Snow story: Skovgaarden Nursery (2022)
At Skovgården, we are particularly keen on outdoor life, and are diligent users of a nearby forest area. We also have outdoor playgrounds for both kindergarten and nursery. But the nursery playground in particular has a lot of boring nooks and crannies that could be better used for the children's play. But what should we do with these nooks and crannies and not just decorate them as usual?
What else can a playground look like? How can you play with the layout of spaces?
And can we explore it with the children? In this case, children aged 2 to 3 years.
Can we bring the artistic into the playground to inspire children's play?
And last but not least, can we become good at playing artistic games? If we've been involved in inventing them ourselves, rather than just taking over what we usually play?
Our plan was that every time we met for a workshop, we would set up an interior design trial based on a boring gray corner in our playground. For example, a corner where we used musical instruments and mixed it with mirrors, fabric and anything else that could change the look of the room. It could be a mud kitchen set-up or a farm landscape with a farmhouse and animals. It could be a route around the playground with characters from the Babblars.
We did it in a roughly sketchy way, using the principle of the available nails, so that it could be set up and taken down quickly.
We tested 4 rooms in the playground and returned to the rooms again, so that we used the experiences from the first time for a new version and not least that we educators were responsible for the new versions.
Each room was basically an open space. When the kids visited it, whatever the kids wanted to happen happened. We just played along and found out what the kids liked and what they ended up playing. This part was important, as it's not easy to get 2-3 year olds to tell you what they think is fun. We wanted them to show this through their play and hopefully enthusiasm.
It was all linked together with a little story about 3 toy animals, Karla the cow, Grethe the pig and Hans the horse - and a suitcase with things to play with. Sometimes the suitcase was already unpacked, other times it was the children themselves who picked things up. But the contents matched whether it was a music nook or a mud kitchen, except if we thought it would be exciting to make new combinations of things.
Every time we meet for a workshop, we set up a design trial based on a boring gray corner in our playground. It could be a corner where we use musical instruments and mix it with mirrors, fabric and anything else that can change the look of the space. It could be a mud kitchen set-up or a farm landscape with a farmhouse and animals. It could be a route around the playground with characters from the Babblars.
We do it in a roughly sketchy way, based on the principle of the available nails, so that it can be set up and taken down quickly.
- How have you experienced the co-creation between artist/cultural educator/cultural school teacher, educators and children and possibly researcher?
It has been a very fun process, which the children also enjoyed. We as educators enjoyed being able to experiment with the artist based on our own ideas. The children quickly got to know the special form we had in our project. And most importantly, they just played as they wanted to, which was one of the goals.
- How have children's perspectives been expressed/included?
In a way, it was the children who did the playground survey for us. Once things were set up, it was up to the children what we were going to play. Which also meant that sometimes along the way, the children would play with other areas of the playground before returning to the specially designed area. Sometimes they brought things into the game that they had found elsewhere.
- Do children play different games and with different people than usual?
It's too early to say, but we can already see that, for example, the mud kitchen we tried along the way is something the children return to. Some of the children (2-3 year olds) have even figured out how to use the taps in the playground.
- How do pedagogical staff act differently than they did before PlayArt?
We have become more aware of the fact that we can play and experiment in an otherwise very structured day-to-day life with nursery children.
- What has it been like to work with action learning?
It has been really exciting and has opened our eyes to the fact that you can do it without turning it into a huge project. It can work in everyday life, as long as the goals and form fit what we and the children are interested in.
- To the artist/cultural mediator/cultural school teacher, if present: What have you gained from participating in PlayArt?
For the artist, it was a very exciting process, not only with new experience working with nursery school children. But also with new experience working with aesthetic forms of expression outside. This is a theme that is often done indoors, but playgrounds represent an important part of children's lives, so the aesthetic must also be present in the playgrounds.
- What are the pedagogical staff still/now curious about?
We are very interested in how we can redesign our playground based on the ideas we have gained along the way.
- How will you use art, culture and aesthetic processes in the further process?
Among other things, we will use it in relation to new things going into the playground.
- What points for attention should we take forward?
We consider whether it is important for play with art and aesthetics that we don't just build "ready-made solutions", but remember to have space in the playground for new experiments. Perhaps the most important art experiences for children are hidden there.