Short story: Miðstovnurin (2022)
Miðstovnurin - follow-upreflection.
Miðstovnurin is functionally divided and does not have traditional living rooms.
How have you experienced the co-creation between artist, educators and children - and how have the children's perspectives been expressed?
It was a success to get one of the older people to join us today (yes!), but there must be room for them to come and go according to what catches them and what doesn't catch them. It's funny to observe that when you think some of them aren't going to join in, they do, some of them tread carefully, but they do. One shy girl who is cautious, she chose a tiny little instrument. Then she was in.
"It works well to go all out without a break, it's good for keeping the energy," says James, the artist. Educator: "And James captures what the kids come up with when we play and play, one boy said: "Wooooh..." and James repeated it and did something about it, that was cool. Because when you capture children's initiative, i.e. you reinforce what the children come up with, it often hits the mark".
When we were outside, the kids could easily have a break. When inside, they lose the flow if they have a break.
James has tried to think and find a general model that runs like a common thread through everything, which will be a model for what they do in the future. This includes capturing what someone is doing and then doing it with everyone, going through it as it should be and then everyone doing it.
Educator: The best thing was in the orchard, with few children, time for immersion, watching the children as they discovered: "Oh, I found a sound, come here, James, can I shout out loud?". There was room for one-to-one - unlike the last trip, where there were so many people. There is not enough energy to wonder together with the children.
They have been on a sound hunt to capture sounds in a jar (which was recorded with a microphone) out in nature and inside shops. In the grocery store to look for sounds, in the refrigerated counter, they found a package of chips to rattle, stuck a microphone to someone who was emptying cardboard boxes of goods, and they also went after a sweeper with the microphone.
As a result, they now look for sounds in the institution on a daily basis: "what does that paper hanging there sound like, what does the chair being pulled out sound like?"
The sounds they found with James, they collected in jars, James recorded it, it was used in a ceremony where the sound was poured into a speaker and then it came out...while everyone sat mesmerized and listened.
Reflection and point of attention going forward. With the first group we were curious, with group two the adults know what's going to happen. Maybe that makes the adults less enthusiastic with group number two?
Communicating with instruments worked well, they were good at communicating in pairs. The little ones "can't wait for James to come", one has just turned three, he loves it, can't wait for James to come, and they have heard a nursery child proudly tell the others: "I'm going to James....!"
The kids love "We will Rock you" which they made sounds for with James.
James: "Some kids have a hard time getting into the beat"
Educator: "It seemed that using the body first and then playing instruments worked better" They used to drum "We will rock you" on their body/thighs, so that's what they are used to.
Many of the kids are completely lost in James. They have watched the TV re-run of the symphony orchestra with James playing percussion several times (in kindergarten).
The institution experiences that the pedagogical environment has changed in the sense that children stand up (forward) that they would not otherwise have expected to do so. For example, a 5-year-old girl was the conductor when they had a PlayArt concert for the entire institution. In the past, they wouldn't have dreamed of asking her, but the artist had no preconceptions and therefore expects different things from the children, which the staff are surprised that the children are capable of. This means that the staff meet the children differently and with different and new expectations. Their stories about the children are more nuanced.
They have learned a lot about the group of children. One who doesn't "cooperate" at all doesn't listen, but he joined in and took initiative when they were looking for sounds. They have become a little wiser about some children: The children cooperate, "just not in the way that we call cooperation. We often think they don't listen, but it could be that they just don't want to do what we want to do. Children who we say don't cooperate, we saw how well they cooperated, for example, in a parking garage we were in. "Buup" they said, and then: "Stop!", then they stopped, they cooperated really well. When we lead the group and we know what we're doing. Maybe we have learned from this to change our way of communicating, we must not just become such hoods (which are noisy in the background), the children can feel that their input is taken seriously.
The educator gives examples of an effect of PlayArt:
A girl banged on two buckets: "Elin (educator), I didn't even know I could make music". "They get the experience of mastery".
A little boy has always been noisy, and we've always thought so, we've scolded him because he can't be any quieter. He has always thrown things - and laughed when it rolled away. We see something else in him now, we can see that he is musical. When he drives the stick behind the bars, it makes a noise, just like when he throws, and then he laughs. He and LegeKunst have fit together so well, he has been given space, he has made rhythms, etc. He has done incredibly well.
"It's very much about how you put the group of children together, consciously, unfortunate constellations don't work. Therefore, you have to be conscious of what you do.
We haven't had much experience with organized activities because we moved here recently.
"How do you draw sounds?" one child asked when they were drawing sounds. It's out of the comfort zone for some. Some people who are too cool, don't look for it. You just let him.
"Hvussu skal man tekna ljóð?" Spurdi eitt barn, tá tey skuldu tekna ljóð.
