Continuing the work with Magna

Continuing the work with Magna

Children and the Arts / Magna year 2 case study

by Kimberley Hardy

Funded by Children & the Arts, four schools participated in Year one of BSDC’s START project in 2018, in collaboration with MAGNA Science Adventure Centre. In 2019, three schools continued the project for a second year, with a mix of 360 new and original participants. 165 students new to the project worked towards their Arts Award Discover and the 77 children continuing with the CATA START programme created a portfolio for their Arts Award Explore. 118 children who participated in last year’s project but didn’t take part in the workshops this year attended the celebration event to develop and continue their observation of the arts.

Pre-workshop

An introductory workshop was held in December 2018 to welcome and introduce the 242 students involved in the practical workshops. This session worked as a pre-workshop to gather information on the interests and priorities of the students and staff, this helped shape the structure of the work. The initial workshop explored simple movement, with a mix of basic Kathak and contemporary technique. Children were taught two short movement routines, took part in creative tasks and technical exercises and made suggestions for their own performance piece. Information and feedback given from the schools and children established that everyone was keen to perform at MAGNA and share their work for family and friends. A further seven sessions were scheduled for January onwards.

Abilities were mixed in all classes, some children participated in dance training several times a week and others were completely new to movement and dance. Most children had visited MAGNA with school and family, therefore discussions and themes inspired by the adventure centre were a confident subject topic for everyone. Classes were ages 7 to 10, with two additional younger classes aged 6 to 8 joining the project in February.

Arts Award

77 children new to the project in 2019 worked towards their Arts Award Discover, which was facilitated by a BSDC artist. Time was spent during workshops completing the relevant practical work, this was evidenced by children being given documents to complete with their teachers for their individual portfolios. The 165 students on their second year of the project worked towards their second Arts Award certificate; Explore work was led and facilitated by schools. Most of the practical work for Explore was led by a BSDC artist and 75% of the portfolio documents were given to teachers. It was the role of the class teacher to support the participation in a second art form which contributed towards the children’s portfolios.

To support the Arts Award portfolios, a guest artist visited each class for the children to interview and gain a deeper understanding of their role as a professional dance artist. Kali Chandrasegaram is a BSDC artist and professional Odissi dancer. Kali performed for the children, answered questions, and spoke in detail about his art form, it’s evolution and costume. Feedback from teachers was positive and children enjoyed trying a new dance style and meeting a male dancer. He explained obstacles he had faced to work in the dance industry both professionally and personally, which teachers relayed was an important discussion to share with their students. Children were fascinated with the places Kali’s work had taken him and the experiences he had gained over his career. Kali later performed at the final celebration event and the young dancers were able to see him on stage practising movements he had previously introduced to them.

The inclusion of Arts Award within this dance project allows for a wider insight into the creative industry and an opportunity for students to formally reflect on their findings throughout the process. The interview, creation and research elements of Arts Award allow for schools to have a valuable role in the project and facilitate elements which can be linked to the KS2 national curriculum. They were able to adapt written work and sustain their teacher role amongst a project delivered by an external organisation.

Workshop content and impact

Workshops were delivered to 242 children, with a total of 360 students participating in the celebration event.

“Delivery was very good, and the children loved it. Accessible for all children” teacher at Roughwood Primary School.

Workshops consisted of varied warm-ups, Kathak inspired exercises, basic contemporary technique exercises, creative tasks and chorography. Each performance piece was inspired by MAGNA Science Adventure Centre or BSDC repertoire. A variety of stimulus was drawn upon such as poetry, weather, fire, water and air. The dance projects were in collaboration with MAGNA, hence its was important that work reflected the rich heritage and dynamic pavilions on offer within the venue. If a performance concept was not fully reflective of MAGNA, then this was explored further within workshops. A key factor of the movement workshops was to introduce children and their teachers to art and its ability to be created using a variety of stimulus. Creative tasks allowed for the BSDC artist to monitor the creative skills children were developing each session and explore a variety of stimuli.

