Artist Ceri Davies worked with Ronald Openshaw Nursery and Education Centre to support them in delivering clay activities. She led a practical session for teaching staff based around expressing ideas with clay. Then, as part of the end of term family day, parents and children worked with Ceri on a drop in basis, creating individual pieces of artwork under her guidance. Ceri was supported throughout the day by Tim and the Nursery team who were able to put their new clay skills into practice!
As with all projects, planning was key. Ceri visited the Nursery to develop ideas for involving parents in a messy activity with their children. Tim says: "We immediately trusted that Ceri had a good grasp of Early Years pedagogy and the issues that were important to us as practitioners. Ceri listened to staff and adapted her ideas along the way, responding to the fluid nature of an Early Years setting." Similarly, Ceri immediately related to the ethos of the Nursery, but it was one feature of the playground in particular that hooked her in: "I was relieved to find a "mud kitchen " there! And I agreed that learning should be through play, exploration and fun."
As the project got underway the benefits of collaboration were clear. Tim says: "It was obvious that Ceri had the experience and the motivation to provide the quality that is a hallmark for our setting. Working with her gave us an opportunity to address an issue - messy play - in an innovative and exciting manner." Ceri says: "Tim has such a good relationship with the children and parents that they trusted me immediately and took on board what I had to offer."
Ceri working with a child at the Family Clay Day
Ceri and Tim both brought very different but equally valuable qualities to the relationship: "Ceri brought a real expertise in the subject matter of clay that interested and motivated staff pupils and parents alike", says Tim. And as for Tim: "Practical support, humour and a bit of anarchism!" says Ceri.
So what did they feel was their biggest achievement from working together? For Ceri it was having an environment where she could faciliate learning across generations: "It felt very natural and easy to pass on my skills to the parents and children. The way the generations worked together was the abiding memory of the project. Watching fathers with tiny pre school children and grandmothers getting creative was lovely." Tim agrees: "Nearly all of our children were able to work alongside a family member at their own pace during the day. Adults were able to see how creativity has an intrinsic motivation for everyone."
And more importantly, as Tim is keen to stress: "A little bit of mess shouldn't put anybody off from accessing such rich learning opportunities."