Instructive, says James. I felt at the mid-term evaluation that something was starting to take shape, I had a model that was starting to take shape. James thinks that it wasn't quite as easy to get the kids involved as was said in the Nordic House. "It has been improving to see the kids respond, challenge to get them all involved together."
"Maybe success should not only be measured by how many children participate, one way to see success (says educator Alma) is how many participate, the numbers; but they as staff have been able to see lots of development in individual children.
What we did was to alternate between: being in time and then they were allowed to be wild and silly (it worked really well because it gave them a break). James would like to take elements of that and apply it to other activities. "It takes quite a lot to take the children into it".
There are two boys here who have never had anything to do with each other. Suddenly, James gave them an assignment together. They had to communicate with each other using instruments.
There's so much that happens when they're talking to instruments, connection, making a connection, connecting, seeing each other, spotting each other, that's what we're doing (not learning how to make rhythms, that's not the point here) but making a connection.
The collaboration between artist and educators has been incredibly good, they have had good and fruitful evaluations after every time they have been together, good dialog: our strength, your strength.
After the first 4 times, the plan to link the nursery to the kindergarten became even clearer, because then the educators were given 75% of the responsibility and they could focus on it in the preparation, experimenting with sounds to connect the nursery and kindergarten.
Regarding the wonder question.
Managers and staff say that they "don't think so much about the physical anymore, i.e. the lack of a physical middle building, because we have created contact between the children". There is more co-creation. For example, when they have made Christmas decorations, they have (now) chosen to mix children and adults from both departments.
The goal was for both kindergarten and nursery to be together, but the purpose was to connect the children, "The little ones in the nursery know us in the kindergarten now, they are used to being here now". And even though it's been a few weeks since James (the artist) was last at Miðstovnurin, he still lives in the children's minds.
A girl showed the teachers her drawing of her family. And when the teacher asked about the "extra family member" in the drawing, who was standing in the middle of them, the girl replied as a matter of course that "that's James".
How do pedagogical staff act and think differently in the wake of LegeKunst?
What used to be considered noise, they now say they see as something the children find exciting, e.g., play (nursery). They have some "really annoying" radiators, the children use them, they "slam them". Now the adults can play rhythms on the radiators themselves. PlayArt is also beneficial for the older nursery children, is the conclusion.
The institution is happy to have worked with a sound artist. They never imagined that they would "get a drummer". They think that sound hunting is very, very good - also for nursery school children.
One thing they don't plan on doing in the future is persuading children to join. They had "two guys who didn't really want to join". They say they shouldn't have persuaded them, they were never really interested or hooked. It's important to include the children's perspectives.
Action learning. At Miðstovnurin they have done the same thing twice on the same day, with the reflections between the groups and after both groups, i.e. worked with the same wondering question in both groups (consecutively on the same day), i.e. they have noted and evaluated what happened in the first group of children, and have then adapted the activities for the group that comes afterwards.
What are they still curious about? They are excited about what it will be like to hold on to, e.g. that James wanted it to be an aesthetic experience, that they should forget time and place, the staff have a perception of the children that the children "want to, they want to, they want to cooperate". They also manage to opt out. And get back into it next time. The staff has learned that the fact that the children opt out once does not necessarily mean that they won't come back next time.
Points of attention to take forward and different actions after PlayArt: The staff say that there are certain children that they would never have asked to "step up", act, play theater and the like in the past, but now they do. They tell us about one girl: "She doesn't "offer" (to perform, act) but now we know she has it in her.
They say that by working with James on LegeKunst, they have changed to be more clear about what they want. When James was "in charge" they followed him, they got a good rhythm and had to tighten up when James was done. Now they do it in such a way that when there is PlayArt, they "welcome and explain: now we will do this and this, and then this and this will happen". And they believe that this has led to some children feeling safe enough to "unfold". Unfold more than you can see on a day-to-day basis. They say: "James was more comfortable leading the group than we were. We were perhaps good at singing and playing games. The fact that the adults are confident, and confident in what they do, means that the children are confident".
In the future, they will use the same principles: to be clearer, more structured, exactly when they want to do something with the children, then they intend to create a clear framework".
They don't think they can spot new friendships between the children after LegeKunst. But children who never noticed each other before the LegeKunst program have collaborated and created art together during the program. They experienced children "talking together" with instruments, children who otherwise never communicated with each other. So they say it's important to "just recognize each other's existence".
Because they have now gained insight and knowledge about some things in the wake of LegeKunst, they act consciously. One girl they thought they knew that when they go on a trip, it's always so difficult, so they don't take her along because "she can't handle change". This was to protect her.
When they looked at the image documentation, they could see that she was really upset that she wasn't included. So now she's in. "You also have to be aware that the children are developing. Those who are quiet, they also follow along. They often sit and watch, but that's why they're involved, even if they're sitting off to the side".