Children were involved with the creation process and contributed by offering movement and ideas on theme.

“I liked making the dance, I gave lots of ideas which Kim used,”

student at Brinsworth Howarth Primary School.

Each performance piece incorporated creative tasks so that students had a clear understanding of what was being asked of them and felt comfortable throughout. If any hesitation was displayed the BSDC artist would offer guidance and support and offer alternative ways for the task to be completed.

Differentiation of all work was imperative with all delivery, therefore children’s behaviour towards work was observed and guided the structure of the sessions. There were several SEN children within all groups, therefore content and delivery were approached attentively, to ensure that all work was accessible and enjoyable for those involved. Clear communication with teachers informed the BSDC artist if certain days needed a more delicate approach and how to best cater for the differing needs.

“I was apprehensive of him having a solo as he’s never been in that situation before, but he proved me wrong,”

teacher of Rockingham Junior & Infant School.

Solo performances were given to students who demonstrated commitment and resilience, some had varied abilities, some needed additional support within school, and some were high achievers. Children rose to the challenge and teachers noted their admiration for their students achieving more than they previously thought was possible.

“The dance was challenging in a good way for the children, but I think this was very beneficial and made the children enjoy what they were working towards”

teacher at Rockingham Junior & Infant School.

Scarves and paper airplanes were used within several the performance pieces so that children were able to experiment with props. This was also a confidence increasing method for those who felt more comfortable with something in their hands and as a distraction and something to focus on other than performing.

During the choreography sessions where repertoire was being taught and rehearsed, movement vocabulary was used as a method to introduce children to the relevant language used within a dance class. Students were able to respond receptively and expressively to the correct language and used a variety of choreographic devices within their own group creative tasks. All children responded to language such as “parallel” and “canon”, most were able to adapt to different dynamics, tempos and rhythms and some used a variety of different language within their Arts Award portfolios such as “unison,” “solo,” “repetition” and “improvisation”. BSDC workshops work closely with children and schools to, not only introduce them to Indian and contemporary dance, but also to the impact of creative work, the development behind ideas and performance pieces and the way in which work can be uniquely created and the language and technique behind all of those contributing factors. BSDC aims to delve deeper and offer knowledge and understanding to young students interested or new to the creative industry.

“Kim was very knowledgeable and very good with the children”

teacher at Roughwood Primary School.

Children were rehearsing their pieces at playtime and outside of school, highlighting the enjoyment of the project and the increase in confidence of certain individuals. Teachers were spending P.E. classes rehearsing their dances and used the project as an opportunity to develop their own confidence and abilities with movement.

“The class were teaching me as much as I was teaching them”

teacher at Brinsworth Howarth Primary School.

The sessions created a safe environment for those confident with dance to develop their understanding of a new Indian dance style and for those new to movement to learn from a professional, their peers and alongside their teachers.

School can, for many, be a time where they are learning lots of new disciplines and skills which can be difficult to retain and execute. Dance, like any other art form, is a skill which cannot be incorrect or correct. Movement is expression of personality, emotion and inspiration, therefore the need for it within school is great, as a way of validating each child’s thoughts and creations. Each child was able to gain something from this project, whether it be a new dance style, a form of fun physical fitness, increased spatial awareness, improved body confidence, strength, the development of creativity or a newfound love for art. The START project has a clear outcome with defined goals for students, teachers and schools to meet. Arts Award, rehearsals and the final performance gave everyone involved objectives to aim to achieve, this helped to generate excitement, determination, resilience and dedication. “

My class have a 60% attendance rate, however on dance days it is always up to just short of 100%”

teacher at Roughwood Primary School.

The project highlights the need for classes to work as a team, support one another and work hard together to achieve one common goal.

