creative space for Year One, Nursery and Reception children.  Entering and stepping shoeless onto the paper makes for wonderful sounds and exciting smooth slides.  It’s exciting to hear the  dynamics of our movement echoed by the papered floor.  

Image
We even become birds and fly across the room

Starting gently and quietly we all lie down on the paper, relaxing our bodies and freeing our imaginations.  Looking outside through the large windows we remind ourselves of the outdoors and the many colours, the many things and many creatures out there.  Some we see.  Some are imaginary.  Some come from stories.  A few come from dreams remembered.

Today we explore how to tear paper to create leaf shapes.  With leaves beside us, we notice how different our shapes are, and enjoy making big and small paper leaves.  We trace the outline of the leaf with our fingers to really feel the shape of what we see.  Then we use those fingers to paint beautiful autumnal colours onto our leaves, and transform them. 

Image
We even become birds and fly across the room
Image
We even become birds and fly across the room

Time then to turn to the walls of paper - time for creatures to appear there. We begin to draw what we know, what we like and what we imagine.  Ladybirds, wolves, owls, puddles, snakes,  trees, and mums - and much more - begin to appear on the wall, and throughout the day, as each group experiences bringing the outdoors inside.  Expressing through tearing, shaping, finger-painting, and drawing with pastels.  Experiencing materials, colours and new techniques.  We hear many wonderful stories about puddles, spidermen, sharp-teethed tigers, trees and secret gardens.

Image
We even become birds and fly across the room

This is me.  This is a drawing of a rocket blasting out fire. I’m going to make a yellow rocket. Reggie

A snake, all around, snakes are eating hedgehogs. Jago

Image
We even become birds and fly across the room
Image
We even become birds and fly across the room

At times our room becomes a space to roll across.  At one point in the afternoon we are inspired into a theatre dance where we begin by lying on our backs and reach high to tickle clouds, puffing up to change into snuffling fat hedgehogs, shrinking into tiny ladybirds and then we even grow wings and become birds flying across the room.  Our bodies change with each creature we imagine.

Image
We even become birds and fly across the room

At the end of the day the adults sit together and reflect.  How did it go today? How could this space be used into the future?  Mrs Biggs imagines bringing children in here who might need a bit of quiet nurturing time, time to become calm.  She is also deciding to use paper in a similar way all across the nursery and reception space to inspire the youngest children of Howard Primary School to communicate through drawings and words. Mrs Fursden reflects on how good this has been for the children’s concentration.  We have all, adults and children, had a wonderful day.

Can we fit the sky in the room?

10/11/20

Image
Circle

(by Caroline Wendling) Mia told us that the inside will turn into the outside and the outside will turn into the inside. Children can be so insightful and poetic. We adults should always consult a child. I wonder if the profession of being a child could be definitely established as mastery in understanding and interpreting the world?

Image
Looking out

Our first day at Howard Primary School was an adventure in relationships. We met with three groups of very young children; some were twice the age of others! But some had imagined ages. Jago in reception class told us he is 27, Harper in nursery class is 26! It can at times be difficult to establish ages of things in particular when so little. Outside the question of the age of the sky, the trees or the leaves were of mixed opinions - the line of the Leylandii in the distance was capped at 7 years old by Mia, a tree at 100 by Cody. Jared said the sky is as big as a megalodon! How old is a baby leaf? Maybe zero responded Saule. Children took the calculations and speculations very seriously.

Image
How Old

We encouraged the children to count in hands. Filipa invited the children to use their bodies to measure their friends, the trees, the world, the space around them.  Connections with the outside world started. Daisy noticed that birds are making circles and we are making circles. The last group built a circle of twigs around Amanda. It became a site for experiments: how many children could fit in the circle?

Image
How Big


I wonder if we could fit the sky in our ‘atelier’? I remember the children’s eyes and smiles and their excitement as I asked the question. Darcy told us that it’s not going to be sunny until next year. But the sun did shine for our first day outside!