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This assignment aims to identity opportunities for learning outside the classroom (Lotc) through the selection of "Fabrica" church and art gallery in Brighton. It will critically analyse the gallery's designed activities for developing pupils' understanding of a particular theme. It will also assess the gallery's educational policy and their collection in terms of promoting inclusion and diversity.
Fabrica is a visual arts organisation based in a former Regency church in the heart of Brighton that commissions contemporary visual art installations specific to the building. It is currently showing "77 million paintings" by the artist Brian Eno. It is a painting installation in light that is slowly and continuously changing within a composition of high definition video screens (Appendix 1).
It would be appropriate, however, to begin this assignment with a brief explanation of what Lotc is and what it can generically offer to children with special educational needs (SEN) in KS1/2 and often even up to KS3.
The DCSF (2008) define learning outside the classroom as:
"The use of places other than the classroom for teaching and learning p.3"*
*This has since been changed to include the use of external education professionals in the school environment.(Lotc, 2010)
Learning done outside the classroom is often the most memorable learning experience. (Clark, 2003) It allows pupils to make sense of the world around them, (Richardson, 2006) making links between feelings and learning. (Hooper-Greenhill, 2007) It can also influence children's values and allow them to transfer learning experienced outside the classroom and vice versa. (Austin, 2007)
In regard to children with SEN there is huge potential for children to improve their understanding of the world, their skills, values and their affective domain based on enhanced experiences and achievements. (Barrett, 2006, Buckley et al, 2003, Bilton et al, 2005, Denham & Weissberg, 2003, McGee et al, 1987, Oatley & Johnson-Laird, 1995).
Lotc's importance "can be even greater for people whose outlets are restricted by physical, mental or sensory impairment, than for other members of the community" (Pearson, 2004, p.4).
It enables children with SEN to "cease thinking of themselves as inadequate people compared with able-bodied, and can come to recognise that they have their own particular contribution to make" (Pearson, 2004 p.5).
Fabrica can help emphasise these skills that are more transferable, and encourage a much broader way of thinking about life and the problems it will inevitably throw at children (not just children with SEN). Can that be acknowledged within a classroom of 10 pupils who spend six hours of every day in a room with the same adults? Some of these children may well leave school without the skills they need to lead a successful life; Lotc and Fabrica in particular could diverge from the traditional focus of education and place more value on skills that were not being taught effectively in the confines of classroom walls.
Learning outside the classroom is not an end in itself, but rather a vehicle to develop the capacity to learn. (Austin, 2007) It's a framework that encourages the use of surroundings and communities outside the classroom. (Heath, 2004, Sefton-Green, 2008) It is also a fine opportunity for young people to construct their own learning and allow them to live successfully in the world that surrounds them (Swain, 1993, Sonja et al, 2009, Oatley & Johnson-Laird, 1995).
It also has good opportunities for children to add context to classroom learning. It can lead to a deeper understanding of concepts that span beyond traditional subject boundaries, which are frequently difficult for some children. (Durbin, Morris, 1990, 1996, Braund, Reiss, 2004, Nesbitt, 1988, Virginia, 1988) Learning outside the classroom allows for a different pedagogy, which will promote real achievement for all learners, including subject based learning, thinking and problem solving, life skills such as co-operation, interpersonal communication and sometimes facing conditions that we are not used to. (Parkinson & Manstead, 1992, Pearson, 1994)
Fabrica is, by its very nature, an inclusive practice, which allows the breaking down of barriers to participation, (Pearson, Aloysius, 1994, Carnegie UK Trust, 1985, Richardson, 2006) it allows a multi-sensory approach to learning through what we see, hear, taste, touch, smell and emotionally "feel". This is due to the physical, visual, naturalistic and emotional nature of the Building and its artworks. (Bilton et al, 2005, Austin, 2007, Playwork Partnerships, 2005)
If an experience at Fabrica was well planned, safely managed and differentiated to meet the needs of all children, children would be able to:
Improve academic achievement
Provide a bridge to higher order learning
Develop skills of independence in a widening range of environments
Make learning more engaging and relevant to young people
Develop into active citizens and stewards of the environment
Provide opportunities for informal learning through play
Stimulate, inspire and improve motivation
Develop the ability to deal with uncertainty
Provide opportunity to take acceptable levels or risk
Develop a level of empathy and emotional intelligence.
(DCSF, 2008, Pearson, Aloysius, 1994, Carnegie UK Trust, 1985)
Below I have analysed both the educational policy of Fabrica (Fabrica, 2010a) and the physical space and collection for developing children with SEN learning and understanding.
One of the benefits of an aesthetic response to learning is that it can facilitate a spontaneous response to sense experience. Instead of concentrating on factual description, students can become aware of the possibility of a wide range of emotional responses to different forms and artefacts.
Children are able to develop a degree of understanding of the nature of art and an awareness of what a gallery is.
While speaking with the artist Brian Eno at Fabrica along with the Educational Officer we concluded that the advantage of this gallery visit and this particular piece by him for children with severe learning and physical needs, was that, often these children respond to objects more powerfully and imaginatively than mainstream pupils. Often children are too inclined to revel in the process of acquiring, sorting and expressing facts, failing to engage with the visual stimulation this piece of art give us.
Critical awareness through artwork allows children to gain confidence in formulating and expressing views on art.
"Watching the children interact brought a whole new inquisitive side that I, as an adult, would not have explored." (Teacher - Carden Primary School) (Fabrica, 2010b)Â
A sense of time
Children's sense of history and the dimension of time are clearly enhanced by experiences at Fabrica. Most children could develop a clearer understanding of the past and the differences between "then" and "now", through the ancient church the gallery finds itself in and the very modern and visual art on display. Children will also get a sense of difference between the real and the imaginary.
