Combine to Create Collective member Ruby Worth reflects on her time working with pupils at Applegrove Primary School.
I last blogged on my work with embodied learning at Pilmuir Primary School with the primary 6s.
We were exploring questions like, “how do we learn about ourselves and connect to each other through movement?” And: “when we move in different ways does this create different ways of thinking and feeling too?”
For my Combine to Create residency I have been continuing to forge pathways for embodied learning in our local primary schools and have been based at Applegrove working with the primary 4s, seven- and eight-year-old young people.
These young people started their school experience in 2019 at the start of the global pandemic. The year that I worked with them was their first full year together in a school without Covid restrictions.
With this in mind I was interested in exploring a theme of connection, to self, to each other and to the wider world through embodiment and creative practice. I also wanted to give the young people lots of opportunities for self-expression, space to explore playful and meaningful connections to each other and within each session an experience of a full spectrum energetic range from wildness to carefully considered movements to space for relaxation and reflection.
“Doing it I learned how to express myself with other people. Expressing my feelings, it’s like my actions would go with my feelings.” Leia, P4 pupil.
This focus on exploring an energetic range has developed through working with the young people across the schools and finding a pattern of hyper or hypo active energy. They are either full on till they burn out or too tired to do anything. As a conductor to their energy, I have been exploring ways to safely allow for wildness, to guide this energy into considered movement patterns and partnerships and to offer time for rumination and wonder. Focusing out the window, noticing the changing colours of the leaves week by week, lying on the ground to rest and restore energetically and mindfully.
Continuing this theme of our inner and outer nature, I further explored material that could give them a felt sense of how interconnected and woven in we all are, as human beings to our natural environments and the processes of nature.
How like the tides we have needs to be both inward and outward moving. How like geese in order to fly long distances together, it’s important to keep changing our leaders. How like mycelium networks we are interconnected to everyone and everything.
“I love the wild bits because it’s really fun and I go wild and I can do cartwheels and stuff. We are usually not allowed to do that.” Beth, P4 pupil
Over the course of an autumn into winter term I worked weekly with 37 young people, in groups of 12-13 participants. I worked and played with two assistant dance artists, the wondrous Lucy Thomas and magical Sara Oakes. With this ratio of one adult to four young people we were able to provide a good level of emotional as well as physical holding for the young people.
It was a joy to work with this age and stage of development. I witnessed how the young people at 7 and 8 years old are full of imagination, their sense of play, energy and individuality are all peaking. There was also a huge desire to be seen, heard and acknowledged that as the conductor I was attentive to and also guided the young people towards having this level of appreciative attention with each other.
“There’s always a really nice buzz amongst the children when they are coming back, skipping, chatting, calm, serene, chatting about what they have been doing and what has stood out that day.” Catriona Horne, P4 Teacher, Applecross Primary School
Over the weeks I witnessed a growing ease and confidence developing within the young people. They could clearly be themselves here, come with their authenticity, their joy, their sadness and frustrations too.
I learned a lot from the young people in how to recognise and reconcile challenging emotions that showed themselves at times in challenging behaviours. When your energy in motion (e-motion), is not mirrored/met in the group energy how this can be frustrating and a reason to act out. How it is important at this juncture to have a safe place and person to take time out with. To acknowledge the discomfort, feel it, name it perhaps, share the story that arises through being present to it. Then what I witnessed often was a possibility for a change in energy, a transformation inwardly that often led towards a willingness to reengage with others and to join in the group activities again.
“It’s been really useful for the children’s creativity skills and working as a team. I feel that’s really come on as part of the residency. Promoting that fun and that creativity and sense of engagement.” Katie Lockhart, Assistant Head Teacher, Applecross Primary School
At a midpoint in the delivery, the young people shared with us what they were valuing in the sessions. They were having a lot of fun, enjoying using their bodies all the time, enjoying having physical contact and learning new and different games and skills. And they were also really enjoying relaxing and lying down.
In the last weeks of the residency digital artist Jason Sinclair came in and filmed. He filmed both within the embodied learning sessions and also set up interviews with the young people and their teachers.
