Outside inside a gallery of provocations and speculations

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Outside /Inside

A gallery of provocations and speculations

Outside/Inside is the third booklet in a series published by Cambridge Curiosity and Imagination. It draws on documentation from a 10 week Footprints project with 4 and 5 year olds from Cromwell Park Primary School in Hinchingbrooke, Cambridgeshire. These children, together with their teacher Ben Wilson, artists Caroline Wendling and Deb Wilenski, and a group of parents and carers, spent a morning every week during the spring term of 2013 in Hinchingbrooke County Park. They returned to school in the afternoon to continue their explorations in the classroom. Our intention in these Footprints projects is to ‘connect the classroom’. We set out to join up the places where children, their families and educators play and learn together and offer times and spaces that connect experiences in the wild with enquiries and meaning-making in the classroom, building long term interests and projects in both places.

Outside /Inside

A gallery of provocations and speculations

Caroline Wendling and Deb Wilenski With an introduction by Mary Jane Drummond






STORYING WILDNESS I went all the way to the volcano Together they make the sun


REPEATING, RE-VISITING, RETURNING A door, a door, can we go through This is the mountain, now it’s the wolves’ home We walked and walked. We find some trail, it looked like this


THE EXTRAORDINARY IN THE ORDINARY I think I heard a dolphin It’s a triangle, it’s a house, it’s a boat The Mud Princess


BIG AND SMALL ARE BOTH INTERESTING There’s a path in the sky I am making the woods Crystal and the mouse-hole





Provoke (verb) To call forth, to evoke feelings and desires, to excite and stimulate, to incite and bring about (Chambers Dictionary) Provocations… …are not prescriptions. For all the factual detail on these pages about what, when and how the children explored the woods and their re-formed classroom, this is not a How To Do It book. In his reflections Ben, the class teacher, muses on why he used to look for a crib-sheet, or a folder full of activities, when he moved with his children into unfamiliar territory in the familiar world of the classroom. And he realises that the provokingly simple acts of listening and watching, remembering and wondering, have taught him another way of being a teacher.


Provocations are designed to provoke – and for all I had already heard about this project from my colleagues in CCI, this book certainly provoked me. I was a teacher of four and five year olds myself, for many years, and very hard work it was too. But here are Ben and Deb and Caroline making it all look so simple – and I want to know why and how. Why weren’t the classrooms I worked in more like this one? How can I account for the quality of what is happening here? How can I describe the crucial differences between this classroom and others I know well? The secret seems to be that the less the educators in this book do for the children, the more there is for the children to do for themselves. It’s not that the educators do nothing – they aren’t just sitting around, snoozing; it’s not that they don’t do any teaching –

they definitely teach how to tie knots, and Ben remarks, with some satisfaction, that phonics teaching too has found its place here, in activities that the children have created for themselves. Perhaps the biggest difference of all is that this classroom clock seems to be keeping a different kind of time: the kind that Carlina Rinaldi describes in her eloquent analysis of the pedagogy of listening – ‘the time of listening, a time that is outside chronological time – a time of silences, of long pauses, an interior time.’ This is the time that Ben discovers for himself, as he sits and listens to Crystal – not questioning or challenging. Just sitting and listening. In another essay, Rinaldi argues that ‘for a school to be a place of life, then it needs the time of life, [which] is different from the time of production.’ This kind of


time is slow: schools need empty time. To achieve this, we must find ‘the courage to rediscover the time of human beings.’ Talking of phonics, this gallery of words and pictures reminded me of Vivian Gussin Paley’s wise words about the absolute centrality of dramatic play, storymaking and story-telling in the growth of children’s individual thinking and social connectivity. In her spirited defence of fantasy play and the stories that children generate in the course of it, she refers to them as ‘the glue that binds together all other pursuits, including the early teaching of reading and writing skills.’ She goes on: ‘ “B is for Bear” will teach the letter B, a good thing to know, but one must also know who likes to be the father bear and how bears and kittens might get across a poison river.’ And, in the classroom depicted here, children also need to know about the Mud Princess and her belt, and the

