One Small Step for Early Years, One Giant Leap for Children: a toolkit for creativity with young childrenRead Now
This time last year I was lucky enough to work with Isaacs UK and CAPE UK, exploring the work of artists and creative practitioners working with children and staff in ten early years settings across Leeds. They settings worked together as network, using Creative Partnerships' enquiry model of working to test out their activities.
My role was to pull together everyone's learning, summarising shared findings and exceptional experiences, laying these out in a way which might be helpful for others looking for new and / or creative ways to unlock potential in their children. To round up a few of the ups and downs, things that worked, things that didn't work quite so much, and some of the thinking the creative and early years practitioners travelled through together or separately. At the heart of it all, to tell some of the stories of the children and how their outlook on the world changed a little as a result of the projects. On a more formal side, we looked at a couple of different ways of monitoring the progress of children - both in terms of the Foundation Stage areas, and in their wellbeing and involvement through a system known as EXE (Experiential Education).
CAPE set some fantastic designers loose on the content I wrote with IsaacsUK, and the result is a really stunning and accessible looking publication. Please read, browse, enjoy and most importantly - pass it on to anyone who might make use of it.
Browse or download it below, or online *here*
As part of some research I'm doing for Earlyarts I came across this wonderful video which so beautifully and simply portrays everything that's good about children (and possibly everything that's missing with some types of education). For more inspiring input of this type, do come to or follow the Earlyarts international UnConference in November...
teacher tom. Who wouldn't love to arrive at a school where your teacher wears a cape? A teacher who says his blog is from the children?
Who wouldn't love to send their child to a teacher who loves their job so much he says, "I intend to teach at <insert your school name here> for the rest of my life".
A teacher who not only shares what your child has done, but why and how. Who makes learning looks like such good messy fun. Who can make anything out of anything and show you how to do it too.
At a time when the future for creative learning in the UK looks quite depressing, it gives me hope to read what people like teacher tom are doing, it makes me smile about what children can achieve in good hands.
Imagine if all teachers were like teacher tom.
Incidentally if you go to his blog and click on his profile, you'll see a list of other blogs teacher tom follows, many of which are equally wonderful. If you know of any other great teacher blogs, so share them in the comments below, I'd love to see more.
In evaluation, looking at outcomes is vital. When you've invested in a project of course you'll need to know what was achieved and where there are still gaps. But it can be cumbersome reading mounds and mounds of text in a report. Charts, graphs and percentages can help clarify, but can still make for dull reading (and for some feel too much like maths homework).
To help busy partners to any project, finding a variety of ways to report on activity can make all the difference between people remembering what went well and being able to advocate the value of their work... or not.
I've recently been creating a toolkit for early years practitioners looking at how creative engagement can help achieve new and unexpected results. Its aim is to be quickly digestible and highly practical. The toolkit is based on the activity of ten creative early years projects in schools and Children's Centres in the North of England.
The projects were mapped against the Early Years Foundation Stage six areas of learning. To illustrate which of the EYFS outcomes the projects really brought to life, I used wordle to create this at a glance illustration. The larger the word, the more presence it had in the projects. You can see here Personal, Social and Emotional development was the strongest feature across the programme overall.
It doesn't replace the need for writing other information in the report of course. However the teachers, children's centre staff and creative practitioners involved, and readers of the toolkit, can now instantly see where the projects thrived and what kinds of outcomes similar work might expect to achieve, so much more quickly and easily than deciphering a big chunk of writing or trying to analyse a graph.
Unintentionally I have carved out something of a niche in my repertoire, in the form of evaluation. I'm not sure if its because I naturally love to disect and deconstruct what is seemingly apparent to see what else is really going on; or whether it's simply because other people don't enjoy it and are happy to hand it to someone else. (I'm lucky in that much of my evaluation work comes through recommendation).
I know at times it's because organisations know in great detail so many things about what they do and the way they work, but need to be able to show that they have explored this objectively, and so hire an external consultant.
Often I never know how much it influences organisations to change, adapt and experiment, though I have one client who I know does read them with a fine tooth comb, come back to me query and delve deeper into some parts, and act on it annually, which is very rewarding indeed.
For reasons not exciting enough to share here, I spent much of today re-reading past evaluation reports and realising how fascinating this process of reflection really is. It was refreshing to read these again, with space and time, for what they really say, rather than in a proof reading and contract fulfilling, deadline looming frame of mind.
The DCSF recently released this guide to learning, playing and interacting in Early Years.
It's my belief that a huge amount of good practice in early years learning and development can be transfered to older age ranges and indeed other non-education work. The general premise of creative exploration as a means to find out and enjoy all the opportunities that are out there must be a effective approach for anybody.
Jo Graham of Learning Unlimited, who has significant experience of working with early years development particularly in the South of England, and especially with museums, talks more about the values of the publication and how mow museums staff might use it in their thinking and planning...
I'm most interested in how the public, your public, whoever that may be, engages with culture and creativity.
And if it nurtures creativity and develops personal, social or professional skills I'm absolutely all ears.