As I write this, it is half term and I am in the middle of a Music project for Year 7 and Year 8 students delivered by the Abram Wilson Foundation. The project is being led by six professional artists; they introduced the students to Jazz music, its history and its improvisational nature. The students also learnt how to combine art forms and devise their own performance pieces.
The first day started with whole group circle games and getting-to-know-each-other creative tasks. I take this way of working for granted and I was surprised to hear that Dan (a non-arts specialist who signed up to assist with the project) reveal that he was petrified of working in this way;
“Not just for fear of losing control of my class, but I felt exposed. I prefer it when the kids are sat behind desks. I soon realised how brilliantly the kids responded to the games and tasks; it was exciting to see group work and members participating confidently in one large circle. It feels much more risky, but I have lots of refreshing ideas to try out, especially with my SEN groups”.
The artists skilfully created a safe place for students to share their thoughts, experiment and take risks as their trust for each other developed over the three days. The students’ listening skills improved as did their confidence and ability to collaborate. I am looking forward to seeing Dan’s relationship with creativity grow and to see what strategies he adopts to build confidence and develop a fun space to learn in the classroom. I have already sent him some advertised Inset opportunities and have started to plan a project together for one of his SEN classes. He has been inspired by Cultural Capital to measure the progress of softer skills and to adopt creative activities to increase emotional literacy, social skills and confidence.
I am thrilled that the same students who feature in my National Gallery project in our Cultural Capital publication have independently joined the Corelli Arts Council - increasing participation was one of my initial aims. The students have a massive sense of achievement and are motivated to do more of the same, because they feel a sense of belonging when an experience is shared together. I think they also enjoyed the accolade of being in a project that has been documented and displayed around the school. So, once again, the kids are working towards a collective outcome to be shared with an audience. In my next project at lunchtimes, I have continued the drawing theme from the National Gallery project and the students have been inspired by fairy tales and in particular pantomime characters. We are drawing and enlarging these characters as 2D cut-outs with an ‘old school’ overhead projector. Everything will be monochrome and using only cardboard from the Scrap Scheme we are members of. The kids want to photograph their teachers as these fairy tale characters. We will once again use our photographic studio like we did for the National Gallery project. The head of our Arts faculty had serendipitous timing when he walked into our session. So I snapped him and I emailed it around to staff.
We are only a few weeks into the project, but we already have staff volunteers much to the delight of the kids. Involving staff in this way is a great way to spread the creative love and raise the profile of the arts in your school.
Shermaine Slocombe is the Arts Manager at Corelli College, Blackheath, and contributed to NotDeadFish and A New Direction’s book Cultural Capital, available here: http://bit.ly/2dNGBjt
A New Direction are NotDeadFish’s clients – for more information on their Cultural Leaders project, look here: http://bit.ly/2dsYVAq