mountain where the wolves have a home. Speculations… As you will see, each spread closes with the authors’ speculations – their questions, puzzles and concerns. And these speculations are also invitations to their readers: what are your questions? What more do you want to know? What would you do next? My type-script copy of the final draft is littered with my own speculations. Those muddy train tickets for example: how do they work as instant passports to a different world? Should we reconsider the materials we offer children to support their imaginative play? Or do children travel further afield without our benevolent support? And what about doors? What’s going on here? Why are children so fascinated by doors? Is it the going out? Or the going in? Why did George MacDonald write, in Lilith, one of his extraordinary fairy stories for adults, ‘The more doors


you go out of, the further you get in.’ Is this what these children are doing? Whatever next? Part of the answer to this last speculation is – ‘more of the same’. At the end of Ben’s reflections you can read about the plans that are in place at Cromwell Park for next year – more time in the woods, for more children, more often. But perhaps ‘more of the same’ is also the answer for everyone reading this book, everyone interested in children’s learning and the wonderfully challenging enterprise of finding the very best ways of supporting it. More of the same: which means more time outdoors in wild places, more time indoors in the ‘connected classroom’, more listening, more ‘empty time’, more provocations, more speculations…who knows? By Mary Jane Drummond, writer and researcher References p.40


Ben’s reflections on working with the idea of the connected classroom: How did you feel at the start? I loved the idea but found it hard. I think ‘struggled’ is the right word. Originally I was seeking for someone to give me a folder where I could see ‘there’s Activity 1, there’s Activity 2’ – in that very traditional teacher way. I found it hard to see how to make the connections to the other days when Deb and Caroline weren’t there. I kept thinking ‘How do I manage when I’m on my own?’ Why do you think it was hard? I do think as teachers we sometimes want to face the unknown in the classroom with a crib sheet. Not in the woods, that’s always been the children’s space I’m there to listen to them and get excited with them. But indoors, I used to see the classroom as a space where I planned all the opportunities for the children and set everything up for them. But by continuing to listen to the children, as we did in the woods, we found out that the children create most of the connected classroom activities for themselves, and we are there to support them.


Can you give an example of this new way of seeing the classroom – and the children? Cody was a big fan of the stream in the woods, just watching it move; when he came back to school, and stood at the top of the playground and saw water trickling down the hill, he said ‘that’s just like the woods’. That was massive for Cody at that time, to make that link – and verbalise it. And then he started building structures to see if he could make the water travel faster or slower. Other children started getting involved: it became a great big mission. Before I might have brushed this interest aside, or chatted about it out in the woods, but not connected the stream in the woods with water in the playground. I might have suggested he sit down and write about it rather than letting him still be practical and keep experimenting outside. Was there a moment that you think of as a turning point? Yes – one turning point was a result of becoming committed to listening to the children. When Crystal invited me to listen to her story about the mousehole, that was such a privilege. Just to sit and listen to her – not question, not challenge, not try to extend her.

It was beautiful – a real empowering moment for me as a teacher. That’s something I now spend a lot more time doing– I go and sit and listen and that has really helped me to build up a relationship with every single child. Crystal still talks about the mouse-hole – she’s asked if it will still be here when she comes back to my class in September, when I will be teaching 6 and 7 year olds. Have there been other important changes in your approach? Now we always follow up interests from the morning in the woods on the same afternoon and we have dedicated spaces where the children can carry on with their own ideas for the rest of the week, and even into the following week.

I think it’s become easier to find the space for this – we have become much more flexible this year. For example, we have learned to be a bit more relaxed about when we might pick up on phonics, because I know that children are applying their phonics knowledge in the activities that they have created for themselves. I feel able to say that this is the right


decision for my class because I’ve seen how so many children have made so much more progress. Ben’s class of 4 and 5 year olds have led all six other year groups in the school into the woods for a full morning at least once throughout the academic year 2013/14. Each time the two classes have worked together in the afternoons on shared activities linked to the events and discoveries of the morning. Caroline worked alongside them in the spring, supporting the whole class to complete Arts Award Discover. A diary about this work can be read at: www.cambridgecandi.org.uk/projects/footprints/ hinchingbrooke Ben is teaching 6 and 7 year olds in 2014/15 and expects to establish fortnightly visits for both this year group and the class of 5 and 6 years olds, alongside the now well established weekly visits for 4 and 5 year olds. The plan is to establish a regular programme for all children in the school over the next three years.


