Tag Archives: Learning

Thoughts from the Singing Ringing Tree – Beth Allen

Music Leader from the Songs from the Singing Ringing Tree, Beth Allen, recalls her experience…

Two years of nursery experiences makes for quite intense experiences and deep learning. I see nurseries as a community to enthuse with the love of voice.  If I can enthuse the kids  and show them that songs can make them laugh when they are low, help them remember things they are struggling with, control words they wouldn’t have ever controlled, played out stories they had never really heard before… then they will always remember those feelings.  I am one of those children, having been enthused by a visiting music specialist at my school when I was five years old!  If I can enthuse the staff and build their confidence to mess and play with songs to make them their own, to make them relevant and make them fit for purpose… or if I can find songs that work for them, using backing tracks, or instruments, or nonsense, or with props or pictures, microphones or folk songs… I will find any way in to help staff find their own, sustainable way, to use songs when I’m not there any more.

Some prefer putting on a show for celebrations, while others like to keep it simple and just mix up the occasional words?  We have played with our voices to bring life to the characters in a song, with soundscaping to set a whole scene to a song, with nonsense language to express more than second language children can express with words, with instrumentation to grow the meaning/emotion of a song… add to that lighting and dance moves, then an audience… and the more confident staff enabled their kids to experience something bigger. For me I have found that it is the relationships that allow me to work creatively and that when there is a relationship of trust… a whole group or a pairing can work together to write really lovely little nuggets that stick and are remembered weeks later, because they caught a moment and remain relevant. Some members of staff obviously thought about words and language between sessions and came back having written new songs… or improved on mine.  Some children thought about the games we were playing with language and offered really interesting and fun alternatives, remembering additions from week to week.

The one big failing I felt was after reading a dissertation from an Assistant Teacher at Woodfield Nursery.  She talked about the aural tradition in Pakistan, and about the different regions placing different emphasis on writing… and how this effects ability to learn writing skills once in Britain.  I became very aware that I was trying to make links and encourage development of the English language but that I couldn’t make culturally relevant links if I knew nothing about the prevailing culture of a nursery, ie Pakistan or Bangladesh.  I felt, and still feel, very short on stores and rhymes and songs from those cultures.  I am aware that we show respect for each other by learning each others aural traditions, and by learning them we give them a value.

Beth Allen

You can read more about the project and view the documentary film on our website.


Emma Booth, 15, reflects on her week of work experience with MPA.

I must say, my time spent here at Mid Pennine Arts has been a huge eye-opener to the massive range of art and artists out there. Being a teen on work experience, I knew there was more to art than pencil, paint and paper, but I have never really considered art beyond my own passions.

By delving deep into the heart of what MPA is about, I discovered knowledge about their past projects and the impact they have had on people who visit them. For example, the Contemporary Heritage projects have taught me that there is more to art than what it looks like. Of course, the aesthetics of a physical piece are important, but projects such as Not Forgotten have shown me that the story behind a piece of artwork is of an even greater importance, and when one reads deeper into that story, the beauty that was originally there shines brighter and illuminates the site.

As well as the many stand-alone projects that have been created, I have also learned about the heaps of work that MPA does with children and young people. Researching Creative Learning projects such as Padiham Greenway and Historical Tea Parties has made me smile widely, especially after reading about the work MPA has done with children with learning or behavioural difficulties. Right now, thinking about the massive impact MPA’s work must have had on these children, attempting to put it into words is proving a difficult task.

Being at MPA has not only given me an insight into the many forms and meanings of art in the world, but has also given me a taste of what the world of work is like. I remember sitting outside the office back at my primary school, waiting for my mum to finish in the teachers’ meetings that were held, itching to burst inside and share my thoughts and ideas. Well, MPA has given me that opportunity, and with each meeting I was a part of, I couldn’t help but marvel at the wonderful future projects being discussed that held so much potential. Of course, the world of work is not all fun and games, but even sorting through artists’ applications and data has taught me about the vast variety of art forms.

I have thoroughly enjoyed spending time at MPA, and I am absolutely certain that my experience will come in handy at some point in the future. I would like to say a big, big thank you to all the colleagues at MPA, whose friendly natures made me feel comfortable and welcome in the new atmosphere. And for all the coffee!

Emma Booth
Work Experience Volunteer

Photo of Emma Booth for blog compressed

Think Big!

As a volunteer for Mid Pennine Arts many new opportunities have come my way. I am pleased to say that with the support of MPA I have received funding from O2’s Think Big campaign to realise my own project and I am very excited to begin!

My project is called Pass It On and its all about sharing skills and knowledge. I want to create a chain of people who pass on skills to each other. Each person would learn something new and then teach a different skill to the next person in the chain. It’s a great chance to meet new people and get involved in a project to be proud of. I also want to document each skill sharing session and potentially hold a small exhibition to share the experiences.

All I need now are some volunteers to participate! The skills I am looking for do not have to be complicated the only criteria is to teach someone something new. In a practice run of this project people taught things like how to cook soup, meditation and how to mix songs as a DJ. I believe that everybody has talents they can pass on and who wouldn’t benefit from learning something new? To get involved please email, projects@midpenninearts.org.uk or call on 01282 421 986 (ext 206). I am aiming to fit the project around the participants to make it as convenient as possible so it should not encroach on any other commitments that volunteers may have. The total time commitment is 4-5 non consecutive days between mid February and mid May.

