Rachel writes: From February 2014, I have been artist in residence at Como Childrens Centre, PerthComo Children is a unique early learning centre serving children aged 2-5 years in a beautiful home-style setting with the creative arts at the centre. The early years educators there, develop their practice from
many contemporary theorists and pedagogies, such as the Reggio Emilia approach to early childhood and Howard Gardner’s multiple intelligences influencing good practice. I visit there one day a week to research and develop investigative journeys with the children and staff using puppetry, shadow play and story telling approaches. Every day there, I come away feeling inspired!
My initial plan was based on Imaginary Leaps tissue play and puppetry sessions, playing with white tissue moving through to exploring colours, encouraging imaginative play and developing into story ideas.
In the early sessions, a pathway of white tissue paper was laid on the studio floor and I modelled to music-listening, moving and blowing the tissue. The children exclaimed joyfully and began to play with their tissue paper, this prompted visual symbolic references and making up rhymes.Exploring all things that fly, birds, fairies, butterflies and superheroes, the children offered their ideas.
Modelling how to form the tissue paper into a bird for one child, we very soon made a flock of white birds, and they began to talk to each other , the children instinctively developing story threads. Another child made ‘the tiniest bird ever’, a scrap of tissue on a straw, and it was what he believed it to be, showing original creative thinking.
After the Imaginary Leaps session and morning tea, I tell the story of Cloud Child as a one woman show, which was a challenge, but with help from staff who attended my puppetry and storytelling professional development session at REMIDA, (see https://dnapuppetry.wordpress.com/2013/12/10/imaginary-leaps-at-remidaperth-wa/) we were able to tell the essential story of Cloud Child with the original puppet and props. There were some emotional responses when Cloud Child had to fly away, and many questions asked. Every week the children asked for Cloud Child, again and again! some send messages to the sky in paper aeroplanes or call cloud Child on the telephone, so the sessions took another direction , led by the children.
We begin to explore Cloud child’s world, with tissue clouds, using the cotton sheets and moving into play with the Dacron clouds. exploring white light with torches and the overhead projector, I use shadow play in the sessions to explore colour, and guide the children into devising story threads about cloud childs adventures in all areas up in the air- night sky & stars, space, over mountains shadows. Some weeks, i tell nursery rhymes with shadow puppets, but the children always ask where Cloud Child is? and want the story again. So the childrens ideas of Cloud child’s adventures are played with in the weekly sessions, every week I bring in a range of props and materials, often from their prompts to continue the play. We look at the clouds in the sky, and spend time discussing different kinds of clouds and then playing with different materials, red angry clouds, or cool snowy cloud, even a robot cloud! Como Aunties feedback -Ali ‘The shadows are so beautiful & magical’
Retelling the Cloud Child story every week in storytelling and play is a fabulous opportunity to reply and repeat the key elements n the story which connect to the children and become embedded through the creative practice.After Easter, prompted by the children telling me, ‘we are cloud children!’ we move into another area of play, exploration and experiential learning in Cloud Child’s world.
With staff , we make a set of small Cloud child dolls or poppets for the children to play with on large white cushions, with different white cloths and the dacron clouds. They instantly play families, making up new songs and stories, about the weather today, Cloud child going round the world and meeting astronauts in space!
At storytime I replay the children’s ideas and story threads , performing them back to them, improvising with whatever is at hand for story time. The children are really attentive and captured when I refer to the investigations they have experienced. Showing elements of their play work affirms their self esteem, confidence and sense of place in the world.
This in turn gives me a wealth of new creative ideas for future practice, our next investigation in development is an installation of many different kinds and sizes of clouds. Working title ‘Up in the air!’, this will be a cloud children world made and imagined by the incredible staff and children at Como Childrens Centre.