Creative Children Creating change

At RainbowValley Early Learning Centre, we have a long history of inviting artists into our service to work with us for long periods of time. In 2017 we were very fortunate to receive a Regional Arts Development Fund Grant (RADF) which partly subsidises the employment of an Art Educator, Tracey Smith, to facilitate work with our Kindergarten age children throughout the year.

The project entitled “Creative Children Creating Change” looks at building: Identity of oneself as a person who can develop knowledge about sustainability; Identity of oneself who looks at things differently; Identity of someone who uses creativity and innovation; Identity of a person who is able to explain thinking through the arts and through oral literacies.

We wanted to connect our three kindergartens with an overarching framed question to guide our thinking. We wanted the children to build agency, responsibility and citizenship. Build knowledge about sustainability. Build theories and problem solve. Our over arching question was, “How can we be KIND and RESPECTFUL to our EARTH?”

This question serves to bring children back to a discussion surrounding the need for finding new ways to repurpose materials. Of course the concept of sustainability is deeply embedded in this endeavour, as we have many discussions surrounding why it is important to do something about our landfill issues as well as other ideas surrounding sustainability. In this way we proposed that this ongoing engagement is not only a space to do activity but a space to begin and engage with long sustained conversations with children about very important issues to us all today.

Conversations

Conversations became central to our project to understand the theories children were developing about our topic. We respected the pedagogy that, “In order to know we need to listen.” Our way of listening to children is to have supportive conversations. We use real materials and pictures to hold and discuss, then ask the children to draw. Observing of children drawing and listening to their self-talk as they construct their ideas gives a window into their perception.

“Jelly fish looking like plastic bags in the Ocean”
“That rubbish goes in the bin, the turtles get choked. It is sad.”
“There is a plastic bag and it broke. It had handles. There
were two sharks, they ate the plastic bag and got sick and died.”
“The plastic bags trick the turtles.”
“The turtles eat plastic bags because they look like jellyfish.”
“The wind blew the plastic bags into the ocean.”

Throughout this project we have made essential space for these conversations. The sharing of ideas and perspectives, listening to each other point of view became paramount. This took time to slow down so voices could be heard. As we listened to each other the group as a whole gained knowledge. Taking time to go back to the larger groups and explain what we were doing in the studio became essential to the way we moved the ideas forward and collaborated as a whole.

Narratives

Children often explain their thinking through their stories. Using self-talk, children develop and construct meaning about the world. We have utilised the genre of narratives heavily throughout the project and have noted that the children have used it in their methodology continually. In the beginning we offered the children a recycled object and asked them to create a story of what may have happened to the object. The stories were used as a way of framing knowledge. Our stories were humorous, full of imagination and creative. But each story told a moral truth the plastic doesn’t break down and it is added to the delicate eco system in the natural world and becomes a problem for the animals with which we share the world.

As we offered children provocation and experiences to challenge their thinking, explore new concepts and research, we have ensured that we have made essential time to notice and listen to their voice. As we observed children tell us the things they had learned in their manipulation of materials, their drawing and their explorations we realised how connected they were to the narrative. We noted children playing with the OHP Giraffes, having a conversation we decide to offer children the provocation of asking what would the Giraffes say about being kind to our EARTH. This ideas served as a stimulus for offering children a way for their drawings to come alive. After showing the children it was possible to make their images move we set about the task of writing three
animations with different groups.

Making our drawings come to life.

Our animations were developed through the children narratives. As we reflect back on the project we can see clear connections to our original discussions and provocations. Through their story telling we can see what is important to them: Family, Responsibility, a need for action and shared respect and responsibility for our shared planet.
These are some of the solutions they have dreamt through the creation of their animations.

The children developed their stories in the kindergarten rooms in different ways, drawing, drafting and refining their story, using shared drawing, role play, aboriginal story, helicopter story and questioning. The educators and children developed their ideas, once the scripts were set we worked out the props background and characters that were needed. Children in each group collaborated to make items and props and backgrounds. We explored how to use the camera by making play dough, our drawings and recycled objects move. We then began to film in small groups. Children developed understanding of different roles to complete a shared task; taking the photo, re-arranging the scene, making decisions on the direction of the character and watching the monitor to make sure that the new image was still in shot.

This was very complex work. We were amazed at how quickly the children adapted to the new technology, the limitations and ‘rules’ that animation camera created.

“You have to move the object a little bit.”
“Your hands have to be out of the shot.”
“It is easier if one person takes the photos and others move the picture.”
“You need to play back the animation to check that the scene is right.”

We began exploring how to edit and enhance our images by drawing digitally into our screen. Finally looking for sound effects online, making our own noises and saying the words to complete our animations.

The laughter and comic nature of our creations was joyful. We are so proud of the work the children put into these creations.

Please see a connection to our Animations on tube here:

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