Katie Sandoval, a visual artist specialising in printmaking and environmental art, came to Wellbeck Primary School as part of the Creativity Collaboratives project. I contacted Karen Salmeron, the teacher involved in the project, to hear her experiences from the residency.
Katie introduced cyanotypes (sun prints), lino printing and painting inks (ink worlds) to the students. Karen explained, “Our learning objectives were linked to science, so cyanotypes used the light of the sun to create an image, linking to the objective as shadows (in this case images) were formed when light from a light source was blocked by an opaque object. When investigating and experimenting with inks, coffee and salt granules linked to our exploration of materials, solids, and liquids, and how materials can change state.” The project enhanced students’ learning of the topic as they had a longer period of time to spend exploring and experimenting than usual. “Katie worked with three LKS2 classes and each class had two full days with her. Children became more immersed and absorbed in the processes. They had time to practice each technique a number of times and learn from mistakes or change variants to produce different results. All children were engaged and involved. They had time to experiment and reflect and refine.”
It was clear the children benefited greatly from the project: “Less confident children became more willing to take risks as all outcomes were valued, there was no ‘correct outcome’. Katie termed the phrase ‘happy accidents’ when things happened that were different to her modelled outcomes. Children were very engaged and absorbed with trying different combinations with printing and adding salt and coffee to painting inks to create different effects. They became more comfortable with their work looking different from the person sitting next to them. With the cyanotypes each child had the opportunity to create four different versions and you could see how their skills had developed by being able to repeat the process a number of times (we don’t often have the opportunity to do this).” So, in addition to the learning objectives, the children were taught a valuable lesson on how to learn from ‘mistakes’ and were shown how they can offer opportunities to problem-solve and that they are often an important part of a learning journey. They also came away with an understanding that “it’s okay if your work looks different to the person sitting next to you, it doesn’t mean it’s wrong”: they ended the day with confidence they had created “something beautiful and unique.”
As a teacher, Karen said she learned “the importance of having open ended activities for children and opportunities for them to experiment with materials and techniques without worrying too much about the outcome” and “the importance of language used to support creativity and how some language can shut down the creative process.” Having had this experience, she confirmed that creativity is something she’d like to see more of in the curriculum in the future, not just in the arts in school, but in all areas of the curriculum, and we should be planning to include those creative skills in all subjects.
I’m Jemima Corrie, a Year 2 student on the BA Education course at the University of Nottingham. For my placement, I have taken on the role of Educational Journalist for the Creativity Collaboratives Project in Nottingham. The position appealed to me as I am passionate about encouraging creative teaching and learning methods in schools, which is exactly what the project is all about.
My school visits and interviews with teachers involved in the project confirm that combining the arts with curricular learning objectives absolutely enhances students’ learning at school.