Once upon a time there was a girl called Laura who dreamed of a bag of gold. She set off on an adventure to find her bag of gold in the big city. On her journey she met a fox, a bird and a fish. She helped each of them and they gave her a stone, a feather and a shell to help her on her way.
Laura came to the city. Everyone was talking about the same thing.
An eagle had stolen the baby Princess. Whoever could rescue the baby would get a big bag of gold.
The fox came to Laura and said, ‘ I know where the baby is. Follow me’
The fox took Laura to a beach. She looked across the water and saw an island. On the island was a mountain. It went up and up and up and up and up. At the top of the mountain was the baby!
A flock of birds carried Laura in a sheet to the top of the mountain to rescue the baby.
The birds got tired and let go of the sheet. Laura and the baby fell down, down, down,
A shoal of fish came and carried Laura and the baby to shore.
They baby was safe and Laura was given a big bag of gold as her reward. The King was happy, the Queen was happy, Laura was happy. In fact, everyone lived happily ever after.
The first week of our project was designed to establish a strong relationship with a core group of students and to create a safe environment in which to work, play, explore and experiment.
The whole project was linked together by a journey story. The story was told at the beginning of the day with the aid of a storybag. Students helped tell more of the story every morning. Each day focused on a different environment within the story. Each daily theme was supported by welcome boards on the door to the room, display boards within the room and an artist/ art form of the day.
The story involves three animal helpers and we introduced the idea that in this first week we would be the students’ helpers, while in the second week they would be taking on the role of helper, passing on some of the skills they had learned to primary school children.
We quickly established a predictable routine that still left plenty of room to explore a wide range of activities and new experiences. The room was divided into two areas – a sharing circle space for storytelling, drama, singing, planning and evaluation – and a ‘doing’ area for artwork and practical activities. Each day had a pass-the-parcel to introduce various activities, always beginning with five layers linking the five senses to the daily theme. Once an activity was completed we would return to the circle for comments on the activity and pass-the-parcel to introduce the next part of the day.
At the end of each day we gathered in the circle to reflect on the day.
Throughout the week all the activities were based on the story, reinforcing the central themes whilst introducing new ideas. Each day we created at least one thing – a piece of drama/ a chorus/ a sound orchestre etc which would be incorporated into the performance of the story.
First impressions are essential and our first day concentrated on new beginnings, new friendships, exploration and discovery. We concentrated on getting to know our companions for the journey and giving them space to get to know us.
Activities included: map reading; picnic; games such as ‘I spy’; discovering hidden treasure in sand with the aid of magnets or brushes; mapping out the storyline of the story; creating a beginning and chorus for the story and aboriginal journey paintings.
Artform of the day: Aboriginal journey paintings
Activities included: Sadly this day was cut short due to heavy snow.
However, we still made the most of the morning exploring a woodland through all our senses.
Artist of the day: Andy Goldsworthy
Activities included: exploring sounds of the sea from holding a shell to your ear, to pebbles in drums, to making the noise with our mouths; leading into drama creating driftwood sculptures; listening to and creating poetry inspired by the sea; weaving a sea rug and looking at ‘Three world pictures’ to inspire decorating mirrors.
Artist of the day: M. C. Esher
Activities included: Body sculptures to music; fruit and vegetable prints leading on to a market based sound orchestre; making pebble animals; putting the story together with all the work they had created during the week.
Artist of the day: Christo
The second week of the project was about our students taking responsibility and taking charge. We had a day revisiting the first week, practising the story and using sock puppets to explore teaching methods. We then had three days where our students performed the story in the morning to a group of primary school children with a variety of special needs. In the afternoon they partnered one of the children from the morning and taught them an arts activity.
Our students were involved in laying trails of footprints from the primary classrooms to the hall; setting up the room ready to teach the children; clearing up; gathering evaluation etc as well as actually showing them the activity.
Evaluation and reflection were an integral part of our two weeks with the students. During the first week at the end of the day we gathered in a circle to talk about the day and each student talked about what they had liked best. Different days had slightly different formats – adding to the scrap book, putting messages in a bottle and writing fish wishes.
In the second week we wanted to move the format on from merely ‘my favourite thing was …’ We had two parts to our sharing circle. Firstly we gathered with the primary school children and asked them to write a leaf for the thank you tree so that they all made a leaf for their senior partner – either asking someone to write for them or drawing a picture. After the primary children left, we then discussed with our core group how they felt the day had gone and filled in sign supported evaluation forms, trying to encourage them to remember their feelings at different stages of the day. We videoed the first and last performance of the story and watched it back with our students, at least some of them have also shared the video with their form tutor and classmates since.
We felt it was vitally important to get feedback from staff as well as pupils.
Foremost among these were the three support staff that worked with us throughout the project. We were also very interested to hear from our students’ teachers. Although they were not present for most of our time with the group we wanted to know what they heard from our students and if our project had any effect on them outside of the time spent with us.
The support staff were asked to fill in evaluation forms with some general questions and also asking them to look at the specific goals as a business and enterprise college and identify which activities with our students had fulfilled these aims.
All staff involved with our senior students were invited to a debrief at the end of the project.
We sent questionaires home to the parents of our core group to see how much the students had talked about the project at home. During the project the students were sent home with various items – a booklet of photographs, framed artwork, charm bracelets with a charm from each day of the first week, decorated mirrors etc. We wanted to know if having material objects to prompt conversation helped. We also felt that it was important that the parents knew what their students had acheived and wanted parents to feel as involved as possible.
‘All the students involved have really enjoyed the project’
‘During the project all the core students involved seem to have increased in confidence and demonstrate improved language skills’
‘The students coped very well with the change from their usual routine and adapting to a new routine’
‘C was buzzing back in class talking about the project. She burst in on the last day talking about playing wink murder and demonstrating the horrible way Sonia had died!’
‘This project has been a real battle for E, but she’s enjoyed it, stuck with it and she’s been very chatty this week.. Together with Forest School, this project has increased her confidence as well as her ability and determination to cope with new situations and being in a group’
‘I was very impressed how S stayed on task and focused for the whole performance, she wouldn’t usually be able to sustain concentration for that length of time’
‘I’ve had the longest conversation with M this week I’ve ever had!’
‘K’s confidence has grown a lot over the project.. At first she was nervous about coming down the corridor and wanted to hang on to a support worker’s arm. By the second week she couldn’t wait to race down on her own.’
‘A’s behaviour was much better than we had anticipated’
‘Marvellous! When are you coming back?