‘I think I heard a dolphin.’

Small lake, sunlight, swans, quietness Black paper, marker pen, metallic paper


Caitlin and Mikaela stand at the edge of a small lake, which shines gold in the sun. Two swans are feeding on the far side. Cody is using his stick to ‘swish’ the water. Mikaela says: I think I heard a dolphin. It was in my imagination. When Cody was swoshing and swishing the water I just heard one. Caitlin adds: When I went to Godmanchester swimming yesterday I saw a seal. Mummy didn’t take a photograph of it. She didn’t see it, only I did, it’s a secret. In the classroom we offer a deliberately limited choice of simple materials. Children find richness and subtlety in a lake in the sun, and in different kinds of paper and pen. We bought the metallic blue foil by mistake, but Caitlin uses it brilliantly. She makes this image of herself and her friends, half in and half out of shining water.

Why do we divide real from imaginary? How can we help children to explore both? Is a seal only real if there’s a photograph to prove it?


‘It’s a triangle, it’s a house, it’s a boat.’

A very cold day, ice on the ground, a strong foot to break the ice Black paper A1 size, chalk, space low down on the wall


The icy weather gives the children a new element to play with. Breaking the ice by stamping on it becomes contagious and fascinates the children. They look through each piece of ice as a way to imagine things, worlds and places. Melissa sees many things. This simple natural material gives rise to extraordinary stories. In the afternoon we pin a long sheet of paper low down on the wall, under the map the children had already drawn of the woods. They draw the world under the ground and tell its stories. Each mark on the paper is important - bugs hide under the logs, a dragon comes along, the superhero helps the children.

Placing the materials in this unexpected position helps the children move into their imagined underworld. So how can we use this insight again as they continue exploring the worlds in the woods?


The Mud Princess.

A found stick, logs already placed in a space, a belt buried in the mud Plenty of paper and pencils and the belt


Fareedá finds and names the living room in the woods made from a few scattered logs. She imagines them as comfortable sofas. A knobbly stick discovered on one of the logs triggers a collaborative game. It is transformed into a remote control and, with the help of a friend and two willing adults, we create a fully working television with changing channels. Later Fareedá sets off to search for the Mud Princess and Jasmine and Eve find her belt buried in the mud. The Mud Princess has captured the children’s imagination. Jasmine’s drawing records herself and Eve carrying the belt home to the classroom. Plenty of plain sheets of paper and pencils mean their ideas are drafted as speedily as they arise.

How far can children go with just a stick or a muddy belt? What other everyday things might set off storying in this way?


‘I went all the way to the volcano.’

Tickets found in the woods, magic travelling Black paper, chalks, time


Bryony and Arwyn find old train tickets in a fire-pit in the woods. When we meet at the end of the morning, Arwyn tells us excitedly that the tickets have taken them on the train to the Secret Forest. Drawing with chalks on black paper, Bryony and Arwyn re-create their journey. The chalks are perfect for experimenting and blurring the lines between physical and fantastical travelling. Bryony and Arwyn draw, rub out, mix colours, and draw again. At the end of the afternoon they share the story of their picture, which now includes as a destination the volcano Mikaela has been drawing. Bryony: I found a ticket and I hopped on a train, and I went all the way to the volcano. Arwyn: Really fast! Can we invite these children to find new ways of mapping – not just showing where they go, but the story of how they go and who travels with them? What materials will they need? Will they need any at all?


‘Together they make the sun.’

