Wednesday, 22 October 2014

collaborative painting

During the last 6 weeks we have been reading the Rainbow Fairy books during snack time... the idea is that the children sit and eat their snack while I read the story aloud... with NO PICTURES... this was a real challenge for the children at first... they asked constantly for pictures... and I encouraged them to use their imagination instead... they tried hard to look at the book cover, which interfered with their ability to listen - so I ended up wrapping the first three books in some other paper.. so that the children could relax and listen... the last four books they have got the hang of being able to listen without the need for visual input... I would love to be able to see the images the children create for themselves in their heads...

Two weeks ago some of the children made black and white mushrooms to represent Fairyland from the books... devoid of colour, since the rainbow fairies were in need of being rescued...

Now as we read the last story, and the colours will return to Fairyland, as the last rainbow fairy has finallt been rescued... we have started to paint rainbows over the mushrooms...

One child painting with one colour, and collaborating to create many rainbows... not exactly free creativity... but an exercise of working out which rainbow needs my colour next, an exercise of realising that together we can create something - a collaboration.

I like to use art in many ways... not just a free expression of their creativity, but also to challenge their thinking, to bring them together as a group, and to introduce new techniques which they then can apply in their own creativity...


Monday, 20 October 2014

Parklek... Swedish manned play-spaces

Today the children and I went to Björnstraädgård... a parklek (park-play) on the south island... if you check out my pages you will see there is an option to look at parks and play in Stockholm, I have shared images of Björnsträdgård there, if you are interested...

 While I was there I saw the following sign
where the history of the park was explained... when I first saw this and read that "there parks should be so much fun that no child or youth would want to keep to the streets and squares" I wondered if it was because the adutls did not like them there... and wanted to control them... it could well be... veven though when you read the brief history below you will see there were concerns about adults abusing the children, some 20 years earlier...

A history of parkleks (from Wikipedia... so no great research done here)

A Parklek - playground in Stockholm.
The  playspace is staffed by trained personnel. If it is unmanned, they are called a lekpark =playground.

The first parklek in Sweden started as charities. The very first was probably in Norrköping, where a playground was opened in 1914 on the initiative of Maria Moberg (who along with her ​​sister Ellen also launched the country's first kindergarten - in 1899). 

The first major investment in playground activities came two years later, in 1916, in Stockholm. The journalist Gerda Marcus saw how many children were running around on the city's yards and streets while their parents worked, and how they became easy prey for adults who abuse children. One of her social projects for the Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet started playground with park employees in Vasa Park (I will be taking my children here next week... it is the park next to where Astrid Lindgren lived). The first day was on 14 May 1916 where 100 young children came to the park.

The modern parklek, with municipal employees, was introduced by Stockholm urban gardener Osvald Almqvist. The first parklek was tested in 1936 in Observatorielunden and Björnsträdgarden with great success, and two years later was 14 more parkleks were added. In 1940 this was extended to a year round availability and not just during the summers.  


In 1980, there were at most 200 staffed parkleks in Stockholm. Two of  three parkleks have been closed since then and in 2008 there were only 54 left. Until the 1980s, each child in Stockholm have a maximum of 50 meters from the door to a toddler playground and 500m to a staffed playground. Distance Rule 500 meters is now changed to 1000 meters. 



There is also a film that you can watch about parks in Stockholm from the 1970's - I have translated the Swedish text, so you know what it is about... but even in the seventies there is a concern that children mught harm themselves when playing...in fact there are many arguments that sound very similar to today's "fight" for children's right to free play...

film from 1970 on Stockholms Parklek -
The film's announcer text is structured as a conversation between three people. A gently critical and questioning mum is not sure that the idea of ​​playground activities and its pedagogy fits her son Klas Gustav. Her questions are answered by a woman and a man who argue for the development parkleks offer -   the meeting of children of different backgrounds. At one point the man says: "It's a shame about Klas Gustav - kids need this stuff to tighten all external and internal organs.".

It's Street office park department who ordered the film - and who organized the educational playgrounds in Stockholm. The film is told proudly that "Stockholm is ahead, not just of other cities in Sweden, but throughout Europe. People come from all countries to collect inspiration." It is emphasized that the parks department has trained people working with "people doing research in the child's behavior." The philosophy is that children should learn from each other and "doing stuff themselves without adults."

1970, Stockholm 160 playgrounds and according to the narrator was the goal was to basically every child would have a playground within four hundred meters.


So all of this has got me thinking... 
are playgrounds for children - really for children - or is this just another way to control childhood? I haven't really thought this through at all... it just a wild question that I want to mull over...

Sunday, 19 October 2014

more light exploration...

On Friday we explored light again... after playing in puddles outside we came in and looked at images of our light play from Wednesday...

It was interesting to see what caught the children's imaginations... it was very much the photos of themselves... and the short films.. so we have plans for next week to show five short films that I take of the children to reflect upon... of course less films if the children have a greater need of time to reflect on each one... we talked about having films of everyday things, not just of activities, in order to help the children become aware of their actions, their routines, and the small things in life...

In the afternoon my daughters came over together with two of their friends (13-14 yr olds) - and they played with the children. I set up  the light installation again, to see how the children would interact this time... I used the photographs from the reflection session in the morning, including the films.

The teenagers seemed mostly interested in creating with the magnetic tiles and the lights... apparently a kind of Hogwarts... the preschoolers observed their collaboration, their discussions and joined in and helped too.

When it was time to pack up my daughters asked to explore the emergency sheet/tent - as they knew it had a tunnel like property (since we have played with one at home). They put a string of lights inside... which we could see from the outside... and then the children (regardless of age) all took it in turns to walk and crawl through the glowing silvery tunnel.

