Since our last session with Rhona we have been extremely busy. The children had another face to face visit with Rhona but this time it was in an actual art gallery! Rhona currently has an exhibition in Portadown called ‘You and I’. As this is so close to our school we couldn’t resist a trip over to see her work. For some pictures of our trip, please click on the link below;
We have painted our mini beast playgrounds and are now in the process of letting them dry before placing them outside. A few children were absent the day we created the miniature sculptures so thankfully we had made some group bases which they could design and paint themselves.
During the session, a conversation started about how the whole ‘Virtually there’ experience sometimes felt a little surreal and Elle commented it was a little like an interactive art programme. I suggested it was a little like Blue Peter when Rhona shows us some examples of creations before or while we attempt them, but of course the children had not heard of that! Rhona and the children decided that for our final few sessions we could create a mini episode of our own Art programme, to explain what we actually do during our session! The children decided on the title, ‘Planet Art’.
I think that is my favourite thing about this whole Project, it is very spontaneous and you are not restricted by the curriculum.
During our studio check-in we updated Rhona on what we have been doing since our last session, including continuing to work on our bottle top project as well as learning new things about our topic of mini beasts.
Rhona enlightened the children about a playground project in which she is involved in county Carlow, showing us some of her pieces. The children were so enthusiastic about this and maybe a little jealous! They began to imagine all the things we could do with our space if our resources were unlimited…although I’m not sure health and safety would allow for an outside swimming pool with an underwater jungle gym for break and lunch time!
Rhona had provided us with some white self-drying clay that would last outdoor. After watching a few of Rhona’s examples the children got stuck into designing their own miniature climbing frames, slides, tunnels, and obstacle courses that they imagined any insect would just love to play on.
When this was completed and all the pieces were labelled and left to dry the children came together on the carpet to discuss with Rhona the best way to house our playground so that it was protected yet still looked appealing. After some brainstorming and lots of ideas the children took a vote and decided that using two tractor tyres would be the best way to display the playground with some nice stones or shells inside to make it pretty.
Today Rhona showed us how her installation piece is progressing. The children were excited and feel very lucky that we are being given the opportunity to actually go to one of her exhibitions in March. They are beginning to understand how much time and resources these large projects require.
Rhona explained our new topic is Mini beasts and ensured the children that they will continue to work on their big bottle top creation and even suggested some sort of unveiling for the rest of the school, which I feel is a fantastic idea.
Rhona showed us some large installation pieces and explained how the artists used the space they had available to them. She then gave the children a task of designing some sort of second level in our classroom. The creations the children came up with were amazing, I would genuinely love to incorporate some of their ideas, maybe some of the more practical ones like a cosy guided reading corner with sofas …although a Jacuzzi would be lovely!
On Tuesday the 17th January we had our usual skype session with Rhona. Rhona was back in her studio and was excited for the children to show her how they were progressing with the sculpture.
Rhona showed us some installation artwork which the children found fascinating, they were particularly impressed with the work of 82-year-old Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama.One of her latest projects involved designing an all-white ‘Obliteration Room’ created specifically to engage children and adults in an art gallery. They were then given colourful stickers and the room was transformed into a multi-coloured, stimulating environment. The children even suggested I try something similar in our classroom…
When the children moved on to working with our own structure, they felt some changes needed to be made to our original design, we changed the length of each ‘string’ to 1.5m long and have spaced them out more efficiently. The project looks great so far, everyone is enjoying having their own part to play in the creation.
Our last session in December has not been documented as we had a little mishap with the class iPad which the boys and girls were using, hopefully when this is fixed we will be able to share the details of that exciting session.
After a lovely Christmas and New Year, the children were more than ready to get back into routine. However, they were unaware that Rhona was planning on actually visiting the classroom on Tuesday the 10th of January. It was a great surprise. Rhona brought lots of items to help us create our very own sculpture using the waste we have been collecting.
The class decided on a large sculpture which would be suitable for both indoors and outdoors. The sculpture mainly consists of bottle lids, which thankfully the children have been collecting in abundance. It was so helpful having Rhona there, another pair of hands was definitely needed to help drill holes in the many, many lids! The children are a little mesmerised by how big the sculpture will be when it is completed, they are also excited by the prospect that this cannot be made in a few sessions, it will take time and their hard work to complete.
Their next task over the week is to measure and cut all the pieces of wire correctly and my homework is to drill the lids so they can be threaded by the children. One child commented that the sculpture will look like a chandelier when we are finished, “so basically it is just very posh waste, Miss Byrne”.
Today was our third session, I feel so much more confident using the Blackboard Collaborate Application. It takes little time to set up and the connection seems to be getting faster…or else I am!
We began with our usual studio check in, I loved hearing the children discussing Rhona’s project before she was even up on the screen! This shows that they are already developing a relationship with her and are interested and enthused by her work. Fionn had an excellent suggestion, that on the back wall behind her sculpture she could put her method and pictures of the different stages of the process, so that the public can understand and appreciate how she has made it.