Significant positive outcomes were recognised by both the young people and their teachers that for me really highlight the importance of this approach to learning.
Click on the arrows to read.
Q. What have you noticed in the young people who have taken part in the C2C sessions?
Catriona Horne, P4 Teacher
“There’s always a really nice buzz amongst the children when they are coming back, skipping, chatting, calm, serene, chatting about what they have been doing and what has stood out that day, ribbons and the outside session were particularly enjoyed. It was nice for them to get their socks and shoes off and connect with the earth and just be grounded.”
“I think it’s also been really good for some children’s self-confidence. The shyer children in the class, are maybe not able to express themselves easily in that situation, are getting the most out of it, removing barriers to this, where they feel self-conscious, a bit silly, seeing other people taking part and giving them the safe space to do that I think has been hugely beneficial.”
“Society in general now, the children have so much access to technology. The traditional elements of play and creativity that this brings is missing. They don’t have to imagine because they can google it ‘search it up’ is what they call it. The way that they play and socialise is so much online and digital. To give them the experience that you have and for it to be fun and be playful and to have to get a bit silly, those are all fundamental childhood experiences.”
Sharon Wilson, P3/P4 Teacher
“I asked the children what they enjoyed doing and also how they felt. It’s the doing and the feeling. They enjoyed different things, there is something in it for everybody. They enjoyed the parachute, the ribbons, the rest times, the games, putting music on and being ourselves. And then they were able to identify the feelings they had got from the things they enjoyed, and they liked feeling calm and relaxed and happy and good and cool.”
Katie Lockhart, Assistant Head Teacher
“It’s been really useful for the children’s creativity skills and working as a team. I feel that’s really come on as part of the residency. Promoting that fun and that creativity and sense of engagement has really come across as well, and from speaking to the pupils they are really feeling that.”
Young People Testimonials
Click on the arrows to read.
Grace and Lewis
Grace: “Well, I have enjoyed it because we get to do all the moves with one another, and we get to just relax sometimes.”
Lewis: “Yeah, I like that and what you can do your own stuff and say I was the leader you can pass it on. You can do your own stuff.”
Anais and Johnny
Anais: And it’s really fun to meet new people and learn more stuff, different stuff though what we’ve not learned before
Johnny: It’s been calming
Anais: It’s way more calmer and you don’t have to do maths, It’s the greatest thing about it. Also meeting new people.
“I have lots of fun there and the calming sessions and bits are probably one of my favourites and the wild bits. The calm bit isn’t one of my favourites because I can’t calm myself, even when we are just lying on the floor, I just can’t calm myself down, so it really helps. And I love the wild bits because it’s really fun and I go wild and I can do cartwheels and stuff. We are usually not allowed to do that.”
Abigail and Aila
Abigail: “It feels nice, just being free and being yourself and doing some exercises.”
Aila: “It’s nice because you get to meet new people and you get to be yourself and the games are really fun.”
Abigail: “And you can also get to know someone, like when you are doing an exercise together when you leaning back to back and going side to side, when your going opposite way and when you’re spinning around.”
Aila: “And if you like already have a best friend in the same group you can introduce them to friends you already have, that they are not friends with and you can get like a bigger friend group and you’ve got more friends to play with at break and lunch.”
Leia and Orla
Orla: “I’ve really enjoyed it cause I like taking part and learning new stuff and doing it with people I can express my feelings too.”
Leia: “Yeah, I’m the same as Orla. It’s just really nice I enjoy. Doing it I learned how to express myself with other people. Expressing my feelings, it’s like my actions would go with my feelings.”
Orla: “And doing partner work lets me know other people’s opinions and we can have different ones.”
Leia: “I like the flocking because you cannot do it by yourself, you need a leader and then you need a group. It’s not like you are alone in Combine to Create. In Combine to Create you’ve got other people to have fun with. And you get to like connect with people. Like bond with other people that you wouldn’t usually bond with.”
Amber and Jack
Q: Is there anything else that you’d like to say about C2C to share your experience to people in the wider world?
Amber: “That, you don’t always need to pretend to be yourself, just express your feelings anytime.”
Jack: “That you should always have, a bit more fun, every week.”