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This week’s blog is written by Kate Woolley, a Year 4 Teacher from Little Ridge Primary Academy. Kate and her classes have been part of the Start project for the past three years. 

Can you describe this year’s project? Which artist have you worked with and what exhibitions have been looked at?

This is the third year that I have worked with the gallery on the Start project and this year, the artist we worked with was Joseph Coelho.

Our first project was related to the gallery’s collection of works in Drawn Together: Artist as Selector exhibition. When walking around the space with Joe, a work that really stuck out for me was a piece by Lisa Milroy titled, Search Me, 2014. It looked like a collection of all the things you might find in a lady’s handbag. I felt that it would also be something that would interest the children as they are always collecting things in bags, drawers and in secret places in their rooms. I then thought the work that they generated could be very personal to them.

We were concentrating on developing the children’s writing skills back at school, so the workshop that I planned with Joe was vocabulary based. We used Milroy’s work as a stimulus for writing about things they would like to have in their own collections of things.

On all of our trips to the gallery, the permanent collection and exhibitions have always interested the children and I think it’s nice that there is such a variety of works on display to inspire their ideas. Working with things that they wouldn’t necessarily see every day and in different ways really helps to develop a range of skills.

Joe was great and the way in which he worked and helped the children to explore the different forms of words and how to put them together, really supported them to think about how to use the paintings in a creative way, with no right or wrong answer. He also introduced them to monologue writing, something that was a new concept to them. The monologue writing that was generated from this initial idea that an object/character in a painting could speak really captured their imagination and some fantastic work was produced during the gallery visit and back at school.

What has been your favourite part of the project?

Working with the artists has been a real highlight because in terms of CPD (teachers continuing professional development) it’s great to have a different input, someone that can help direct your teaching and provide new and refreshing ideas, as well as pick up on the things you know that you have got to accomplish with the children.

Also the sense of achievement from the children, bringing them here, many of whom have never been to the gallery before - it’s a great opportunity to witness the children’s first experience of it and to see just how much they enjoy visiting the gallery, it’s great. The exhibition at the end of each year has really stimulated excitement amongst the children and a real sense of pride when their families are invited to see their work.

How have you found collaborating with artists and the gallery?

It’s been a joy to be part of the Start project and I really have enjoyed it. Over the past three years, the correspondence between the school and the gallery has been good. It’s great to know where you are with a project and be kept up to date.

Planning with the artists on the CPD days has been really important too, because during the session you can have a good look around the gallery and choose things you’d like to use to form an enjoyable educational visit for the children. You get to plan straight away and what’s nice is that the artists we’ve worked with have been happy to make loads of suggestions, but also fit those in with the particular areas of the curriculum that we are focusing on at the time.

I feel I have learnt so much about how to use the gallery to find different ways into looking art and writing, with some great results from the children.

What has been your favourite exhibition at the gallery to date?

Definitely Gillian Ayres: Paintings from the 50s.
06 August, 2015
Written by Kate Woolley