Its June, its Spring and its half term: the perfect time to start a new challenge!
The 30 days wild challenge asks us to make room for nature. You can sign up here to receive a wallchart and ideas pack. You’re asked to perform a random act of wildness each day: this is something that brings a little bit of nature into your life. There are lots of ideas on the 3o days wild website, as well blog posts and links to local events.
As with many initiatives now you can also follow what’s happening on social media:
On Monday I was lucky to attend a creative session in the School Experience Library, at Park Campus, University of Northampton. This session, arranged by Academic Librarian, Hannah Rose and Library Learning Services, brought two author illustrators to share with us their approaches to writing and illustrating.
First Birgitta Sif shared with us her journey to being an author illustrator and her process of writing. Birgitta’s first books was ‘Oliver’, a book about a little boy who was different and how he found friendship. As she read it to us she helped us look more carefully at how the illustrations enriched the text and gave us clues and extra surprises. These included searching for a mouse who present in each picture, finding a character who appeared in the middle of the story actually appears in the previous pictures too and using the text inside the pictures to guide us in the story.
She also showed us how she makes a story by making small sketches to get to know her characters, making tiny prototype books and by drawing the world of the character and the places and people or animals the character encounters. She draws from life and imagination and when she is stuck she goes for walks outside and plays with her children.
Then Dave Barrow shared his work with us. His first book was ‘Have you seen elephant?’, a book about a game of hide’n’seek with great visual jokes throughout. As Dave read it to us he helped us understand how he had drawn the illustrations by sketching from life, from videos and trying things out for himself.
Dave also did some live drawing taking ideas from children to give us ideas about how to construct a character through drawing and talking. We could really see how this could lead to imaginative stories as the children talked with Dave. Dave helped them think about how the personality and characteristics of a character could be apparent in a drawing as well how to show clues about the character in the picture so that they didn’t have to be stated in the text. he also showed us how to show the size and scale of a character. He also answered questions about how long it takes to write a story, how many drafts it takes and how sometimes an idea has to be let go to improve the story.
What can we learn?
Make little prototype books to try out and sequence ideas.
Draw and sketch from life.
If you get stuck go outside for a walk.
Practice drawing if you want to improve.
Draw a character to get know it before you start to write it into a story.
Link characteristics of the character with the story you’re going to write.
Keep drafting and improving.
Some of these are things you might try in school or when you are writing.
As part of the session we also made our own character to take away and maybe write a story about, inevitably, mine was a cat!
This week both FDLT Year 1 groups visited Newton Field Centre in Northamptonshire.
They explored how a visit to a Field Centre could support learning in geography, science,history and art. The Field centre teacher, Georgina Hand and a University of Northampton lecturer, Ken Bland, led activities such as measuring the flow of the river, measuring the profile of the river, collecting and classifying invertebrates from the river and using them to measure the environmental quality of the water. The subject knowledge associated with these areas is crucial when supporting learning and this is an area where visiting a field centre with specialist teaching staff can be invaluable to schools.
The students also explored the molehills in the field to collect rocks and stones an these were compared and classified later. The app iGeology and large scale maps of the area are useful resources for this kind of activity. They explored the field for evidence of human use in the past – the pond and the dovecote both being sources of food for the large house that used to exist on the site.
Whilst in the field the students created land art using just the resources available to them in the large field. Because of the time of year there were lots of dandelions in flower and as clocks – a great source of material for making. It was interesting to see of the range of art made featuring circles, lines, colour, contrasts, using techniques such as weaving, placing and pressing down. By now it will all have changed and returned to nature. Finally the students collected leaves to make their own key to the vegetation at newton as a model for making a key on their school sites using the plants around them.
We are very lucky to have our own Forest School at Park Campus, University of Northampton. A few weeks ago the FDLT Year 2 students spent a morning there as part of their learning Beyond the Classroom module to explore more about the Forest School experience.
An album of photos of their experience can be seen here.
Some of us who teach on FDLT, BALT and other education courses along with students and local teachers are part of an Erasmus+ project called Digital learning Across Boundaries – DLAB for short. We are working with educators in Belgium, Denmark and Norway.
In May we are sharing a free online course based around our theme this year; using digital technology to support learning outside. The materials will be based around our themes:
art in the environment
You can read more about the course and sign up here.
If you are working in schools you will be able to access stimulating and creative approaches and activities that you can use with your pupils. Part of the course will be based around online sharing of activities and outcomes through a Google Community.
