by Sophie McCabe
It feels like a long time since before the Christmas holidays, but casting my mind back I have lots of happy memories of working with Chirnsyde and Merrylee Primary Schools on the last leg of the ‘Out to Play’ Project 2017.
Since my last blog, hundreds of explorers have adventured across the playground through various imaginary landscapes, joined in with several stories, played umpteen games and devised lots of short pieces of drama around themes including waste and recycling, water, magical forest fairies, Just So stories, imaginary / invented creatures, snow, the indigenous peoples of the Amazon and more.
One of the most popular themes was hunting for clues left by Magical Forest Fairies including the Scottish Ghillie Dhu folklore story. Classes also enjoyed making magical forest creatures using clay, found leaves, sticks and twigs and making homes for them in the playground. The younger classes who took part in this workshop were asking about the Ghillie Dhu for weeks afterwards! It felt that the magical possibilities of their playground had really come alive.
Another theme which I felt was succesful was looking at various aspects of water; starting with a sensory journey to the ocean and investigating through drama, issues affecting our oceans from commercial over-fishing to water waste and pollution.
Along with being highly creative, the children I’ve worked with have proved themselves to be interested in learning about and caring for the world around them and it’s a ray of hope that the next generation seem to want to look after the natural resources so urgently in danger.
Winter is Coming!
Much as the children loved their weekly outdoor adventure, Scottish Winter can be a cruel mistress! As we moved into November and December, with temperatures at times below freezing and a LOT of wind and rain, it was sometimes a harder battle to keep up the children’s energy and focus on tasks. This continued to be a learning curve for my practice as a drama artist more often accustomed to working indoors, a few backup plans and the ability to adapt on the spot were essential! The day it snowed at Merrylee also showed how magical and exciting our weather can be for children, and this inspired me to create a snowflake themed session as the final week for Merrylee’s Primary 2 classes.
Teacher led ‘Out to Play’ sessions also took place in week 5 and were hugely enjoyable for myself and the pupils. It was encouraging to see the effect of not only the project, but the benefit of the fantastic Out to Play Resource Pack written by Ben Mali, which continued to be a great help for me also. Teachers this term explored a variety of themes, stories, songs and used a plethora of outdoor creative techniques to explore them.
I felt the teachers really got into the spirit of ‘Out to Play’ and it was lovely to see them all enthusing about the outdoors (despite the unfortunate weather for many!) I think the classes were excited to see their teachers outdoors bringing alive stories, imaginary journeys and lessons about nature through drama and games, often in a way they might not normally do. Hopefully teachers also felt it was a beneficial experience, it was great to hear that many had tried something new, either regarding working outdoors, storytelling, drama, play or creative learning. It was also fantastic to hear many teachers gained some confidence in new areas or come up with some ideas for future creative / nature / outdoor learning.
Sharings and Goodbyes…
Chirnsyde Primary school, having decided not to have a Nativity Show that year, were keen to bring their school community together to celebrate the end of the ‘Out to Play’ project.
As an outdoor, process-led, outoor project… how would I bring ‘Out to Play’ into a sharing presentation for parents and carers? Each class was going to select a short and fun piece of performance that linked to one or more Out to Play session which they had enjoyed, linked to their topic.
Having looked at the idea of outdoors for the sharing, and bearing in mind the amount of babes-in-arms and elderly relatives likely to be coming, I decided we would present indoors in the Assembly Hall.
Much different to a normal assembly, we had the whole school squeezed in. Rehearsal time was limited – we were outdoors playing and having fun until just a week before the sharing! Thanks to hard work by the teachers in such a short time, each class had a short performance they could be proud of and enjoy. We also had a fantastic friends and family turnout! Teachers also displayed the wonder boxes classes had decorated, a selection of the huge variety of linked classroom work (including nature art work, reflective and creative writing) and we screened some photos of the outdoor sessions.
I hope Chirnsyde parents enjoyed getting a peek of some of the activities we had been doing outdoors, and that they can continue the fun of the outdoors and nature with their families outside of school.
Merrylee Primary, who only had P7 and P2 classes taking part this term, were quite accustomed to working outdoors and as such, parents were regularly updated / involved with news of outdoor learning. The larger and busy school was more suited to a final reflective session rather than parent sharings for ‘Out to Play’, so we finished with a Snowflake themed session and final chance to say goodbye to Squawky the Parrot (!) for P2 and an imaginative Amazon Journey, using the school’s Urban Jungle one last time for P7.
It was sad to say goodbye to the pupils at both schools, however as the year and school term began naturally drawing to a close, so did Out to Play finish for the year. Out to Play was an unforgettable adventure for me, as I hope it was equally for the pupils. I would like to thank all of the school staff and teachers for their time, energy and enthusiasm in making it memorable for the children and families of pupils for their support. Also thank you to Eco Drama and Ben Mali for bringing me on board and supporting my development as an artist through the project.
See below for a few more photos. More will be available on the Eco Drama social media sites and some other project photos will be shared on school social media platforms or parent blogs (where appropriate).