Following Kali Chandrasegaram’s guest artist visit a pupil from one of the schools made a racist remark, to which their class vocally disagreed with. The child was suspended, and the school followed the incident up with their parents. This event sparked an entire day’s discussion on culture, race and acceptance. Although under unfortunate circumstances, the teacher told BSDC this was the most beneficial and influential discussion to come from the BSDC workshops. She said that the cultural influence the company has, allowed for an open discussion and the sessions helped to gain understanding and appreciation for other cultures.

Staff development

Half of the teachers involved in this year’s project were new to the project and the other half had worked with BSDC during the first year of delivery. Their experience of dance ranged from none to very little, therefore the project was a useful tool to increase their own creative practice.

“My experience is very little, did some dance at school but not a lot,”

teacher at Rockingham Junior & Infant School.

All teachers were involved within the practical workshops, either by informing the BSDC artist of suitable children for specific roles, taking part in elements of the class or offering ideas to help structure the choreography. Those in their second year of the project had increased their confidence in movement and were offering a more informed idea of what they wanted their class to achieve and what their students could do to realize those goals. The BSDC artist was able to answer any questions schools or staff had and was able to offer ideas on how to best incorporate art and movement into their curriculum lessons.

All teachers either helped to facilitate the Discover Arts Award or led the Explore Arts Award. BSDC organised for all teachers to be trained as Arts Award advisers so they were able to gain a better understanding of the work and sustain the Arts Award after the project came to an end. The BSDC artist was able to offer insight into different ways of creating portfolios and facilitating the work in unique and exciting ways. Those lead on Explore have added documents to their given portfolios and led the work in a way which is reflective of them and their teaching approach. BSDC provided teachers with the tools required to continue implementing creative practice within their schools in ways which work best for them.

BSDC provided information to schools on Artsmark and the benefits and impact it could have on their school. Brinsworth Howarth Primary School registered for Artsmark and Roughwood Primary and Rockingham Junior & Infant School are beginning their Artsmark journey soon. All schools are now contributing a variety of artwork to their students learning; therefore all feel Artsmark is their next step. Brinsworth Howarth Primary have signed up to two additional creative learning projects since the first year of BSDC’s START project.

A formal 90-minute CPD session was held on 9th May for all participating teachers. A variety of topics were discussed such as exploring the national curriculum through movement, structuring a movement session, working with different abilities and Artsmark. Teachers were invited to talk freely on their experience of the project and how it had impacted their students.

“The dance sessions were a great way to observe my own class”

teacher from Roughwood Primary School.

As a teacher, many are not able to step back and monitor how their children respond to direction and consider why and how they are reacting in certain manners.

“I used to raise my voice when children would act giggly and fidgety, by watching Kim respond using a calm approach and explaining her understanding of their nerves, I now react slower and try to understand why they are acting the way they are,”

teacher at Roughwood Primary School.

Teachers were asked to give written feedback an an evaluative method for BSDC to gain an understanding of the impact and worth of the CPD session. Feedback consisted of the following: “I know how to make movement in groups. Taking other subjects into dance, such as Science and music verses,” “I will aim to use movements throughout the curriculum. Movements in Maths / Science, “I have learned ways to link dance with other subjects.” When asked if the workshops and CPD session had been helpful a teacher from Rockingham Junior & Infant School said “Yes, I have learned new ideas to teach dance and how to give ownership to the children letting them be creative.”

Parent development

Parents were invited to celebration events in the first and second year of the project as a way for them to celebrate their children’s successes and hard work, whilst also introducing them to a new field of dance performance. Kathak is a unique art form and is uncommonly performed in Rotherham, therefore has often been a new experience for BSDC’s audiences at MAGNA. In year one, there wasn’t a huge turn-out or the final performance, however in this year’s performance there were many more parents there to watch both performances. It was evident through verbal feedback that many more parents were there equally to watch the BSDC performance and their children. As well as introducing children to Kathak as an art form, BSDC strives to introduce cultural dance to areas less engaged with multi-cultural art and hope to continue and sustain their work in Rotherham in the future.