The project has a twitter account: @DLAB_Erasmus and a website where you can find more details and examples from the project.
As part of their PDT 2016 module focused on enriching learning beyond the classroom and school site the FDLT Y2 (UN) group investigated using ipads and apps to create the experience of visiting other times and places.
The students worked in groups. First they identified a time or place to use as the basis for a short film or animation. Some of the suggestions and senarios they worked from are on this Padlet.
The students had to devise a scenario or story to explore and then research to collect still images and / or video to use as well as write a script for the scenes they would record. Some students chose to explore history: the founding of the city of Rome, the moon landing, Egypt, mummification; others explored science: the seasons, the body; some explored places: the jungle, going on safari and others explored a festival: Diwali. Their films can be seen here on a YouTube playlist.
The opportunities for learning are wide ranging when working in this way. In order to make an informative and worthwhile film the students (or pupils) have to research purposefully for visual sources such as images and video or make their own where none exists. They have to plan and write notes and script for their oral contributions. They often have to make props and artefacts to use in their film. Some of them also used other apps to add to their film such as Chatterpix, pic collage and photo editor apps. Throughout they have to collaborate and work as a team to reach an end goal. The resources used to support this session can be accessed via the Padlet above.
In this session the students had freedom to explore and work with the tools in order to learn how to use them. Some students were familiar with them from supporting pupils with them back in their schools. Supporting pupils to use digital technology creatively and embedded within their learning is an effective way of changing pupils from passive users of technology to makers and creators with control over what is produced.
This week each of the FDLT Year 2 visited art galleries to explore how learning can be inspired and developed in locations other than the classroom.
The UN group travelled to Avenue Campus to look at the exhibition ‘Under Construction’. This is an exhibition of photographs taken by the second year BA Hons Photography students and records the changing environment of Northampton. This year the photos were taken at the old Royal Mail sorting office and development of the new Waterside Campus.
The group explored how the exhibition could be used to support learning in art and across the curriculum and then went on to take their own photos around a theme or idea of their choice. They chose and edited their photos on their phones or tablets, presenting them as photo collages.
The Leicester group visited New Walk Museum and Gallery in Leicester. They explored the collection of Victorian and modern paintings, trying out starter activities to get pupils used to being in a gallery and focused on art and identified and discussed pictures that could be connected. One of the travelling exhibitions at the gallery was ‘Sublime Symmetry‘. This was an exhibition by the William de Morgan Foundation and was focused on art and mathematics. There were resources for younger pupils to use (hanging up in activity bags), Key Stage 2 mathematics exploration workbooks and art leaflets: some of the supporting resources can be seen here. The students could also explore the dinosaur display, the Ancient Egyptian section and a hands on science exhibit.
Some of the discussion in these session will help them work on assignments in their enriching learning beyond the classroom module.
This week in Year 2 of the FDLT course we have been exploring the making of digital books by educators to use with their pupils or by pupils supported by their teachers and TAs. Exploring some examples was a useful way in to this session and these can be seen on a Padlet.
In the session each group used the BookCreator app to make a collaborative book. The BookCreator app is quick to learn to use and has lots of potential. In this first experience we only used the tools available within the app but many other tools and apps can be used with the digital books made in BoolCreator. There’s a basic introduction to the app at this link.
In order to make a successful collaborative books some joint planning needs to take place. One key decision to make is whether the pages should by portrait or landscape. If pages are to be made on separate ipads and then combined in one book then the page orientation must be the same. The language features of the book must be discussed so that they match the purpose and audience of the book. The Y2 students were making a book to inform and advise new FDLT students about their course and where it takes place. A list of possible pages was made from which pairs of students could choose. Students could then use any features of the app to create their page. This included choosing a blank page to work on or a comic panel page; using audio, video and photos; choosing font, colour and size as well as page colour.
After each page was finished they were airdropped to the tutor ipad where they were combined in to one book. The books can be seen below as YouTube videos. In the near future there will be more sharing options from the app which could be more book like in nature.
There are so many possibilities for using the making of our own personalised digital books to support learning or create meaningful learning opportunities – its a tool well worth exploring.
This is a time of year when although its only half way through the education year we often feel inclined to review, reflect and make resolutions to improve our lives.
If you’re on Twitter look up #nuture1617 where you can read the reflections of educators on their 2016 resolutions and what they intend to do in 2017. They often explore the difficult blanace between home and work life which is a challenge for everyone working in education.