There were slightly less children than the morning of Wednesday, so this could have also influenced how the light was explored, as well as having older children there... but there did seem to be a different level of exploration. There was less role-play that leads to the chase play... and more play of the exploratory kind... if I dance and wave the chiffon what happens? if I run back and forth through the netting what happens? can I make the balls of light become the same colour by timing how I switch them on and off? The children watched each other and then tested themselves what their friends had been doing...

It could be a good idea to do this one more time (at least) and possibly add some more materials to see how it affects the play and exploration...

 exploring shadows
Exploring shadows with chiffon scarves

 exploring the sensory experience of the material and light pouring over the body

 construction with magnetic tiles and light


 lights on the inside of the tunnel taken from the outside... the material has such an interesting property of being not fully transparent... only when the light source is stronger on the other side...



 going through the tunnel

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Puddle Play

Puddles really are brilliant... they offer so much play potential... from running through and feeling he difference that makes... to jumping and splashing, to sitting in them, collecting water as an ingrediant... to making rivers in the gravel and sand... when there is water... there is nearly always play...

Not much has changed... this was the case when I was a child... when my much younger colleagues were children... and also I see it now... hopefully this puddle play will always be with us and no-one will be making signs banning it..



making pretend tea...

Thursday, 16 October 2014

strange!

Sometimes you have to wonder...

In the many yards/communal gardens in the area where the preschool is situated there are playspaces - with slides and climbing frames, swings and sandboxes... there are also signs saying "ballgames forbidden" just a few metres away from a basketball net...


Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Light and Art Installation - PLAY and ART


 After visiting the exhibition urSinnen at Färgfabriken on Monday I wondered if I could build on the children's playful interaction with art.. with the challenge to the children to play and think about "what is art?"
I also challenged them to rethink their play... not there usual games this time... this time was to explore the light art installations and to interact with them...

During the session I reminded them twice, as they slipped into chasing games, or the role-play game that precedes the chasing game... as this was not the space, as it was set up, for chasing... and they all had ben told that we would go to play outside afterwards to run, chase and play as they freely wanted to... on the second reminder I asked if they were finished with the exploration and ready to go outside to play chase... no, they wanted to continue to explore...
The art exploration lasted about 45 minutes...


 Suddenly they discovered one shadow was larger than the other... why... and so they started to experiment...
 walking backwards they discovered their shadows got bigger
 and walking closer their shadows got smaller... later on two other children made the exact same dicovery together.
 As the overhead projection was over a matress it allowed a different kind of physiacality to explore the light and shadow... all the children that explored here jumped and watched their shadows fly.

After about 20 minutes I notised that there were not so many coming to this area... and as it made the room quite bright in conjuction with the other installations I switched it off to give the other areas more effect.
 Across the room from the overhead we had hung two sheets of mosquito netting... In my head I had hoped that it would both capture the image as well as letting the image through... I also wanted to create a tunnel sensation so that the children could feel as if they could walk into the art and be a part of it, as well as the sensory feel of the material on their bodies...
 I have to say that I was really pleased with the effect... it actually worked as I had visualised it... and the children interacted with it in may ways... as groups, pairs and quite often individually...
 All of the children reacted with huge smiles and amazement as the entered this installation
 there were also severla chiffon scarves available to add more effects... many were used as wings.
 I spent yesterday evening collecting images of the children's artwork over the last year... as well as things that were artlike... to see if the children would reflect upon whether or not these were art... but I think the effect of everything maight not have given them the time to start making these reflections.... yet. I loved how the children became part of the art... there is a child in the middle of that artwork...
 It was also interesting to se how the art moved as the mosquito netting moved
 At the far end of the room there was a light construction area... so the children could explore and construct their own light artworks... these children were talking about dragon powers as they played with the light sources (they all changed colours)
 I got all excited when I saw this photo as it looked like the child is shooting out magic powers - really it is just a string of lights... being moved to decorate the light contruction
 An emergency blanket made the base of this installation... to make it all reflective... here you can see the string of lights better too... and magnatiles were used to contruct with...
 The children built around some fibreoptics... bits of it are sticking out between the cracks... and then the string of light was wrapped around...
 Every once in a while, when you are taking photographs in the dark... the photo is not OF something but is just some kind of magical artwork of its own...

 The mosquito netting continued to have the biggest pull... children experiemnting in different ways... in it, in front, behind... and in collaboration with others too... the multilayers added new dimensions to the children's shadows... suddenly there were more arms than they expected!!
 The chiffon also added a dimensions... catching the light and art... and creating shadows...
 The children watched each other explore the light... looking face into the art as if bathing in the light...


 and turning round to see their shadows
Lots to explore
The children will get to see the photos prjected onto the wall, as part of their reflection on Friday... with sucj a visiual week... a visual reflection meeting seems right...
and Friday afternoon another session with the three installations seems in order too!

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Tomorrow

I was going to write up a post about our philosophy session yesterday... but instead I have attended a first aid course (about taking care of children in emergencies) and have spent the evening preparing for tomorrow... we are going to fix our own light and art installation at preschool... to see how the children react... projecting images from Monday's visit to urSinnen exhibition, as well as images of various works of art the children have made... including patterns they made in the snow last winter, constructions they have made, leaf patterns, bubble blowing... to really get them reflecting about what is art...

We have plans to hang things from the ceiling.. to get it to be a sensory sort of experience... hopefully we can pull it off...

So going to sign off now... and start gathering various sources of light for the children to explore...
I wonder if we get it to be as an amazing experience as this... this was the most liked element of the urSinnen experience, based on today's philosophy session...