Sightlines Initiative

promoting creative and reflective practice in early childhood education

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The Energy of Conviviality & Imagination

The impulse and experience of dance is innate in humans, an essential part of our bodies and mental biology. Infants ‘talk’ with their bodies from birth – with feeling for movement and for its dramatic message. They can co-ordinate all their body to another’s moving, to share its purpose in a dialogue or conversation. Babies excite affectionate parents to dance with eyes, voice and hands; toddlers dance together with arms, trunk, legs and feet, overcoming gravity, capturing its power to run, leap and fly.                 

Colwyn Trevarthen, Professor Emeritus, Edinburgh,  in 'Movement Languages in Early Childhood Education' 2007 (available from Sightlines Initiative bookstore)

This documentation is from a 2007 project of Sightlines Initiative with Walkergate Nursery School. There are two parts: an article and a short video. We are making these viewable to Network members (login to continue to these) and below is an extract. The article is published in ReFocus Journal 6 which is available from our online bookshop. Here is the opening extract:

How can we enable children to explore and develop their own ideas in dance?

conviv 1This was the starting point for our work together, which took place over the summer term of 2007. A dancing session took place each week and between sessions Maria worked with the children at the nursery helping them to develop their ideas further. Each week after working together with the children we met to discuss and interpret what had happened, and plan how we could continue the work in future sessions.how can we enable children to explore and develop their own ideas in dance? This was the starting point for our work together, which took place over the summer term of 2007. A dancing session took place each week and between sessions Maria worked with the children at the nursery helping them to develop their ideas further. Each week after working together with the children we met to discuss and interpret what had happened, and plan how we could continue the work in future sessions.

Dancing was already very popular with many children in the nursery: Maria had worked with many of the children exploring dance and movement over the previous two terms and had used a wide variety of recorded music, encouraging children to explore different movements, use of space and ways of expressing themselves through dance. She often incorporated themes which the children had shown an interest in. For example there had been a developing theme of play around aliens, so Maria used a story about aliens where children could explore different characters and scenarios to specially chosen music.

Developing an environment of enquiry

Although most children were very interested and engaged in this themed-dance approach, it meant that if a child had other ideas which weren’t part of the story then these ideas couldn’t be explored or developed easily. How could we develop our approach so that children exploring and sharing their own ideas became much more central to their experience of dancing?

In order to develop this environment of enquiry and interaction, we rethought our roles as adults: instead of leading the children we could observe them and engage with them, helping to develop and explore their ideas together. Instead of using recorded music we experimented with Cath playing live, improvised music, in response to the children’s dancing. This meant that children’s movement ideas could be reflected back to them in music as they were dancing. Maria decided to dance with the children, interacting with and imitating their movements.In order to develop this environment of enquiry and interaction, we rethought our roles as adults: instead of leading the children we could observe them and engage with them, helping to develop and explore their ideas together. Instead of using recorded music we experimented with Cath playing live, improvised music, in response to the children’s dancing. This meant that children’s movement ideas could be reflected back to them in music as they were dancing. Maria decided to dance with the children, interacting with and imitating their movements.

Most sessions were filmed by another member of staff, which meant that we were able to look more closely at the children’s dancing and also show the footage to the children for them to reflect on afterwards. Although Cath had played improvised music for adults to dance to before, neither of us had previously worked in this way with a group of children. We felt both excited and a little nervous about how the dancing might turn out.

Not everything we tried was successful but, on the whole, we found that the project was an extremely exciting and rich learning experience both for us as educators and for the children.

log in to download the pdf of the full article, and to view the video.

You may also be interested in related publications: The Drama of Sound', a form of which is recently re-launched on Youth Music's website, and  'Dogs, Bones & Dancing.'

The following section  is available for our subscribers: log in first to read. If you aren't a subscriber, click here to subscribe to a subscription plan to read article details. 


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Here are the main focus areas we plan to work on in the coming times. 

Educational vision into the public sphere

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2019 20 SI public facing intents

Public Projects

Click on the titles to view details on each.

