REGION: Southern Denmark

Short story: GAIA (2021)

Can we find new ways to play in our playground? Can we do it with inspiration from storytelling? And can we do it in a way that creates space for children to be creative in the development of the stories?

In short, what does it take to make it happen and, most importantly, can it work with a group of the youngest children? That is, the oldest nursery school children and the youngest kindergarten children.

- How have you experienced the co-creation between artist/cultural educator/cultural school teacher, educators and children and possibly researcher?

Our collaboration has gone really well. Artists took the lead, but from there it was very much an ongoing dialog about what we should do.

Our subsequent evaluations were particularly exciting. We gave ourselves plenty of time to talk things through, so it became more than just "Well, that didn't work" but also turned into longer professional discussions and thus new suggestions for what we could try next time. It was also really good to have the researcher involved in the discussions. She helped to enrich the discussion and bring in new questions that we hadn't thought about.

And most importantly, everyone seemed to take a keen interest in the children and their experiences.

- How have children's perspectives been expressed/included?

Partly through the characters we played with. Without the children's input, they were nothing and what helped develop the shapes was what the children were captured by. As part of this, we already made observations beforehand in relation to what the children were interested in.

You can't follow all the children's paths at once, but you can try to make it as open as possible. So when we worked with storytelling here, there was very little that was agreed in advance and we weren't locked in by the framework, so everyone was allowed to go off on a tangent if something unexpected happened.

So in practice, we were working with a story that wasn't pre-written. An example of this was that our story was initially about the characters Bo Bjørn and Pia Panda.

But along the way, some children became interested in the characters Big Thief and Little Thief, who they knew from another context. They then got involved in the story and became the focal point: How could we catch the Big Thief and the Little Thief?

In between two workshops, traps were set up in the playground in the hope of catching the two thieves.

During the meetings, we reflected a lot on the children and their experiences along the way, including what we could do to follow up on the things the children were interested in along the way.

- Do children play different games and with different people than usual?

There has been a great positive community response to the groups and the story of Big Thief and Little Thief. So the game has spread to the entire daycare center and seems like it's here to stay.

This part has been important for us, as otherwise they can easily become the linguistically strong and extroverted ones who are first on the field in such games. But now it looks like others are also coming in afterwards.

One of the children has been talking a lot about Big Thief and Little Thief and has brought the game home with her. At home, she had lost something and was now convinced that Big Thief and Little Thief were behind it. So one of the days she brought a bicycle chain that she would use to catch the two thieves.

- How do pedagogical staff act differently than they did before PlayArt?

This has given us 4 "educational play figures" that can be brought into play in almost any situation. The four characters have also been adopted by colleagues and are therefore used across the different rooms. So we have a kind of primal narrative in our daycare center that almost all teachers use in one way or another. Subsequently, they have been supplemented by new characters who have their own stories - and in this way, storytelling is now a part of our pedagogy.

- What has it been like to work with action learning?

It has been exciting to experiment together and it has been especially good to evaluate immediately - it makes you sharper in your professionalism. It all becomes more nuanced and we get around many positions.

- To the artist/cultural mediator/cultural school teacher, if present: What have you gained from participating in PlayArt?

The artist has gained a lot from participating in the program. Both in terms of new knowledge about the target group, but also through the very deep pedagogical discussions that followed each workshop.

- What are the pedagogical staff still/now curious about?

How long can you keep a story going? How can it be sustained without doing much?

Do you want something new to keep happening? Something that adds energy to the stories?

- How will you use art, culture and aesthetic processes in the further process?

Continue to work with the narrative elements that have emerged. Continue working with the new stuffed animals that have been purchased. As well as developing a small book about the game with Big Thief and Little Thief, and a staff trip to Iceland in search of the two thieves. In short, we will continue to experiment.

- What points for attention should we take forward?

If it is to live on, we as adults need to remember that we make the story continue.

- Below you can formulate your own questions and answers:

The term PlayArt was initially a bit of a mental block, it could seem a bit abstract. Maybe it should have been called "PlayMagic".