by Sophie McCabe
Darnley and Cardonald Primary Schools have now completed their Out to Play Drama Artist Residency with me and wow, what a project to summarise! As a Drama Artist I feel I’ve gained a huge amount of skills, confidence and experience this year, so I will try to briefly cover what I see as some of the most important project experiences and learning for myself, the children and the staff.
Water and Oceans Week was a wet and windy whirlwind of whooshing waves (with plenty of real Scottish rain thrown in!) We looked at the importance of water for our planet, with all the classes diving into their imaginations to the ‘Enchanted Loch’ on their playground map, spotting sea life with their underwater explorer cameras en route. Children were asked to listen to a shell, or look into the Magic Blue Watery Ball, and imagine what they could see or hear by the sea – crashing waves, crabs scuttling, the ice cream van, sharks chomping, seagulls screeching and more were imagined. All the classes took part in under-the-sea creature themed games using the famous GIANT BLUE PARACHUTE! Creating waves overhead, they tried moving like Sharks, Crabs, Fish and Octopus… or, should I say, Octopi?? Classes used team work to send the ball to different class members, and finally got to sit under the ‘ocean’ while their classmates created the calm and stormy seas above.
The youngest classes acted out the basic water cycle together, largely inspired by ‘The Little Raindrop‘ by Joanna Gray and Dubravka Kolanovic, as shown to me by one of last year’s Chirnsyde Primary teachers. Middle to upper age classes used devising drama skills, splitting into groups to show the cycle’s different stages (evaporation to precipitation and condensation, some new big words to pronounce!) into our rivers and oceans. The oldest classess used water fact cards and invented TV advert-style performances to communicate important water messages (ranging from water waste to ocean pollution, to famous local water ways and the current over-fishing crisis). Younger classes enjoyed an interactive Scottish Selkie story, very excited to leave with the idea that they could in fact all be distant relatives of the fisherman and his Selkie Bride, while older classes heard the darker folk tale of the Water Kelpie that lived by Loch Ness.
I also had the chance to attend an external CPD workshop, run by Ben Mali for Eco Drama, at Pirie Park Primary School, which was not only a chance to meet with this year’s Drama Artists Sarah Rankin and Dan Serridge, but to refresh and be inspired by Ben’s wealth of ideas for bringing outdoor learning, imagination and stories into a school playground.
We were also excited to officially launch Eco Drama’s Second Out to Play Resource Pack, which you can read more information about here!
Fresh from attending the CPD session, I had plenty of ideas to lead teachers in a planning and support session, ahead of their Teacher Led Out to Play Sessions. All the teachers seemed to find both of Eco Drama’s resource packs useful places to start when planning their sessions, along with a few practical ideas that I demonstrated in nature connection, drama and storytelling and a chance to discuss their thoughts ahead of week 4.
Week 4 saw all of our teachers lead their own Out to Play sessions, which was a fantastic experience for myself and the pupils, and the teachers also seemed to find the opportunity a beneficial chance to try out some new methods and ideas. In light of this during Week 5’s CPD (for all teachers, not just participating classes) I gave teachers a few points of positive feedback on their session, and presented them with Out to Play awards for their different strengths. I felt it was important to focus on said positive achievement, not only because drama skills and outdoor working are not within everyone’s training or area of specialism, but felt been for some, intimidating to try for various reasons. However the results were fantastic! Many teachers made links to nature topics or stories which linked with their classwork and they all really got into the spirit of Out to Play, bringing fun, creativity and interactive outdoor learning all into one short outdoor hour regardless of weather! From memorising stories to bringing in pre-collected conkers and twigs, extra effort made these sessions memorable and exciting for the children.
Mrs Wilson – Winner: Most interesting use of storytelling in a drama exercise. Mrs Wilson’s class explore Autumn wildlife and created nature art and alternative endings to “The Chestnut Tree at the End of the world”.
