Move, Act, Play, Sing (MAPS): Exploring early childhood arts teaching and learning through Community Arts interventions in Reggio Emilia inspired centres

Volume 3, Number 4 - July 2014

Editoral

This Special Edition is unlike previous He Kupu Special Editions, in that it is dedicated to the two year Arts in Education project , Move, Act, Play, Sing, (MAPS). As a compliment to the focus on MAPS , the Practitioner Researcher section is dedicated to work undertaken on the Post Graduate Diploma course in Arts education at New Zealand Tertiary College. This features four students from the College discussing the practice and theory of Arts Education. Finally, there are two book reviews by Sujatha Gomathinayagam and Pearl D’Silva, both lecturers at New Zealand Tertiary College.

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Practitioner Researcher

Perspectives on learning about the arts in early childhood education have become more complex as researchers seek an approach that accommodates ‘chaos’ in children’s creative work. Lark-Horovitz, Lewis, and Luca (1973) describe children’s self- initiated drawings as descriptions of their whole being, their body and ‘chaotic’ personality (as seen in Thompson, 2007). As children are naturally inclined to use their bodies with the aid of their resources and materials around them to make sense of what is going on every day, it is a normal phenomenon for children to reflect their physicality, which, according to Olsson (2013), reflects their complex sense of the world. This paper will refer to two projects in the early childhood setting that reference original and creative ways in which children construct a social culture that forms part of a wider social cultural context involving the community. In addition, a self-reflection of personal learning and experience within the arts will be discussed and an ideal art activity, with reference to children’s own creative voices and imagination.

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Arts education increasingly attracts examination in light of contemporary cognitive science, social psychology, philosophy and sociology. In this essay, some philosophical concepts introduced by Deleuze and Guattari will be examined within an understanding of children’s arts learning. The first part will be focused on an observation of a dancer working with a group of children. In the second part, a critical analysis will be conducted with reference to philosophical concepts of learning (Sellers, 2013).

At a time when creativity is often linked to achieving pre-planned goals (Grierson, 2012), it is important to consider art “as a way of revealing the world and ideas rather than representing them” (p. 337). Grierson encourages us to see art as a way “to bring (something) into existence” (p. 339). This paper examines some of the philosophical concepts introduced by Deleuze and Guattari that link to a performing arts session I observed at my son, Kian’s, daycare centre. The second part of the paper consists of an interview with the performing arts teacher, Charlotte Nightingale. Originally from the United Kingdom, Charlotte has worked in theatre, television and film, as well as toured in musicals and Shakespeare. In her own words, “I never thought I could enjoy something as much as performing until I started to teach!” (C. Nightingale, interview, April 9, 2014). Charlotte works for Peaches and Pickles/Green Door Youth Theatre and was happy for me to use her full name, as well as her company. The third part of the paper is a critical discussion of the session, with reference to Deleuze and Guattari.

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This paper examines two arts based research projects Move, Act, Play, Sing (Lines, Naughton & Roder, 2013) and Shadow Stories (Sara & Spaggiari, 2012) from Loris Malaguzzi International Centre. Three Reggio Emilia principles will be examined in this paper, with reference to Deleuze and Guattari. Also included is my personal reflection on art education. Finally, combining the principles of Reggio Emillia with my personal experience, I will propose a possible art-based learning practice in early childhood education.

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Special Edition

This article captures some of the observations in the TRLI project, Move, Act, Play, Sing (MAPS), in which three Community Artists, practicing in the areas of Music, Dance and Drama, visited three ‘Reggio inspired’ centres for fortnightly and sometimes weekly sessions for a period of 3-4 months at each centre. MAPS was a collective exploration of the Arts, involving children, teachers and parents, responding to children’s individual subjectivities (Olsson, 2009; Osberg & Biesta, 2007; 2008). Like the work of the artists, teachers and children, we, as researchers, had opportunity for seeing this open-ended practice as constantly changing. This paper examines dance episodes that took place in one and how each session can be interpreted from two perspectives. The examination of the same episode opens new potentialities as we apply Deleuzean theory to the research context. Each view of the activity reveals new insights into the work of the project and points to Deleuzean philosophy being put to work.

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This research narrative tells the story of a Māori immersion early childhood centre’s engagement with the performing arts. In this research, and fundamental to this narrative is the provocation that came from the drama based Community Artist who, joining the centre, listened, shared, planned and lived drama arts practices with the children and teachers. This activity rests within a more extended arts based teaching and research learning initiative (TRLI) known as Move, Act, Play, Sing (MAPS), which also involved provocations from music and dance Community Artists. Drama and storytelling are the focus of the encounters shared here, particularly what might be understood as a ‘walking performance’ linked to a local mountain, which featured in the children’s lives and the life of the centre becoming-Māori. What emerged throughout the overall project was an affirmation of the intricate ties to lived experiences, sensations, encounters, interactions and intensities that are present in children’s work. Drama as ‘real’ or living is supported within the imaginary, where Deleuze identifies ‘real’ as both virtual and the actual (1988). Attention is drawn to the movement or leakage between virtual and the actual, enabling another of Deleuze’s concepts to operate, namely, the rhizome (Sellers, 2013). This research also draws on Deleuze and Guattari’s (1988) concept of assemblages of desire invoking the imaginary as a new means of expression affecting unexpected relations and connections, and it is within these emergent, unexpected, yet still anticipated potentials that this article seeks new possibilities for drama in early childhood education.

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In a two-year arts research based project, artistic interventions were developed through working with Community Artists in dance, drama and music in three early childhood centres. This paper considers the work of the music Community Artist Kirsten Simmons and her contribution while working at a centre in Helensville, near Auckland, New Zealand. With reference to the essay ‘Proust and Signs’ (1990) by Gilles Deleuze and his analysis of signs, the work of the Community Artist is considered in the light of what constitutes worthwhile teaching. This exploration using Deleuzean concepts/theory, shows children engaging in artwork and learning significant skills in listening, observing, performing and developing their own imaginative potential to achieve a high level of self- legitimisation.

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Book Reviews

The book Creative Arts in Education and Culture is a collection of the perspectives of 19 active arts educators from different countries, such as Hong Kong, Mainland China, Taiwan and USA. Through the experiences of the various authors, a clear insight into the constituents of Chinese music culture, which is a creative fusion of the influences of Confucian philosophy, colonial legacy and modern technology elements, is presented. The fact that the authors have based the content of most of the chapters on a combination of their own direct personal experiences, interviews of artists and students, witnessed live musical performances, and undertaken music projects and research, has enabled the reader to engage in and connect to the topic.

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Miller and Cameron’s (2014) edited book, titled International perspectives in the early years, is a useful resource for early childhood practitioners, as well as students enrolled in qualifications in early childhood education. The editors have carefully compiled research from a range of countries to publish a comprehensive record of early childhood education across Europe and the United States of America. The book consists of two parts, exploring themes related to the larger purview of early childhood education.

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Contributors

Ann Margaret Coballes, Pearl D’Silva, Sujatha Gomathinayagam, Tiffany Liao, Dr. David Lines, Dr. Christopher, Naughton Jacoba Matapo’s, Dr. John Roder, Barbara Scanlan, Haixiao Sun, Marjolein Whyte, He Zhang