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Friday, September 24, 2010

True Stories

A really interesting day.  Most of it was spent with the Latvian Minister for Education. She was in the country for a short visit to explore the work of Creative Partnerships. We visited Chalfont’s Community College and Ashmead School in Aylesbury. Ashmead is a special place it is in the middle of an area social deprivation and provides an island of mystery and imagination for the pupils who go there.
Learning is literally an adventure as children arrive in school to find a car overturned on the field. Later they discover metal objects all over the school: hanging from the ceiling is a drum from a washing machine, for instance. Over the next few days clues are found pieces of paper fall out of the register which when studied can be made into a map. Children begin to discuss and explore these phenomena. They contact the police to report the incident of the car – and the police attend. Gradually the children discover that all this is the work of the Iron Man and they then find and work from the book. I say work but, of course, that is not how the children perceive it. It’s just school and it’s always like this. This term they are discovering junk and rubbish all over the place every morning. They are making dens with it. But I cannot say more because they don’t yet know what is going to happen next.
This is a wonderful example of learning through first hand experience and discovery. These are real investigations for the children and, although  carefully managed by teachers, the children can take the story in the direction they want to. Often the story is supplemented by role play and visits by adults in character. So Tinkerbelle and a couple of 'lost boys' (ex pupis) visited last year when they were exploring the story of Peter Pan.
There was also the time when all the children were 'evacuated' while exploring the 2nd World War. But thats another story made real by the teachers at Ashmead School.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Space to learn, Stowe School

Today I was priviledged to attend the opening of the new Art School At Stowe. Designed by Rick Mather Associates who have also designed, among others, the new Ashmolean (Oxford), The Dulwich Picture Gallery (London), The Towner Gallery (Eastbourne). This is probably the most extra-ordinary art studio and gallery space to be found in any school.The original 1930s Bauhaus building has been rediscovered and revived creating an interior of articulated white spaces that open up dramatically revealing glimpses through the building and beyond. Students' work is displayed everywhere and in these differently articulated, blindingly white spaces, looks extraordinarily vibrant and exciting. The core of the building opens into a double storey gallery flooded with north light. The natural light is supplemented with state of the art gallery lighting with controlled ceiling light boxes such as that found in the other contemporary, world class, galleries developed by Rick Mather.

In the newly created open space facing the new building stands a major Lynn Chadwick bronze - looks stunning. The building features a new gallery that currently holds a wonderful exhibition of Lynn Chadwick sculptures, studies and photographs: made possible through the family connection with Stowe.

It is true that Stowe is not short of extra-ordinary, world class architecture for teaching in, but for an art teacher (me) this was a good day.

PS Throughout the day staff at Stowe were very keen to make the point that they valued opportunities to work with, and share practice, with other schools and teachers. It will be good to follow this up and I am grateful to Brian (Johnson) for his, invariably hospitable, welcome. In the meantime the Lynn Chadwick Exhibition is on until 11 December of Mondays to Saturdays from 2pm - 6pm by appointment only. Contact Kathy Campbell (Marketing Manager) 0n 01280 818355 or email to arrange a viewing.