29 August 2018

Want to give your schools and pupils a creative boost? Run a creative learning week!

Staff and children at Barry Island Primary recently abandoned the normal timetable for a week, and were challenged to be creative by learning new skills/ techniques, creating a dance/ piece of music and sharing their creativity with an audience.

Alison Browning is the art co-ordinator at the school, and the Creative Learning Week was her idea.

I have always felt that children need time to be creative”, said Alison, “so I’ve asked for many years to have a whole week dedicated to the arts, and thankfully our new head teacher allowed this to happen.”

What happened?

Each class was assigned a different country and asked to research its traditional and modern music and art. Some teachers were a little nervous, but with the help of A2:Connect, the school organised an INSET session to help them gain confidence. Julia Walker (Art Champion) showed everyone how to combine music and pictures to tell a sound story and Terry Chin showed how creative activities can encourage people to talk about themselves and their feelings.

It wasn’t all about abandoning the curriculum though, says Alison: “Staff were given print outs of the outcomes/levels for art, music and design and technology. They were reminded that one activity could actually achieve a number of the different outcome/levels in all of the subjects.”

Fired-up by the session, the staff had three weeks to think about ‘their’ country. All the art materials were stored centrally, and for one week classrooms and the hall were allowed to be messy.

At any time during the week children of all ages could be seen talking, planning, practising, dancing and singing in all classrooms, the hall, the playgrounds and the school garden,” said Alison.

Year 6 concentrated on Greece, and held a Greek wedding in the playground followed by a traditional dance and a feast. Year 5 looked into Maori face tattoo art, jewellery and how to perform a Haka. Year 4 learned about the history of Chinese willow patterns and composed their own music to accompany a Dragon Dance. Year 3 made their own Kenyan jewellery and animal masks, while Year 2 learned about Aztec art, weaving and music, and Year 1 learned about Aboriginal art and music.

The Reception class learned about Japanese writing, music and Hokusai’s painting ‘The Wave’ and performed Japanese fan and umbrella dances. While the Nursery children enjoyed learning about Indian music and art.”

All the classes tweeted photographs and films to share with their parents/ carers and the local community. They also had their work displayed in Barry Library on the school website.

What did staff and pupils think?

Children said that the art sessions had been ‘fun’, ‘relaxing’ and ‘made my heart pound because I love being creative’.”

Staff said: ‘Creative Learning Week has been a fantastic opportunity to immerse the children in the culture, art and music from a different country. The children have gained so much and loved their learning’, and ‘All the children and staff have said they want to be creative more often’. Teachers reported that art sessions had generated an increased enthusiasm when later completing written activities connected to the country.”

Tips from Alison for your creative learning week:

1) Time/planning: A lot of planning went into the researching of countries and then matching them to the classes. We chose the week after the testing week which both staff and children appreciated.

2) Support: We needed the support of the head teacher as he allowed a change of timetable, financed materials and allowed there to be a mess throughout the school. Teachers and support staff also need to be on board and enthusiastic. The INSET helped build confidence. Teachers were offered support from the co-ordinators before and during the project.

3) Performing/sharing: Ask staff to think ahead, as some venues need to be booked in advance e.g. library.

4) Future: Keep a record of activities to use in the next year to help in the planning process. Eg we used cameras/ iPads to record how to complete activities e.g. time lapse films.

If you’d like to organise a creative learning week, contact us – we can help with advice and support, artists to help your teachers and pupils, and more.

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