Bow Arts Learning recently hosted an afternoon of updates and presentations to help our Artist Educators plan for new ways of teaching as school re-open. It’s been a while since we’ve all been together, so it was great to see everyone, even if it was via video call. The afternoon covered how Bow Arts Learning, schoolteachers, and individual artists have adapted to teaching within the restrictions of the pandemic. The speakers were Siodna O’Dowd from Wellington Primary and Nicci James, Bow Arts Artist Educator.
Siodna O’Dowd, Nursery Teacher & Creative Arts Lead at Wellington Primary
Siodna gave a great insight into how schools are functioning now and what artists should consider before delivering in school.
Schools are now split into bubbles, but bubble sizes vary depending on the school. Schools have timed entry and one-way systems in place. Staff aren’t generally wearing masks, but it’s fine for visitors to do so. Bow Arts asks its Artist Educators to wear a mask with a clear panel for accessibility reasons.
Attendance is at a record low this academic year. This is due to children and staff having to isolate and long wait times for tests. It looks like this will be the case for the foreseeable, but smaller class sizes makes socially distancing easier.
Children are working individually at their desks, which has meant that behaviour has improved and so has focus. Wellbeing has been a concern during lockdown and some schools are using the arts to address this. Children have been thrilled to get back into art because there is a lot of catch-up with core subjects at the moment.
Siodna gave us tips on how to plan for a workshop in school. Each school will have its own policies and risk assessments, but they are all based on government advice. Checking the school’s policies ahead of time as well as having a good idea of wayfinding, timed entry and one-way systems helps to prepare ahead of the session.
For hands-on workshops pre-recorded videos are a useful way of making sure everyone can see what they need to do. Knowing where the hand sanitiser and tissue bins are will help on the day. Students are usually facing the front or in pairs now, so all activities are done singly or in pairs.
Materials aren’t being shared, so it’s important to have materials for each child ready to go before lessons. If possible, it’s good to have lessons using the same materials spaced out so they happen every 72 hours – that means materials can be quarantined and re-used.
Lots of teachers are factoring in ‘brain breaks’. Children aren’t moving around as much, so need time to stand up and stretch or ‘shake out the sillies’ to keep them engaged. It was good to hear that the children at Wellington have been coping well and are very used to the new procedures since they’ve been back for a few weeks now. This will make life easier for artists going into the classroom to deliver workshops.
It was good to have this session in Covid times ... a space which we are getting used to mentally and physically. Apart from an update on being aware of the new rules in the classroom - it was good to hear from a teacher how the children are adapting in the school.
-Artist Educator attendee
Nicci James, Bow Arts Artist Educator
Nicci James, who is an Artist Educator at Bow Arts and Fashion & Textiles Specialist, told us about the online textiles workshops she runs. She adapted natural dying and weaving workshops so that she could deliver them online. She uses readily available materials in her workshops to make them accessible for everyone.
Planning and setting up an online workshop
Nicci gave some helpful advice about planning and camera set-up for live online classes. She usually uses two cameras so that participants can see shots of her face and her hands. She finds it helpful to think about the angles of the camera in advance and what she needs to show (materials etc).
Thinking about what else is in shot means that there will be no distractions. Nicci always does the dishes before workshops! A clear background, but one that shows that you’re at home makes for a relaxed setting. Think about lighting – you can use a ring light, or just an ordinary lamp.
Nicci has also done some pre-recorded videos, which gives more time to consider arrangements because it’s not in-the-moment. She usually uses a tripod for these with a top-down view and marks out the edges of the frame with masking tape. She does test shots before doing a full video and films in short shots rather than one long one – this makes it easier to edit.
Nicci clearly plans her workshops and films thoroughly, making a detailed plan with timings (which she sticks on the wall so she can see it during delivery), test shots, having extra materials, and pre-empting any questions that might come up.
Online delivery does come with challenges, one of which is low engagement. It’s very easy to turn off your camera and mic when you’re a participant, but this can mean the experience less engaging for everyone. As a workshop leader it can feel like presenting to an empty room when this happens, and people are far less likely to ask questions or show their work.
Making sure that it’s clear on the workshop description that it’s a group session rather than an on-demand video. Don’t start the session by telling people they can turn their camera’s off if they prefer. It’s better to focus on what’s positive about everyone having cameras on (‘great to see so many faces!’). It really makes it more enjoyable for everyone when people are engaged and participate.
Nicci's brief talk about remote workshops was really helpful to hear advice, but also to see how a peer has worked out how to do it and make it work with a DIY setup.
-Artist Educator attendee
The afternoon was packed with useful information and it was great to hear insights from both a teacher and artist perspective. There was time for discussion and questions throughout which was really valuable. Thanks to Liz Jeal for organising and to our speakers Nicci and Siodna for making the afternoon possible and for sharing your teaching experiences.
If you are interested in collaborating on an art project with Bow Arts Learning and our Artist Educators please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can find information about our next Teachers' CPD, Getting Back to Creativity, here.