  • Hundred Languages poem Celebration Reading
    Our project-invitation for a celebratory reading of Malaguzzi's poem. The aim is to draw interest and attention to 'the bigger picture' of attainable visions for education in the UK. " Malaguzzi's poem 'The Hundred Languages ...' begs for us to think about learning and teaching in its poetic and complex figurations and not in the reductionist, binary or quantitative formats that are currently normalising the landscape of education.
    In the UK we are in danger of being tied into thinking about education as something that is wholly measurable and quantifiable, where children's learning is reduced to simplified percentage points on a scale of normalcy." Debi Keyte-Hartland (read article)

The project is a door-opener to bigger actions, such as hosting an exhibit from Reggio Emilia (see below) and related awareness-raising and professional development work.. We have an invitation letter here, through which network members can approach potential readers. (If you are not a network member, but would like to suggest a reader, please get in touch via This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .)

[network members log in to read more and participate]

  • Around the world, there are fantastic visions of how education can be, arising from supporting the intrinsic inclination of humans to engage and inquire, from the moments of birth. In the UK these visions are swamped by a very 'flat' idea - that 'education' is simply a regime in which facts are to be learned and drilled in an efficient way. We want to create a campaign in which the alternative reality can by championed - that learners are not simple passive fact-swallowers, and learning should not be constructed as if they were.  Following on from initial conversations, and involving fellow organisations such as More Than a Score, Let Kids Be Kids, Early Education, we aim to create a media campaign and public online resource library of examples, with broad contribution.
  • Communicating - Principles and Language
    1. We need to connect broadly- inside and outside the educational sphere - with those who are unhappy with the current way that education is regarded and controlled.
    2. We want to be able to offer the alternatives which are available, in order to inspire the debate/campaign.
    3. We know that the language which is used on the various sides of the argument is inadequate and often geared simply to `improving the quality’ as if that were an objective entity with no value judgement.
    Whereas we know that there are massive and differing value judgements at play which are not brought into discussion. One of the hindrances is that the issues are complex ( prioritising different paradigms , including how we see and function in the world, and society’s view of that) yet the language is often unhelpfully simply advocating ‘more of’, ‘excellent’ ‘best’ etc.
    A first job is to attempt to resolve some of the language/presentation shortcomings: in our case starting with Sightlines Initiative Principles e.g. * and having an interrogative conversation (e.g. in a focus group) to test and improve communicability.
    * https://www.sightlines-initiative.com/principles-introductory-video

    See Sightlines Initiative blog: https://www.sightlines-initiative.com/parents-views/let-s-stand-up-out-of-the-box.html

    [network members log in to read more and participate]

  • Reggio Approach Exhibit

    This is an ambitious project along the lines of exhibition/advocacy projects which have been so successful in previous years, in drawing public and professional attention to the example of the public early childhood education of Reggio Emilia - and also to the possibility and need for  similar approaches in the UK. We will need to lead into this by awareness-raising projects such as those indicated above. The project requires thorough resourcing, but the evidence is that the rewards will be great.

    Here are reports from Boston and Toronto, from their hosting of the exhibit: https://www.sightlines-initiative.com/diary/the-wonder-of-learning-in-boston-usa.html 

    Click to download introductory flyer

  • Network professional formation work

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    2019 20 SI educator facing intents

    Network Projects

    Click on the titles to view details on each.

    • Working with Visual Metaphor

      Our language is full of metaphor; arguably it comprises metaphor: as educators working to attune ourselves to a way of seeing the world metaphorically, we also are working to attune ourselves to the way others see the world , and can see the word metaphorically. We are also working to figure out the ways in which we can present educational opportunities or constructs for children  in order to amplify  their potentials, to exercise their own competencies  …
      How could this research action focus inspire the ongoing evolution and detail of construction of pedagogy in Sightlines Initiative Network centres?

      We are proposing a common research project, beginning with adults thinking and working together in this and similar ways, and then proposing environments, questions and enquiries with their classes and groups of children.

      This proposal is inspired by the project ‘A Festive Thought – visual metaphor in children’s learning processes. constructed and curated by Reggio Emilia colleagues. (The link is to Reggio's Rechild Winter 2018 magazine, which features their project.

