Monday, 12 November 2012

autumn in the woods

Autumn colours seep all around…  and the autumn woods
are clearly the perfect place to bathe in it…
I love finding things like this, it ignites stories and sets questions racing in my mind… 
If you’ve finished bathing in the autumn colours, then you can swing
through the gold-bronze-orange-yellow glowing leaves…

All the colours held deep inside each season are precious and beautiful.  Often each combination of natural colours doesn’t last for very long – and it feels important to soak in the autumn leaves whilst they surround us.    It’s not just the colours, it’s the sounds and smells and tastes – the combination of all of these is a seasonal wonder.  And it’s there, for free…

Monday, 5 November 2012

Autumnal heads

Autumnal heads inspired by Day of the Dead

The year 5 class at Dunkirk had been really inspired by images of the Mexican Day of the Dead which they had looked at with their teacher.  So when we all got out onto the school allotment we created a set of clay heads adorned with autumnal finds.  The children wanted to make their creations as colourful as possible and spent ages searching for things in the hedgerows and amongst all the fallen leaves.

We took lots of photos of their creations and the children left them outside to watch what would happen (as it’s real clay (rather than air-hardening) this is fine to leave outside).  When I returned to the site the following day with the reception and then the year 1 children, they were really interested in the work left by the year 5 class.  They made up stories and a host of their own creations all inspired by the work of the older children. 

It had rained too, so the heads had taken on a whole new set of qualities as they had sat in rain-water.
I do love the incidental discoveries and conversations that happen whilst making things in this way.  The children notice so much about the leaves and seasonal changes – and this prompts so many questions.  They find all sorts of qualities in the natural materials as they use them – and they invent ways to use the resources around them.   

Saturday, 3 November 2012

this leaf is a bed for an ant

The stunning colours of autumn are all around and it always feels vital to celebrate this and explore all the colours whilst the leaves are in abundance in all their glory (it doesn’t take long for them to be whisked away by the wind).   

I’ve used autumn leaves with children in many ways and am constantly inspired by the descriptions and delights children find in them.  We spent a long time at Dunkirk this week with the reception classes looking at a collection of leaves – the children wanted to look really closely and were so eager to share the things they noticed.
They were really interested in the names of the different leaves and recognised the leaves from the familiar trees around school and the local area.  Some of the children really were gripped by this and spent ages learning the names of different leaves and then sharing their knowledge with others, they were repeating words such as “sycamore”, “rowan” and “lime-tree” over and over in a sing-song way.

They felt all the textures of the leaves, they were intrigued by all the vast colours and spent a long time colour matching the leaves with paint-charts.  They put the leaves on the light-box, they made leaf rubbings…   Everything had a story attached to it and I loved the qualities they found in the leaves and twigs as they told me their ideas.  A leaf could be bed for an ant, or a pathway to a castle or a balloon or a boat…

They looked at images of creations by artists such as Andy Goldsworthy and Mark Pouyet and were really keen to make their own patterns, lines,  marks, arrangements and images.

It’s really interesting to see what grabs the attention of different children.  Some were interested in the textures of the leaves and wanted to tear the leaves into smaller pieces to explore this and then arrange patterns with the small pieces; some children made three-dimensional work with leaves and seed-heads piled together.  Some children were fascinated by the leaves falling and floating and wanted to watch them flutter over and over.  Some children only wanted to use the stems and twigs; some were intrigued by the way the stems rolled and wanted to use sticks, logs and pine-cones to make towers and castles.    


Much of this is all part of trying to slow down and really look in detail at the world around us with children.   Children have vast capacity to notice amazing detail and to share this if they have listening ears around them.  This all links to development of communication and language and it needs to be a gentle and slow process.  If things are to have real meaning for children and to stay in their memory, then they need to happen in the time-frame of the child – and often this takes a lot of time.  Children want to really examine things and they frequently see things that an adult doesn’t. 
I use this quote a lot, from the wonderful Ursula Kolbe, I think it sums up so well the need for adults to make time to slow down and really look with children:

“… the visual arts are not only about making things with materials: they begin with looking and touching.  Sometimes we simply need to slow down and look intently at things with children – movements of creatures, the gleam of colours in a shell or in the grains of sand trickling through fingers, a favourite picture book…”  Ursula Kolbe