Miss Logue – Winner: Most creative vocal storytelling from memory. Miss Logue’s class explored Autumn wildlife role-playing animals and creating nature art outdoors.
Miss Lavery – Winner: Most exciting nature games and play-based learning. Miss Lavery’s class explored underground wildlife and worlds role-playing animals and collecting leaves for art work.
Mrs Gillies – Winner: Most effective combination of nature learning with imagination and drama. Mrs Gillies explored various species from The Survival Guide book they are reading using drama.
Miss McCall – Winner: Most lovely early years storytelling from memory. Miss McCall’s Class role-played creatures, used Nature themed Story Stones and explored the Grumpy Tree Story.
Mrs Hall – Winner: Best use of nature props for more than one activity. Mrs Hall’s Class used Nature themed Story Stones to go on adventures and met a Dragon in their story.
Mrs Buchanan – Winner: Most interactive early years story told from memory. Mrs Buchanan’s class explored the prehistoric times, dinosaurs and Tyrannosaurus Drip Story.
Miss Cummmings – Winner: Most creative theme-linked prop (handwritten tea-stained letter) Miss Cummings’ class dug under the ground and went back in time to explore Dinosaurs and fossils.
Mr Gaffney – Winner: Most fun outdoor storytelling from memory. Mr Gaffney’s Class travelled to Africa, exploring warm climates and the Awongolema Tree story.
Mrs Colrain – Winner: Best use of Teacher-in-Role method and ‘Stepping Within’ a story. Mrs Colrain’s class brought alive ‘The Butterfly Lion’ story they have studied in class.
Ms Allan – Winner: Most immersive and multi-sensory session. Ms Allan’s class used their senses to explore real autumn leaves, describe the trees and visit an imaginary bonfire.
Mrs Coull – Winner: Most Positive All-Weather Explorer’s Attitude. Mrs Coull’s class explored polar landscapes, penguin-huddling in real life Scottish rain, Flat Stanley and the Littlest Polar Bear stories.
Concluding Out to Play sessions were led by myself in Week 5, focussing on the human impact on our planet. For younger classes we looked at the basics of litter and recycling, with all classes acting out ‘The Story of Plastic’ in ‘Helicopter Stories’ Style. Most groups remembered to bring pieces of household recyclables, which we transformed imaginatively into creatures. Older classes focussed more on puppetry skills as younger classes enjoyed some free-play. Finally, we looked back on Out to Play with pupils being asked to reflect briefly on the project, and pupils writing, drawing or speaking a wish for nature. Pupils’ wishes ranged from hoping for animals and people to live in harmony, wishing for cleaner oceans, hoping for more recycling, concerns for endangered species, a desire for more greenery in their world and many wishing for nature to stop being harmed by human industry. Working with the classes has certainly left me hopeful that despite our global environmental crisis, the next generation want to be part of a change in the way humans view their part within the earth’s fragile balance.
Out to Play has been a hugely enjoyable experience again this year, in particular I feel the launch of the second resource pack and the continual improvements to the project structure, have helped Out to Play become a valuable staff and school development opportunity. We heard at both CPDs how teachers and management had further plans to continue on working with outdoors, drama and storytelling, including things like planting and teachers regularly working outdoors for various subjects within the curriculum. I was glad to hear that many teachers also refreshed or gained confidence in imaginative storytelling from memory, and using drama and play for learning, and could begin to see new possibilities within their playgrounds.
I would like to say a huge well done and THANK YOU to all of the staff and pupils at Darnley and Cardonald Primaries, for making me feel so welcome and for getting into Explorer Spirit no matter what the weather brought us, I’ve had so much fun going Out to Play with you all! I would also like to thank Eco Drama and Ben Mali for their continued support in developing my practice and the project this year, and Sarah Rankin for bringing in her early years expertise during this residency. I’ve heard wonderful things about Dan Serridge so I’m sure the next residency will be exciting and unique.
Enjoy your adventures everyone!
by Sophie McCabe