    • Languages of Evaluation

      Network Proposal: Languages of Evaluation, Actions of Re-cognition

      Education is in an era of intense external scrutiny, a scrutiny typically motivated and seen from eyes with interests other than that of education – ‘global competitiveness’, party-political positioning, social engineering, etc – and it is done almost exclusively using testing and scoring indexes from these positions. The contests between ‘policy’ and education’ are particularly intense at the moment, but it is an ongoing dissonance. The situation is likely to continue so long as ‘education policy’ remains in the increasingly autocratic hands of those with other interests, isolated from educational science. Chris Merrick's article on the Bold Beginnings controversy, and Peter Moss' position piece which she references, are strong representations of the issue. There are many other voices being raised in contest. An enormous amount of energy and intelligence is being devoted to promote and defend basic understandings and principles of education.

      Promote, Defend, Illustrate, Evolve

      Whilst actively participating in promotion and defence, it is urgent to develop our own evaluative practice. We need to understand, illustrate, evolve. And it is not possible to use languages and tools of evaluation foisted on us by mindsets and interests coming out of the realms of economic interest (PISA, baby PISA, Heckman - see quote, etc. At the very least, these external ‘measuring initiatives’ do not contribute anything useful to enriching pedagogy or children’s experiences; at their worst, we find education reduced to ‘teaching to the test.’

      [network members log on for more details]

    • We are proposing a trans-national series of presentations and discussions based on network members developing pedagogy in respect of Reggio Emilia's characteristics as described in its key publication 'Indications.'
    • Publications
      We are currently working on a book about the educational work of Mabel Barker, an outstanding educational pioneer of the 1930's who is largely unknown. We think she has much to say to educators at this time, when children need us to be strong , grounded and connected. This work is due out in the early autumn. We are also working on various publications from the reserches and work of network groups, which will be available online.
    • Are you in the geographic areas of either Cambridgexhire or the Souch Coast of England (Central)? We are discussing with organising groups the establishment of new  Sightllines Initiative regional networks - do get in touch with This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to find out more

    The page continues for network members, with further papers and participation details:

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     MEMBERS' SECTION

    There will be a video record of the discussion available later. 

    Five minutes prior to the scheduled discussion time, Refresh the page (F5 on PCs), press Play on the video screen, and sign in to Chatroll (Facebook or Chatroll accounts) so that you can comment and ask your questions live.

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     MEMBERS' SECTION

    This page is not in the public domain - you have the link becuse you are engaged in Sightlines' development work. Please do not share these maps outside of our development group.

    Reggio 'Concept Maps'

    (These use Adobe flash - if you've not got it installed, it's easy so to do: hopefullly  a prompt and link will show.)

    Fundamental Features of Reggio's Approach

    Underlying Conditions of Reggio's Approach

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    ReFocus London: Open Meeting

    ReFocus London is part of the Sightlines Initiative Network. Inspired by the practice in the pre-schools of Reggio Emilia, Italy, we invite early educators, artists and other professionals to join us in developing a reflective and creative approach to the education of young children.


    Thursday, 22nd October 2015
    at Little Jungle Nursery, 47a Amott Road, London SE15 4HU
    4 pm for 4.30 pm. start 6 pm end

     

     DOCUMENTATION AS A DIALOGUE BETWEEN CHILD, EDUCATOR/ARTIST AND PARENTS

    eloise1

    Photo: Eloise Robinson 1st Place Children and Parents’ Centre

    “Documentation finds its value when it is interpreted, reflected upon, and when the significance is constructed between adults and children.”
    Quote: Penny Lawrence article EYE journal 06/10/10

    This is an opportunity for you to:
    • listen to practitioners sharing recent developments relating to documentation
    • add to our continuing lines of enquiry by reflecting, asking questions and sharing knowledge

    Everyone welcome!

    How to get to the meeting:
    Address : Little Jungle Nursery, 47a Amott Road, London SE15 4HU
    By train : Stations a. East Dulwich (10 mins. Walk) - (good links to London Bridge)
    b. Peckham Rye (8 mins. Walk) – good links to Clapham Junction/Victoria, London Bridge
    By bus: 176 direct from Waterloo
    By car: free off-street parking

    Contact:

    Solveig Morris: Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Mobile 07939139640 (text - no voice mail)
    Caroline El-Semman: Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Mobile 07866441808

     Download Flyer

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     MEMBERS' SECTION