Stones, numbers, collecting Large black paper, chalks, scissors


Walking back to school at the end of the morning, Kerensa picks up two stones and says: When they go together they make the sun, and this one makes the moon on its own. She finds numbers on doors and signs, and counts: One, two. Filip asks: Where is three and four? Kerensa’s answer is another story: It’s all because of the moon. It made a potion that made all of the places go. Maybe they are all together somewhere else. Maybe they are a family together. In the classroom we make further opportunities for imaginations to meet. The A2 sheets of paper invite children to draw in pairs or small groups. Caitlin and Fareedá create this scene of the snowy woods at night. The children make puppets by cutting out parts of their drawings. Crystal brings her baby foxes to meet the mother fox in Fareedá and Caitlin’s forest. A new story begins. Where do stories come from? How can we catch the ones that seem to begin by chance? When is it valuable for children to work together? When might they need the chance to work alone?


‘There’s a path in the sky.’

High blue sky, white tracks, trees A2 sheets of black paper, rolls of Sellotape, large chalks, space


Kyle and Cody are walking back to the Living Room from the edge of the meadow. It is the furthest they have been in the woods so far, and they have discovered strange yellow arrows on some of the pathways. Kyle looks up and stops walking. He points and says: There’s a path in the sky. Back in the classroom we want to continue this way of exploring on an adventurous scale. The A2 paper we offer is much bigger than the books children are used to working in, but Thomas wants it bigger still. He joins eight pieces of paper together and two towering trees come to life. Krystal comes to help with this daring and massive work.

Where can we go from here in exploring large scale worlds and creations? How can we find space for massive work on the school walls? Where might exploring immensity lead us to in the woods?


Crystal and the mouse-hole.

Mossy tree trunks, roots and doors Paper, scissors, projectors, a white sheet, a white wall


Edward finds doors in the woods, between the split trunks of trees, and where two trees meet. His idea is shared with the class and the children find more doors in the tangled parts of the woods. Some can be climbed through, others are tiny, just big enough for a mouse. Edward says: When you go through a door it takes you to somewhere else. We introduce two overhead projectors into the classroom, with screens made from a suspended white sheet, and a white wall. With these Crystal transforms the world of the classroom and inhabits it differently, making it into somewhere else. Her small drawing of a mouse-hole cut into a tree-trunk is enlarged so that it is big enough for her to sit inside as she tells her teacher Ben what she has done.

Children are fascinated by relative size. How do we support this interest in classrooms where everything is scaled down for them? What opportunities do children have to change the size of things?


‘I am making the woods.’

An abandoned second-hand snowman, sticks Small pieces of paper, coloured pencils, scissors


Kerensa comes upon a perfectly formed snowman. She uses the sticks that are lying around to construct a new being, adding small things and making big changes. Spider Snowman is made and named. The children are invited to draw in response to their mornings’s adventures in the woods. As well as large pieces of paper we also offer pieces the size of postage stamps, torn off a long strip. Mikaela and Kerensa draw on them, making up a story of a garden together. They arrange and rearrange their images, adding seeds and a watering can to help them grow. How clearly these children express their interest in things changing size; a spider becoming a huge snowman, tiny seeds growing into a garden.

We keep on noticing how these children are interested in scale – what will we do with this discovery?


‘A door, a door, can we go through?’

A gap in the hedge, water, softness School playground, sticks from the woods, string, acrylic paint, brushes and tubs


Cody finds a doorway out of the woods and goes though it to look for secret water. The following week the same door opens into a different world. Mikaela is collecting soft things in the woods and when she passes through the door a new world of softness is revealed in plants, seed heads, and the swan’s feathers she finds by the water. Back in the school playground, the children want to make a doorway that they can walk through over and over again. We teach them how to tie knots and they build a simple structure out of sticks and string. Mikaela and a group of children start decorating it with paint. She calls it a rock ’n’ roll door, singing and dancing as she carries on painting. The following week the children ask to make a back door as well, creating two doorways to new worlds.

We think about the importance of repeating and re-visiting. We notice that children’s doors are always open; do they signify freedom? Where do they want to go next? Where do they want to return to?


‘This is the mountain, now it’s the wolves’ home.’

