Region: Sjælland
Municipality: Holbæk
By: Holbæk
Year: 2020
Artist/Collaborator: Anita Nielsen (drama/narration), Merete E. Lundberg (music), Bente Kjær Pedersen (visual arts), Robert Parr (theatre)
Day care: South Children's Home

In Søndre Børnehus we have worked with Model 6 - Other.

We are a bit of the butterfly model, a bit of partnership and also PlayArt into everyday life.

In Holbæk municipality there is, among many other things, currently a focus on mathematics and science, and we had in the district a requirement to work with measurement, weight and balance, which we took into LegeKunst.

All staff expressed a desire for a boost in relation to working with aesthetic learning processes, and to reach as many staff as possible we wanted to work inter-aesthetically. Both children and staff would be introduced to and experience drama, music and visual arts.

For this we brought in the following artists:
From Holbæk Kulturskole: Bente Kjær Pedersen, Visual Artist and Merete Elisabeth Lundberg, Musician/Drama and theatre teacher Anita Nielsen, and artistic director and director at Teatret Fair Play Rob Parr.

LegeKunst started in Søndre Børnehus with a fun, active and educational workshop day for all staff. Here we got an introduction to the process with LegeKunst and an introduction to the three subjects.

Our first wonder was:

How can we in Søndre Børnehus create programmes in which children are more strongly shaped towards being engaged, curious and life-loving children with faith in their own abilities and a desire to participate and contribute in larger communities?

 We were invited to participate in the LegeKunst project and entered the project with great expectations, curiosity and a bit of a shaky foundation - without knowing where we would end up.

We knew that we would start in week 35 and finish in week 48 and had decided in advance that the special participants would be children and staff from 2 special children's groups.

All children and staff had to see the performance 'What if' at the Fair Play Theatre.

Together with children and staff from 2 selected kindergarten groups, the visual artist and drama teacher were to play with weight, measure and balance, and from there create a lasting physical magical space.

Together, music, visual arts and drama were to culminate in a performance by the children and educators involved at Teatret Fair Play.

The programme would end with a playful interactive art exhibition at Elværket.

The children's own performance had to be played out with a focus on the process, which meant that no one could know in advance where it would end.

Together we would explore a new and different world, where there was no fixed goal, but much was guided by the theme and the children's input. A slightly different process, where through play, wonder, experimentation and engagement, we learned a lot about ourselves and others - both children and adults. We have had a fantastic process guided by specially selected very committed and skilled professionals.

We have learned that if you can be curiously present in the moment, you can create a learning process where there is room for everyone and where no one is wrong. The same can/has also been somewhat challenging for some staff who need to be more in control. Some adults have at times had an experience of not being able to engage or not being able to engage the children enough, measured by their own experience for example of letting go of control, 'likes' and ambitions. This is particularly interesting as with the present researchers, the children's statements, as well as the large amount of visual material that has perpetuated processes and moments, we clearly show that the children are very engaged, interested and that, despite differences and challenges, they are all working with concentration and curiosity. We have learned from watching the children and their engagement and enthusiasm.

We have also learned that the adults' own commitment, joy and enthusiasm is contagious for the children. Staff report that they can see that the project covers the whole curriculum. We have also learned that adults need to create learning spaces where experimentation, play and learning are allowed.

But how did we get there?!

First, the staff set new sub-danger points:

  1. How can we create more sessions where children get so caught up in the flow that they can't bear for it to stop?
  2. How can we, through PlayArt and especially aesthetic processes, create space for the common 3., where children and pedagogical staff explore together, in a certain direction, without focusing on certain results?
  3. How can PlayArt provide new input into the work with curricula and other pedagogical tools in the House, so that the focused work with children's learning is much more based on the whole child and education? (Learning here understood as a transfer effect of the 'magic' moments)
  4. How can work with aesthetics contribute to new games in everyday life?
  5. Can aesthetic processes make everyday life and children's learning more exciting and relevant for both children and adults?
  6. Can we use aesthetics to provide opportunities for children to go on expeditions throughout the day and on their own initiative?

The first point of wonder was quickly experienced and seen.