Rhona asked the children what it means to ‘contour’. A few children with older sisters were very confident it was a way of doing your makeup! Unfortunately, this was not the type of contouring Rhona had in mind. Rhona showed us several of her own contour line drawings, the children then proceeded to do a few of their own using the waste we had collected. Kaiden was delighted with how his turned out and said it was the best piece of artwork he has ever created!
After break, Rhona asked the children if they had ever heard the term ‘animism’. Once explained they were able to provide lots of examples such as, Toy Story, The Muppets, Cat and Dogs, Trolls etc.
The class enjoyed watching the clip of The Muppets, especially as someone had suggested it! The children took inspiration from Marjory the Trash Heap and created their own class pet made from junk. They had to compromise during this task as everyone had to get a little of their design or idea in. The finished product was fantastic, when the group creating the torso viewed the other groups work, they were that impressed they asked for extra time to add to and improve their section.
This project has made it even more obvious just how creative and innovative my lovely class are! I have found that using a vast topic such as ‘What a Waste’ has been an excellent stimulus, they are getting excited about the topic through every subject, for example, their persuasive writing on recycling during literacy lessons and their math word problems on bin collection schedules. The children are thoroughly enjoying the cross curricular approach to learning.
Tuesday the 22nd of November marked our second session. We started a little later than expected because I hadn’t realised as the moderator on Collaborate I had to enable Rhona’s sound and microphone, but after all this is a learning experience for everyone!
Rhona began the session by showing us around her studio and filling us in on her steel sculpture for Maynooth University. The children were in awe of the sheer magnitude of the project, Rhona was able to show us images of her work in progress on the slideshow application.
Rhona displayed the children’s images from last week and had the children who were absent on that day create a name tag so she was able to screenshot them and add them to her class list in a bid to get to know the children and call them by name, developing that close working bond. The children loved seeing their photographs on the big screen.
I asked the class what they could recall from our session last week and every child was excited to discuss the new and improved invention they had designed. Rhona asked the children some questions, it is important to note that when the children are excited about their work and are discussing it, it’s a little difficult for Rhona to hear on her end due to the background noise. Once this was explained to the children they were more confident to go up to the camera themselves and speak to Rhona on a 1:1 basis.
Rhona showed the class some useful inventions which the children found hilarious. One child commented how easily some of them could be made, this was great as it made creating or inventing something a realistic option. This brought us on to a discussion of how our brains work when we are learning, the children had lots of ideas about this and drew and annotated them into their book.
Next, we discussed objects that were taken and made useless. Such as wellington boots with the soles cut out, umbrellas with holes etc. Each child then took three images from an Argos catalogue and had to make them completely useless. For e.g. one took a digital camera and decided that putting cement in the lens of the camera would render it useless. While the children were making useful objects useless I was questioning them on their materials and how they would go about destroying the objects. I was particularly pleased to see children voluntarily taking themselves up to the front of the classroom to discuss their work with Rhona, something they had previously been stand offish to do, without prompt.
Just before break Rhona had asked the children to bring back some waste, some kind of packaging however as a healthy eating school we didn’t gather a lot! I think we will spend more time on this next week as we are going to collect packaging throughout the week and talk about the form and shapes they take, creating a line drawing of the waste, before creating a short story about the rubbish or waste they found.
The 15th of November was our very first virtual learning experience. I got to work a little earlier than normal that day as I was a little nervous about using the technology and wanted to have everything set up before the children arrived.
With a little playing about and a lot of luck the technology worked well. Rhona was up on our interactive whiteboard by half past 9 and the children were amazed. She showed us around her studio, we chatted about art and the different things we might do over the coming weeks.
Rhona asked the children to write their names on mini whiteboards and come up to the screen so she could screenshot the child’s name with their photograph, so she is able to start putting names to faces, a difficult task with 29 children. The children stood on the portals Rhona made which was a nice touch as it made it feel more exciting for them.
We talked about creativity and the children had some very interesting opinions about what creativity is and how it can be fostered , then we looked at examples of useful designs and objects. The children split into groups and cut useful objects out of catalogues before placing them in the brain box.
Each group pulled out two objects and had to make a useful invention combining both objects . The children drew and labelled their ideas in their scrapbook before presenting their ideas in a Dragon’s Den fashion to Rhona and the rest of the class.
A very useful first session!
Rhona visited our school on the 8th of November 2016. The children were very excited to meet the real-life artist they would be working with throughout the project and had a list of questions ready and waiting for her, upon her arrival. These questions included her favourite form or artwork, her hobbies, interests and even how old she is!
Rhona spent the morning in the Primary 4/5 classroom. She showed us some of her pieces of art which the children loved especially the roller-coaster! Rhona and I had the opportunity to spend the afternoon planning our first session. We had previously decided on the topics, ‘what a waste’ and ‘Minibeasts’.