Hill, rabbit holes, dips and hollows Paper, pencils


There is a mountain in the woods to which children return over and over again. It has steep sides, lots of rabbit holes and nettles. Children find different ways to get to the top. Exploring its summit they seem intrigued by the uneven ground and its surprising dips and hollows. They explore the holes with their feet. In the classroom Ben asks the children to close their eyes and remember the journeys they went on this morning. We offer pieces of A6 paper and pencils for children to map them. The mountain appears many times with its holes and contours clearly visible, but there is still more to this re-visiting. As Charlie describes his map a second narrative begins: This is the mountain. Now it’s the wolves’ home. I wanted to fly, I didn’t want to wake the wolves.

Do we need to keep listening even when a story seems finished? Can we use children’s maps as prompts for new stories as well as traces of where we have already been?


‘We walked and walked. We find some trail, it looked like this.’

Wild spaces with paths, marks, clues and no paths A piece of brown paper the size of a wall, A5 paper, glue, chalks, pencils


If there are no clear paths to follow we look for marks and signs. Children notice these everywhere. They give meanings to marks and discuss them. For ten weeks we go back to the same places and the site is mapped through their experiences. Each time the children discover new worlds and tell new stories. In the classroom, we invite children to draw their journeys. Maps are drawn as tales of individuals or groups. Some places are drawn many times by dierent children. The children glue these personal maps on a huge sheet of paper, creating a collective map that grows in complexity as the weeks go by. The map of maps displays multiple versions of the park and woods, and invites still more to be found.

We wonder how the next class will map these woods. Will their stories sound the same? What new places will appear?


Materials: Sky, trees, sticks, stones, ice, light, mud, a lake. Paper (lots, both large and small) pencils, paint, chalks. Sellotape, glue, scissors, string. Adults’ notebooks, cameras. A classroom, a playground, clear walls, floors. An old belt, some half-burnt train tickets.

‘The whole land of country park’ (Harvey).


Simplicity, time. Softness, stillness, quiet. Spaces – large and small. Groups – pairs, big groups, the whole class. Invitations to: watch, listen, remember, represent, wonder, re-visit, daydream, rest.




With thanks to: /all the children in Ruby Class: Fareedá, Caitlin, Jasmine, Thomas, Honey, Melissa, Cody, Asad, Kian, Arnav, Filip, Charlie, Laney-May, Joseph, Mikaela, Edward, Crystal, Marie, Ashlene, Eve, Kyle, Arwyn, Krystal, Georgia, Kerensa, Bryony, Harvey, Jacob, Adam, Anita, Layla and their teacher Ben Wilson /Karen Lewin and Kelly Smith who supported the children in their explorations /the many parents and grandparents who came to the woods with us Hinchingbrooke Country Park directions and visitor information: www.huntingdonshire.gov.uk/hinchingbrookecountrypark The park is owned by Cambridgeshire County Council and managed by Countryside Services, Directorate of Environmental and Community Services, Huntingdonshire District Council, Pathfinder House, St Mary's Street, Huntingdon PE29 3TN References for Provocations & Speculations MacDonald, G. (1895) Lilith London: Chatto & Windus. Paley, V. G. (2004) A Child’s Work: the importance of fantasy play Chicago: University of Chicago Press Rinaldi, C. (2006) In Dialogue with Reggio Emilia: Listening, researching, learning London: Routledge

Outside/Inside is available in print from the CCI shop. http://www.cambridgecandi.org.uk/category The documentation from this 2013 project has also been used to create our ďŹ rst Fantastical Guide: Ways into Hinchingbrooke Country Park. This can also be purchased via the CCI shop or read online at: www.cambridgecandi.org.uk/projects/footprints CCI is a registered charity (no. 1126253) Design by Susanne Jasilek Photographs by Caroline Wendling and Deb Wilenski Š Cambridge Curiosity and Imagination 2014 All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form without prior written authorisation. ISBN 978-0-9926259-2-4

I used to see the classroom as a space where I planned all the opportunities for the children and set everything up for them. But by continuing to listen to the children, as we did in the woods, we found out that the children create most of the connected classroom activities for themselves, and we are there to support them. Ben Wilson, reception class teacher, Cromwell Park Primary School