When James was at Miðstovnurin for the last time, a concert was held for all the children in Miðstovnurin. They played two pieces.
For the first piece, a few children were allowed to conduct, while the other children "painted with brushes in the air" and had to follow the conductor. Then they had to play a piece called "samskifti" (communication). Where the children stood in two lines, and then James asked who would "samskifti" - and then the children joined together in pairs to "samskifti" with instruments. All the spectators stood still and watched.
The staff who have participated in LegeKunst believe that those at the institution who have not participated have gained a new image of LegeKunst. The other colleagues have found it a bit annoying. But when they went to the concert, they saw something completely different. LegeKunst has taken up a lot of energy and resources. Therefore, they will take a break in December and wait with the rest (part 3) until January or February.
The staff group is not that stable yet, with more people being hired in the near future and others have resigned.
Points of attention and different actions going forward
They want to structure themselves more. They have learned something about getting more organized.
The plans for January/February/future are to experiment with different sounds. Maybe we will be more outside. Now we want to make instruments. Get instruments, have a feature with instruments and rhythms and sounds. In the future, when we do PlayArt, we will take the children who want to join in.
The question of wonder
We made Christmas decorations together - across the units. They are the result of our collaboration around PlayArt. We have succeeded in using PlayArt to connect the units in the institution.
Communication in the windows has improved (windows in the nursery and kindergarten). We used to just walk by (indoors). Now we pay more attention to them (in the nursery) they look down at us and wave, and now we wave back. They visit more often. We are more aware of the other children, aware of contact and connection. It's going to be easier to have a run-in at the kindergarten when it gets there. The adults have become more aware. We're not as "worried" about the little kids coming over for kindergarten.
They were very impressed with James, he learned the names of the children right away. They weren't just a project for him, they became special because he saw them.
James finds it very easy to work and collaborate with educators, it's easy to share ideas and input, "the co-created ideas expanded my idea of what it is to make music, feel the children, it was differently challenging to work with younger children, we did something, it didn't work so well, then we changed it for the next group of children who came afterwards, we got the opportunity to try it out in the first group and reflect and evaluate - both groups had the same wondering questions and then we could change it according to what happened. Sometimes a child didn't want to do it, and it rubbed off on the other children. Then we adapted it for the next group. Then we got 1-2 children to join in - and then it infected all the others to join in.
Do children play differently or with others than usual?
There are fewer conflicts. Possibly because of PlayArt, but also because we are finally settled in the new building. We had one boy who wouldn't do anything until he knew he could do it. But he looked up to James so much, then he would participate, he was involved enough. And by the end. He was all in. He became part of the community. James had no preconceptions, so he made the same demands on him as he did on other children.
Now they think they can see that he is not making as many beadboards, but that he is drawing more. His drawings were hung up (normally he doesn't want his drawings hanging up) one of his drawings was hanging up, the other children walked by and saw it.
He's more confident to try. He doesn't reject suggestions as much as he used to.
They also believe that the nursery children get quite a lot out of PlayArt and they say that PlayArt is not age-appropriate.
"The concert also allowed us to show our colleagues what this is all about. We could perhaps have involved them more so that it didn't become an annoyance. The concert made them see what the children had gained from LegeKunst".
Originally, we were worried about having a concert.
But they did as planned and they were "just in it". This is something we have done together. This is LegeKunst, not an exhibition project".
Points of attention for the future
Possibly do something visual instead of audio - to bring the departments together, connect and connect.
Staff believe that they have learned a lot, even though they haven't physically connected the departments, they have a different attitude, now they do things together, like Christmas decorations, they are "much more connected now". And those who have participated in LegeKunst are the ones who are the most connected. Socially connected. When we had the art workshop: the adults were like children.
They intend to emphasize experimenting with the children, letting them do different things when they start again with PlayArt: "We get out of our comfort zone".
James:" I used to get caught off guard when things didn't go as I had planned: Deal with chaos. Join the chaos, jump into it, learn to see patterns in behavour, dynamics among the kids.
Play and Art are the same. You have an idea, then you start, then the idea takes over, then you're part of it, you go into flow.
Educators: "You have to create a safe space for the children to dare to experiment. When we changed it to telling them what's going to happen today, when we prepared them, when we had a plan, it gave them the courage to express themselves more. It's been a very compact process, incredibly intense. Once it was three times in one week.
But when the concert was over, all the chaos and strain was forgotten, everything was good, everyone was included.
The language was a "barrier", but it worked well because James was so clear in his body language - and the educators will take this on board.
What does James take with him?
To see and be aware of the "child in the adults" he works with. And to dare better to "let them go with the idea", to dare to be in chaos. It's not as "dangerous" as it may seem to not have everything under control.