Children also have an opportunity to access a possible increase in vocabulary, related to themes being studied, e.g. Colours, patterns and emotions.
Gallery visits can always contribute to the social empowerment of all children, they will often be far too curious to be unable to ask questions about the artwork.
Equality and inclusive nature
The arts offer not only diversion and enjoyment, but can also provide insights into the human condition and environment not achievable in any other way. Whether the arts are pursued primarily for entertainment or a deeper level - and apart from their therapeutic purposes their importance can be even greater for children whose outlets are restricted by physical, mental or sensory impairment, Brian Eno's work is truly inclusive for these reasons.
Fabrica believe that with involvement in the arts, and by developing their own art forms out of their own view and experience of life, children with very serve and profound needs can cease to think of themselves as inadequate in the learning environment, and can come to recognise they have their own contribution to make.
Expression and formulation of ideas
At Fabrica children are able to use visual media not only to express, but to actually formulate ideas and perceptions that cannot be comprehended so precisely in any other form. They not only express ideas visually, they are expressing essentially visual ideas - a child drawing is a child thinking.
"The workshops allowed them to develop their understanding of different forms of art and boosted their confidence to produce exciting work." (Teacher - Patcham House School) (Fabrica, 2010b)
Creativity and innovation have now been legitimised by the DfES and primary schools are actively encouraged to develop creative ideas and actions, this is clearly being undertaken at Fabrica and is "promoting creativity in a powerful way to engage pupils with their learning" DfES, 2003, p.31)
Barriers to participation broken
Talk of disability often emphasises what people cannot do. The arts and this gallery in particular are essential in education because they broaden our understanding of what people can do, Fabrica has very limited barriers to participation for children with medical or movement needs (i.e. wheelchair access) or indeed cognitive need (DfES, 2001, DfES, 2004, DoH, 2001).
Other benefits include
Developing the full variety of children's intellectual ability
Developing capacity for creative thought and action
Non verbal expression and communication
The education of feeling and interpretation of visual media
Moral and social education
Understanding cultural change and differences
Rigid definitions of success and failure do not apply in the arts
Greater self-confidence in their ability to recognise, respond make choices and decisions.
Development of the specific learning skills of hand-eye co-ordination, concentration and observation through drawing.
Powerful creative, aesthetic and emotional responses, particularly for children who lack verbal communication.
Enhanced social skills and confidence.
Encouragement for more museum and gallery visits on a regular basis.
Why choose Fabrica?
The following points are important when choosing a gallery to visit:
Fabrica set up meetings between the educational officer and the teacher that allows them to look at the requirements of the National Curriculum and P-scales (DfEE, 1999, QCA, 2005), in relation to objects and exhibits and what learning "you" wish to gain from the place.
They have an educational officer on site that actively encourages a partnership and collaborative engagement with the classroom teacher.
They offer a choice between separate and integrated art activities. Assistance is available to disabled people visiting the exhibition on general public days. But, in addition, one day can be set-aside especially for disabled people or indeed class visits, when extra help and facilities are provided, and the gallery is free of the usual crowds.
Educational material is already made available on behalf of the gallery, including external educational professionals, but it/they can also be adjusted to suit all children's needs or a teacher's expectations.
The gallery encourages teachers to the gallery for a preparatory visit and discussion. This is vital when working with additional needs, many children suffer from poor concentration and anxiety. It is vital they arrive to a well-prepared gallery with well-prepared members of staff.
The pattern of a project involving Fabrica takes shape as follows:
Classroom preparation and preparatory visit
The visit itself
Classroom discussion after the visit
Practical work after the visit
Fabrica ensures the following, which allows for a successful visit
They always address questions of recognition, adaptation and co-ordination.
Children have greater confidence when they can refer back to earlier experience, and recognise specific pieces of art to which they have been introduced in advance. The appeal of the visit may be the "otherness" of galleries' collections, but there needs to be familiar points of contact, such as pieces of art already seen by the children via a preparatory visit.
A clear sense of purpose and structure is introduced but this should not preclude the chance to respond fully to children's reactions to material. This includes allowing children to respond to any part of the gallery experience, using a variety of forms and materials.
Enough well prepared helpers.
They encourage whole-school support for the gallery that they believe yields considerable dividends.
An understanding and acceptance that some children might only react, or respond to the gallery visit in a limited way.
Focused preparation with strongly visual resources.
Consolidation of conclusions and connections during the visit is desirable to avoid confusion.
Cross-curricular work is a great strength of many gallery visits.
To touch or not to touch, (there are alternatives, don't worry about children touching things, evidence shows children understand the delicate nature of artefacts and Fabrica always ensure some resources are available to the touch).
In conclusion to this assignment I'm of the same belief as Fabrica that this is a worthwhile place to bring children regardless of need, to inspire and enrich their learning about contemporary art. This is mainly down to three key factors.
One, exhibitions can be used to link to many National Curriculum subjects such as Art, Literacy, Science or Drama. Appendix 3 shows an evaluation of what specific attainments could potentially be carried out at Fabrica.
Two, they have a wide experience of working with students from early years up to university level and they tailor their workshops to the needs of individual groups, through consultation and partnership planning with teachers, this is a vital consideration taken by the staff of Fabrica, that many Lotc establishments can sometimes neglect as I found out during another module (ET306) (Appendix 2)
Finally, due to the above there is very limited impact on barriers to participation, all children have an opportunity to access, and through this access they have an opportunity to achieve something worthwhile, again this is something I learnt through work carried out in my EV220 module.