Introduction and background to the project
The purpose of the project was to ‘create significant opportunities for and experience of, creative approaches to communication, exploration and expression’ in two early years settings.
It aimed to be an innovative project with a focus on:
• the development of creative education
• the involvement of parents and carers in their children’s learning journeys
• the mentoring of an artist in a role which facilitated young children’s emerging creativity
The Playful Beginnings Project had an additional focus of involving parents in the learning journeys of their children.
Central to this approach was the idea of providing an innovative learning environment for the children, shaped by the use of recycled, open-ended materials. These ‘intelligent materials’ have the characteristic of encouraging the children’s investigations and explorations, they do not impose a direction, but pose questions and invite experimentation.
By inviting parents to collect these safe, simple and flexible materials, and then to observe the play, learning and investigations that result, parents and carers were helped to see the value of non-prescriptive playthings, and to adopt a more facilitating approach to their children’s play.
This use of recycled materials also provided an important message about giving another life to cast off objects and so had further environmental benefits.
This action research project had the following areas of activity
• Continuing professional development sessions with the educators to establish shared understandings and vision and values at the outset of the project
• The lead artist residency sessions
• Mentoring trainee artists
• Creative resourcing with open-ended recycled materials
• Documentation- producing the ongoing record of the project narratives- photographic and text materials- as a tool for supporting the children’s thinking, sharing the work with parents, carers and others, and informing the evaluation.
• Mentoring the project- supporting artists and educators in their action research
• Evaluation-a summative evaluation which makes explicit the children’s understandings and experiences , and also the role of the creative enabler- both artist and educator- in supporting the children’s thinking