“It was great, I haven’t seen anything like that before, but I’d watch something like that again for sure,”

parent.

“It was so nice to see [child] doing something like that, she loved going to school on [workshop days]”

parent.

My own learning – Kimberley Hardy

As an artist BSDC allows me to grow and develop by offering a variety of projects which require me to focus in on different elements of my skill set. This project is a large-scale creative challenge, which demands me to think both creatively, logically, critically and quickly. I am asked to manage schools, teachers, children and fellow artists. The breadth of work I have worked on with BSDC has given me a pool of inspiration to draw upon and my multiple engagements with MAGNA have informed my choreography and overall vision of the shape of the project. MAGNA is a unique cultural venue and has allowed me to think of the different aspects of the building which would challenge me creatively and be accessible and interesting for the schools and students.

My choreography last year was influenced solely by the pavilions situated around the venue, however this year the children and I worked on creating work influenced by the structure of the building, it’s history, the colours of the architecture and its influence on Rotherham. This year I was keen to create pieces covering different topics to show teachers and students how movement can be inspired by a variety of topics and stimuli.

In order to organise and structure the celebration event, I have radically developed my planning and organisation skills. I found developing a plan for the performance day and organising everyone at the venue much more comfortable this year as I learned where to allow extra time, what to prioritise and what schools found engaging in the first year. I used feedback gathered from last years event to inform the planning this year.

As the START project coordinator I have engaged with MAGNA education officers, head teachers, teachers, reception staff, children, parents and Children & the Arts. I am aware of how to facilitate each one of their needs and can now do so confidently.

My own Arts Award understanding has benefited from doing this project for the second year. I have established the most effective ways of delivering the work, ensuring children and teachers clearly understand what is expected. This was the first year I have approached Explore Arts Award as I was required to support teachers with their delivery. By instructing schools, it ha enriched my own learning and I am now confident equally in Discover and Explore.

This year’s CPD was my introduction to leading a workshop directly to teachers and was a challenge for me personally. I am consistently given opportunities to develop my understanding of the arts and by teaching and informing others, I understand and digest information in a deeper and concentrated way.

The length of this project has allowed me to challenge my own creativity and has enabled organisations to explore and structure substantial projects which develop growth in the practitioners and the participants. By having the opportunity for a three-year project, BSDC and myself has been able to work on rich, sustainable work. We have had the time to introduce our work, delve deeper into the vocabulary and theory of movement, sustain the workshops which allow children to find joy in physical activity, educate and nurture the development of teachers, schools and parents and begin to support schools to continue their learning beyond this project.

If I was to reflect on this project and determine area for improvement, I would isolate the elements which have been new to the project this year. The CPD session was new for me and after observing feedback from the teachers, I feel the session would have worked better at the beginning of the project. Teachers came away from the project feeling informed and inspired and this would have been a great starting for the project, especially for those new to the project. If teachers had a clearer understanding of how to incorporate movement into their curriculum lessons, children and teachers would have been even more inspired, enthusiastic and confident in the BSDC dance sessions.

The celebration event was a success and received positive feedback from staff, children and parents. During the CPD session, teachers did highlight the fact that it may have worked well if the BSDC performance was separated into two parts, potentially one act before one school’s performance and the second half after the second school’s performance. This shift would have changed the children’s focus and kept them as engaged as possible. All children enjoyed the performance and engaged with the interactive sections; however, this would have been heightened if we had separated the performance.

Project development

The work has developed over the past two years into an informative, effective and engaging project model which could be used in a variety of settings and for multiple audiences.

All children worked towards their Discover Arts Award in the first year and 77 completed their second award this year. Both teachers and students have developed their understanding of the arts and are able to effectively evaluate and reflect their own creative work. Teachers have been trained as Arts Award advisors and are able to confidently facilitate Arts Award for other classes within their school. This has allowed for the project to grow beyond BSDC’s one-to-one work and has been able to have an impact on entire schools.