This project is open to anybody to come and learn something and have some fun in the process! I’m looking forward to hearing from you!

Dominique Dunand-Clarke
Project Assistant

I love this job….

David Smith, Project Coordinator for Creative Learning on his visit to a school in West Lancashire…

I made a mistake…

I like to arrive early for an appointment.  Arriving at 8-45am in a primary school in West Lancashire I was met by a lovely lady in the School Office who told me that I wasn’t expected until 10-30am when the teacher would be available.  “Don’t sit in the meeting room on your own“, she said, “come into the Hall, we have a special assembly for our Reception children; you are welcome to join us…

The Hall was packed.  Over 200 children were quietly making their way in, joined by over a 100 noisy parents and grandparents. The whole assembly of 45 minutes was delivered by 60 Reception children.  The theme was ‘Animals of Africa’.

The children were organised in groups of about 12.  Each group was a group of: zebras, lions, crocodiles or monkeys.  The children had made their own masks, and were simply costumed.  Each group performed to a simple formula to demonstrate their learning: a dance to music and a song.  The more able in the group acted out a simple script as explorers encountering the animals. Even we were involved in actions and singing… I made an amazing monkey of myself! You could have sold tickets!

So what did all this show?  Well, five groups of 5-6 year old children showed off what they had learned about Africa: its animals, its flora, its terrain, its climate.  And they did it through the arts – through drama, through song, through dance, through art and through their own creative ideas.

I couldn’t have had a more wonderful start to my day. It was a reminder of the quality of what is being delivered in our schools, of the quality of our teachers and the quality of leadership which provides the vision that puts children and the arts at the centre of learning.

Blackburn Museum Extended Schools Exhibition: Tuesday to Saturday, 12-4pm until October 2011

Our Creative Learning team’s work with a cluster of six schools in Blackburn, is now showcased in an exciting new exhibition at Blackburn Museum.

“A walk in the park, could become so much more” was an invitation to look at familiar school topics in Blackburn’s dramatic Corporation Park. MPA’s David Smith worked with six schools and seven artists who set out to creatively explore the park.

They wanted to develop activities that could be used again either by schools or families. The resulting booklet gives six approaches to engaging the imagination in Corporation Park. Copies are available at Blackburn Museum as part of the exhibition which celebrates the children’s creativity through photographs and objects.

Lead artist, Gorden MacLellon explains:

We aimed for activities that needed fairly simple equipment and used ideas that children could explain to their families.

In the Park we explored storylines that let us take a topic and play with it. A request to combine drawing and sculpture with oral descriptions of nature turned a group into Time Travellers exploring the past, present and future of the Park. ‘Plants’ sent another group off on an expedition into the unknown, writing journals, describing plants and the animals associated with them, learning names and terms and inventing new names, describing new plants and, possibly, never getting home again! ‘Global Warming’ sent another group into a changing world with wandering, lost polar bears and new ways of building homes

We offer those topics, scenarios and activities here for you to try. You could take the same ideas elsewhere, turn them inside out and try them in different ways.

Gordon MacLellan, Creeping Toad, lead artist for “A Walk in the Park”

Brookhouse Primary School
Cedars Infant School
Hawthorns Junior School
St James School
St Michael with St John Primary School
Seven Trees Children’s Centre

Karen Alderson
Kerris Casey St Pierre
Ruth Evans
Rosie Fenwick
Gordon MacLellan
Thea Soltau
John Spedding

The exhibition is open from now until October 2011 and Blackburn Museum’s opening hours are Tuesday to Saturday, 12pm – 4pm. We really hope you’ll take time to visit!

Evaluation of Creative Partnerships Work With Schools

David Smith and Steph Hawke were at a Creative Partnerships event yesterday at the Cornerhouse. The event was led by David Wood, an independent consultant who has been working on analysing the findings of all the lengthy project evaluation forms that Creative Agents have been submitting to the projects database over the years since CP began in 2002. His project took a sample of 80 change schools and 9 case studies which were researched over 2 years. More info and the reports are available at http://www.creativitycultureeducation.org/research-impact/evaluation-and-audit-of-creative-partnerships/

His findings showed:

  • the majority of schools focussed on arts based subjects (literacy, animation/ digital tech, art & design) – which indicates that even as the CP agenda shifted from funding for the arts to a drive to develop creative teaching and learning in disadvantaged schools, headteachers were still keen to put the funding behind the arts
  • across the curriculum CP has impacted mainly in the areas of
    • learning environments
    • tackling cultural disadvantage and isolation
    • parental involvement – (CP has made a difference to family learning)
    • staff development – (the biggest distance travelled was the development amongst staff of a commitment to creativity)
  • 5/9 case study schools said if funding allowed, they would like to keep their Creative Agent as a critical friend
  • Whilst early years and foundation stage projects had embraced new philosophies like that of Reggio Emilia,  few were taking this intellectual dialogue about pedagogy into the other key stages – schools still don’t seem to be reading beyond Ken Robinson’s ‘All Our Futures’ – this is something that Pat Thompson and Ken Jones in their research with Nottingham and Keele Universities, have described as ‘sense making collective intelligence’

After this initial presentation, the participants were asked to work in groups to look at what concerned us about the research and what confirmed for us our own feelings about CP. We moved into looking at creative skills development and how to evidence this. We were asked to look at examples of evaluations and suggest which elements were good and which, as agents, we would be looking to probe. After lunch the afternoon focussed on help and advice for completing the paperwork for the Change Schools Programme.