At the end of a drama session, one of our boys starts crying. Berith (teacher) picks him up and asks why he is crying, as the boy has clearly enjoyed taking part in the programme. The boy tells us that he is crying because it is over.

Other times, it is a pedagogical effort to get the children out of their roles or it takes a very long time for the children to finish painting.

During the process, a new boy has joined the group. When PlayArt is finished, his teachers want to give him a more personal welcome to the group, so they invite him to choose his favourite song from his old nursery and the boy wants the 'What if' song, which was specially composed for this project. The educators ask: "Well, isn't there a song from your old kindergarten you'd like to sing?" To which the boy replies, "Well, in my old kindergarten we used to sing 'What if' all the time."

A sign of commitment is that children go on expeditions on their own initiative (6)

Berith Jensen, Educator: It's funny. Our kids weren't really into dinosaurs at all, but they are now. They come and ask for books and investigate further.

Christina, Assistant: It's crazy as the children tell. They are very excited and even though I wasn't there the first time, the kids have told me everything. And they really play it up when they come back.

In the entrance of the kindergarten, a 'paint-road-play-cabinet' has been created with a lot of clues to the story. In addition to weights, there are small cans with stones in different colours, small figures, buttons, measuring tapes with numbers or colours, bowls, dishes and much more that can be arranged, balanced and played with, etc.

There's a lot of play here, and children impulsively start singing songs or retelling them as they measure, weigh, play and create compositions. It is interesting what other materials (3 and 5) can do for imagination and new play.

All the children have also told a lot at home, even the children who don't usually tell their parents much. Many parents have come with stories about that.

What has been very interesting is that all the children have been so engaged and are still so after the programme has ended. Berith Jensen, Educator: It's crazy. The children keep singing the songs and playing the story. It has really made an impression. They're not finished at all. I don't think I've ever seen anything like it.

When the children had to perform their show for their parents, all children participated with great joy, enthusiasm and concentration. It was still play, but a practiced play that all our 42 children could participate in at the same time and place, which is very atypical for our group of children. All the children's parents came, which is definitely not usual. And that is precisely working on education. That all our children feel important in the community. That it is their imagination, works and ideas that have been recognised and have created the narrative and the scenography. That they all stand out successfully - including all our special children.

So what has been really special about this programme has been the huge commitment of all the children involved, who have all experienced success in engaging with and contributing to the community. All participating educators and staff mention that we are all around the learning flower. For some of the adults it has been a wonderful journey: Didde Rasmussen: As an educator, I have been inspired by experiencing, meeting and working with professional artists who are dedicated in their fields...

The LegeKunst programme has been a welcome "rediscovery" (for me, anyway) that theatre-play-image-art-music-body-fantasy-creativity are important pedagogical arenas and/or tools for learning. The PlayArt programme is an important counterbalance to the school-like learning that we have been "immersed in" in kindergartens for many years!! - and have practiced.

So - personal/professional benefits:

Inspiration for my daily pedagogy - and a learning vision (that I had almost forgotten!!)

In practice: Try to give more space to imagination/creativity.

Thus, we have learned that by focusing on a theme, on the children's experience, play and education - through music, visual arts and drama/theatre, we can create programmes where the children's engagement, zest for life and contribution to the community are at the forefront, while at the same time we get around the curriculum.

We have also learned that the artistic processes that may be goal-oriented but are not goal- or outcome-driven can be difficult for some adults and liberating for other adults to be in.

So our new wonder may be:

  • How can we take the learning about children's outcomes from thematic play with a focus on children's experience, play and formation forward in Søndre Børnehus?
  • How can we further use the experience of how other materials than the usual pre-determined toys can initiate children's play and own investigations?
  • How do we create learning spaces that focus on children's imagination and experience?

At the same time, we can see that it has already left its mark on the way staff work.
It's December and the kids have to make Christmas presents. It has been very production focused at times. Now the staff were inspired by the past sessions and the children's clues, so instead of quick production they continued mixing colours and using a method the children had been interested in during the session, the colours were now mixed and painted onto the fabric by putting a ball of paint in a tub and letting it rotate. A wonderful result, focusing on the children's interest, experience, discovery and wonder, rather than on production.