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Residency with Dunkirk Primary and Nursery School
more details, images and information on the school's website:
I’ve been working on a long-term project as artist in residence / forest school leader at Dunkirk Primary and Nursery School, in Nottingham, since 2007. This began with a Creative Partnerships project and developed as the school became a national School of Creativity,
researching the ways adults and children together can creatively ask big questions. It’s an incredibly exciting residency and some really innovative work takes place across the whole school as a team of adults work with the children on many different nitiatives.
The school is really interested in exploring ways of documenting the children’s learning and we’ve been conducting research into this, some of which is detailed in “Creative Approaches to Participation” edited by Helen Manchester (published by Routledge, 2011), a chapter I wrote exploring the Small Actions, Big Change project.
One of the big projects we are working on is the development of the school Discovery Garden as a wildlife-friendly creative space for the children to learn outside. This space links deeply with the school’s nature garden, the work of the Eco Club and a school ethos that recognises nature and the outdoors as a powerful tool in nurturing and educating children. There’s a team of adults at the school who are extremely committed to this way of working and between us we hold a deep body of knowledge about the natural world.
We work with the children to create things with natural materials, to explore and discover wildlife, to use nature as inspiration for poems, stories and descriptions and to finds links with all areas of the curriculum. We’ve measured as we’ve made dens, we’ve played counting games with potatoes we’ve dug up, we’ve made puppets, we’ve been allotment pirates, we’ve had teddy bears picnics and so much more…
The school Discovery Garden is quite a big space; it’s a fenced off area of the school field which the children have to walk to along a footpath and underneath the ring-road subway – which contains a stunning mural we all painted in 2012. The Discovery Garden has raised beds for growing fruit and vegetables, but it also contains living willow domes, a wildlife-friendly pond, a mini-beast hotel, hills (mountains if you are 5), a fire-circle, a small orchard area, lots of wildlife-friendly planting, space for den-building and lots of space for sitting, reflecting and watching. We’ve been developing planting to create lots of different areas and spaces for stories and ideas to thrive. In addition to using the Discovery Garden we often work outside in other spaces with the children, for example at Beeston Sidings, a local nature reserve.
I have been working specifically with the foundation stage children and key stage 1 on many different initiatives that explore areas of their topics and different lines of enquiry. As the allotment develops I’m now working across the whole school exploring ways to take elements
of the whole curriculum outside. A key part of this work is the partnerships that have developed over the years and the depth of enquiry we’ve been able to explore with the children because of this. The school works closely with families and the local community and has a holistic approach to nurturing children’s well-being and thereby their learning.
Projects at the school seek to ask deep and searching questions and to support the children in exploring the world around them both locally and globally. We have explored issues such as water as a precious resource, problems associated with plastic bags, ways to change the physical spaces around us, the things small creatures need to be safe, ecosystems and connections with trees. We have created stories and
tales through many puppets, animations, hand-made books, dens, costumes and more. We’ve used natural materials to make images, characters, homes and story settings.
I’ve been working with other staff to document the children’s learning through photography, film and annotations. We use this documentation as we plan and share it with the children, their families and other educational bodies. I lead sessions as part of inset training and have made presentations at conferences about the work at the school.