An Art and Wellbeing project for The LIPA Primary pupils and the school community. Developed by Rebecca Oakes, Art Subject and school Artsmark Lead, Greg Parker, Headteacher, and Jayne Seddon, Artist in Residence.
When schools were closed during the lockdown in March, we could only anticipate the impact upon children’s mental health and wellbeing. We couldn’t tell them when they would see their friends and teachers again. No one knew.
As home learning quickly became the new norm, it was apparent that art was a great way for us to stay connected, to keep the children creative, and to give us all a little optimism. The Colours of Kindness project was initiated as a home learning pilot. We asked the children to notice the colours around them on their daily colour walks. We wanted the children to explore colour theory, artists, colour in the natural world, on their street, gardens, in the city - and to think about how various colours can make us feel.
At LIPA Primary School, we use the Arts as a way of supporting our children's wellbeing and helping them to articulate their emotions. During lockdown, we quickly realised just how important the Arts were in helping our children manage this huge change in their lives, Rebecca Oakes
Pupils were encouraged to take photographs, dress up, make drawings, prints, paintings, and installations all in the colour of the week which correlated with the NHS rainbows in windows. Teachers initiated creative responses by sharing photos of their favourite colours on the school Twitter page, and the childrens’ work soon came flooding in.
As anxiety around the daily news briefs intensified, this project was a reminder of the transcendental power of art, the abundance of colour in the natural world, and each other: how community and kindness can lift our mood. During Lockdown, we offered ecological art workshops which were delivered via Zoom. For the children still attending school, art and music were taught every day, by teachers, the artist in residence and the music team.
The whole school community started to get creative, having fun and sharing encouraging comments. For children who were missing their peers and teachers, it was it an insight into each other’s lives outside of school. We all enjoyed recognising the iconic Liverpool landmarks and seeing each other. (We were not surprised in the slightest that the Headteachers’ contribution was inspired by his passion for football.) The level of engagement and enthusiasm energised us, so we developed The Colours of LIPA project, eight days of art and creativity for every child to take part in as they returned to school in September. We focused our Artsmark journey around wellbeing during this time. We continued to embed art and creative thinking through the Teaching and Learning Policy, and Project Based Learning using Professor Bill Lucas’ Creative Habits of Minds approach.
During May, we took part in Liverpool LightNight, a City-wide cultural celebration event, and delivered a digital event, sharing art and performances via Twitter:
Each year LIPA Primary takes part in Light Night, celebrating our passion for art and the natural world by sharing our project Revolutionary Nature at The Liverpool Oratory. This year, amid these challenging times, we would like to keep connected and creative, by taking part in an online version. Native Species encourages a happening of ecological art aimed to engage audiences in cultural conservation. We ask how our home planet will change, and biodiversity can sustain if we make green space for future generations.
We will be sharing documentation of our children’s botanical drawings, as they create a wildflower garden at The Oratory, and studied the William Roscoe collection at The World Museum. We will share performances throughout the evening from the school Sign Choir, Music Team and mum Soprano, Rachel Harland, all via our Twitter page: @LIPAPrimarySch.
The children attending school during May also took part in a socially distanced drawing day outside of The Oratory. They enjoyed making botanical studies in chalk upon the pavement, spaced a metre apart, for the public to enjoy as they took their daily walks.
Returning to School
We used colour association and grounding through colour as children returned to school, embedding the school Thrive mental health approach. For children experiencing anxiety, using colour can give them access to a familiar language, and enable them to express more complex emotions.
As we began to plan for our children's return to school in September, we knew that supporting them through this transition was essential. When planning the sessions, I felt this was a fantastic opportunity for our children to gain a deep insight into colour, how various colours are created, how artists use it in their work, the history of different colours and their importance in the world. The outcome for this project was for children to use all of their knowledge of colour to mix and name their own colours. These unique creations became The Colours of LIPA. The children really enjoyed exploring colour in a variety of different ways and showed such pride and ownership in their learning. All lessons were designed to link to the national curriculum, and Early Years curriculum, objectives and were a great way of plugging the gaps in learning after 6 months of being away from school. Rebecca Oakes.
My favourite colour is yellow because it makes me smile, Eesa, Year three.
The Eight Days of Colour was a great opportunity for professional development, to team teach and see how teachers use visual art and music to underpin learning across the curriculum. The children met the project with great enthusiasm, and all reported to be happy being back in school.
Brigit Riley’s work is really wild, Rueben, Year Three
Using the universal language of colour made the project accessible to all years. For Phase One, learning primary and secondary colour mixes, Phase Two, learning about Op Art, and Year 6 working with both visual art and music to create their own graphic scores.
Logistical planning was key at this stage. The Senior Leadership Team carefully risk assessed safety, and each class became a bubble. We ordered art materials for each child, and allocated time for any materials and furniture used during workshops to be deep cleaned. Amid all of the rigorous planning, we wanted to ensure that a creative learning environment was maintained.
Art is a hands-on practical subject and involves supporting children with drawing and developing fine motor skills. Standing at the front of the class felt strange initially, but the children adapted quickly, and enjoyed art as before. The projects eased the transition back into school, and supported the children into a relaxed, positive, and creative approach to learning. The feedback from teaching staff was positive, and they also enjoyed taking part.
For Year Six pupils, who were under more pressure in terms of the recovery curriculum, we continued to deliver the project one afternoon a week, for the first term, as an Art Enrichment project.
The Artist in Residence and Music Coordinator, Rachael Diop collaborated to create a project around colour and sound. The children were introduced to artists, composers and musicians who worked with graphic scores, and were encouraged to create art and colours from sounds as various instruments were played in the classrooms.
We acknowledged the unprecedented political climate around us, and the Black Lives Matter movement, by sharing art and music as the children started the day. While we recognised the importance of learning from the Masters, (many of whom are dead white male artists) - we wanted to celebrate the voices of black, female and also living artists. So, for example, we share Frida Kahlo’s’ painting, Viva La Vida, while playing Nina Simone. We played Ella Fitzgerald’s’ One Note Samba, while sharing the artwork of Yayoi Kusama. We are continuing to develop the graphic scores for public art events during 2021, as the children really enjoy this process.
Our Artsmark Action Plan, and the impact of Covid:
Art projects since March have been primarily focused upon supporting emotional wellbeing, communication skills, and resilience. We also noted positive impacts upon confidence, friendships, and reduced stress and anxiety. We tried to prepare for every eventuality and wanted colour association to be an accessible language, and where possible, a way for children to communicate if they were experiencing anxiety but couldn’t articulate their fears. We also wanted to get a gauge of where the children were at emotionally, and to identify where further support was needed via one-to-one interventions and creative workshops. We saw the positive outcomes as staff engaged with the project. This enabled us to identify where further visual art continued professional development should be offered for the rest of the academic year. For children, the project has increased their colour theory knowledge. They thoroughly enjoyed mixing paints and creating and naming their own colours. It has also given them a way to communicate mood and acknowledge how they are feeling via a visual language.
As Artsmark Lead, I am incredibly proud of what we achieved during such an unpredictable time. We acted quickly and worked hard to continue to provide opportunities for our children to be creative, innovative and stay connected and happy during what must have been a very strange time for them all. As a team, Jayne and I worked together to find new ways of sharing and celebrating learning; this has really shaped our journey and has helped us with continuing to support our staff, children and wider community in this 'new normal’.
Our children love art, music and celebrating culture. We really hope that through celebrating our children's successes and through giving them real-life experiences, that we can build their confidence, resilience and prepare them for the future. Rebecca Oakes
The full effects of the Pandemic on children’s’ health and wellbeing may take some time to evaluate. Teachers have been under incredible pressure, delivering the recovery curriculum and keeping schools as safe as they can be. Managing their own anxiety levels and making sure every child in their care is doing well while navigating new ways of working, and communicating via Teams, and experiencing a general Zoom overload. They have demonstrated real resilience and compassion during the most difficult times. To have the Headteacher support the art projects has been key to their success:
The Colours of Kindness Project was an innovative and creative way of bringing our school community together at a difficult time through the arts and music. We are very lucky to have colleagues with the ability and diligence to lead the project for us.
The project was undertaken at the height of the national lockdown when many children weren't in school. It had a profound impact on staff in school who were able to contribute to it and see the impact it had on the children. The response from families was terrific. They were keen to be involved at home and in school and it demonstrated how the arts can bring people together at a difficult time.
Seeing the completed video production for the first time was one of those special moments which don’t come along very often, and I know that sentiment is shared by other staff, our parents, and all those involved in our school. Greg Parker, Head Teacher.
In terms of the context of these projects, the time for Art and health to be at the centre of educational values is now. That all children are artists, making art, and having a voice, has never been more relevant. Our aims for children to continue to be attuned creatively, and for art processes to become habitual, we hope, will give them the agency to have the resources and language to develop lasting resilience.
Our talented arts council children are currently busy demonstrating their considerable drawing skills, which will be shared digitally to keep the rest of the school pupils, and teachers up to speed, and practicing their techniques. They are making short films and developing workshops to share with other schools.
In spite of the uncertainty of the remainder of this academic year, the children are already planning public art events for 2021. How we create the work and share our practice is continually evolving. However, the fact that they are excellent ambassadors of art, and wonderful role models is clear.
Jayne Seddon, Artist in Residence