Back to the Caves! – Senior Infants/ First Class – Holy Family N.S, Monkstown

Great to be back with Ms.O’Connell’s Senior Infants and First Class group. Lots of familiar faces and one or two new faces! We had decided we would begin with working with clay – taking it right back to the Caves. I had worked with clay with both of these groups when they were in Junior Infants so we were using today’s session to refresh ourselves on using clay. So we began with exploring clay using all of our senses….(well nearly all…we stopped short of tasting the clay!).

So first with a lump of clay in front of us we looked at it – what does it look like – what colour is it – shape – texture – temperature – wieght. Lots of chat about what it looked like – chocolate, wood, rock, poo! Looks kind of wet and smooth.

Looks cold, wet and squishy!

Looks like a rock that rolled down a mountain and collected dust because there’s dust on it and it might have broken off!

Looks like wood that has being chopped off a branch because its straight on one side and bumpy on the other.

I still think it looks like chocolate!

We smelt the clay – I still think it’s wood said Reilly. We listened to it – could be hear little voices, squeaks, or silence or the sea. Then we picked up the clay and felt it with our hands, the weight, the texture, the feel of it. We moved it between our hands pulling and squeezing, pushing and flattening. Walking our fingers over it looking at the marks.

Then following the story of Mr and Mrs Stone in their cave thousands of year ago – wondering about how they would get a drink of water from the river – we began making bowls. Slowly forming a ball with the clay, round and round in our hands. Then pushing one thumb in and making the hole bigger by squeezing the clay and stretching it to make the bowl bigger. Making sure the clay was not to thin and that there were any holes as the water would fall out! We also wanted to make sure the bowl could stand and didn’t fall over. Would we put a handle on it? How would we make the handle. Very busy making session! After break it would be time to test our bowls and cups. Some were getting nervous! Would the water spill out! Some great designs – including one cup which had an overflow system! Genius design!

Great session with Senior and First Class as we reconnect with clay! More clay next week. And next week we might even keep the clay work we make!

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Collecting Lines, Shapes and Patterns – 2nd Class, Holy Family NS, Monkstown

Great to be back with Ms. Cooke’s 2nd Class and looking forward to working together over the next 9 weeks! I had worked with this class when they were in Junior Infants and Senior Infants so it is great to reconnect with them now in 2nd Class. Last time I was with this group we had done lots of colour mixing and painting so we are going to explore printmaking over the next couple of weeks and maybe even link it in with some construction. It was a chilly winter morning with clear skies and bright sunshine so we planned on going walkabout collecting shapes lines and patterns. So being artists and explorers we would need sketchbooks. So using A3 paper we made a simple 8-fold notebook. We took our time following the steps with each fold and little bit of help we created our notebooks. As we were folding them one suggested they were like a map – so we thought we might use them as maps too.

We talked about what shapes we knew – circle, square, oval, square, rectangle, triangle – and looking out the window noticed buildings are made up of different shapes and repeated shapes in different sizes. And also thinking of natural shapes – trees, clouds, birds and others we might discover on our walk! So off we went – First noticing our shadows on the school wall – so that was the first drawing in the notebook. Around the field we looked at the shapes of the school, the blue pool, skateboard park and then the bushy trees, the bar winter trees, the mountains in the distance, the purple clouds that looked like mountains. Even a few dog walkers on. Then looking under foot the textures – and noticed some shore covers with writing. So using graphite we did some rubbings and then tried doing rubbings of the rough texture of the path.

Back to school with our sketchbooks of drawings! And to warm up! We had a chat back at the school about which was our favourite drawing. And then using another sheet of A3 we did a simple map of the directions we had walked – and then using the magic blue carbon paper we transferred some of the shapes we had drawn. Building up a layered map. Once we got the hang of the carbon paper we were off! We could repeat a shape/ drawing in different parts of the map by going over it again. Check out these beautiful layered drawings!

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Sew Sew Amazing Maps/ 6th Class, Holy Family NS, Monkstown

Meanwhile over with 6th Class we continued with the sewing of the maps…to create beautiful layered textile collage artworks. I was amazed at the perseverance of 6th Class, they got into the sewing and got stuck in each week, slowly but surely they worked their way around the maps. I had thought they would get impatient/ frustrated with how long it took. But in some ways there was a slowing down and each week they would select and area to work on and select the thread or fabric. And while they continually referred back to their original hand drawn maps – we got to a point where the sewn map became an artwork and a design rather than an accurate representational map. This freed the students up in the colours, patterns and threads they selected – as in they did not have to be the actual colours of the map (eg. green field). So this made some consider their artworks more creatively and abstractly looking at how the materials, threads and buttons worked together as an abstract design with the map as its starting point. It was slow progress over the weeks, but the students did persevere and learned basic stitching skills and confidence in their sewing abilities!

As there was a frantic push to the end in the last week with Christmas plays and high jinx…I did not get a chance to take images of all the final pieces, just in progress. But here is a lovely group photo of 6th Class in stitches!

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Amazing Constructions and Productions – 3rd Class/ Holy Family N.S Monkstown

In embarking on the construction themed project back in October I thought maybe we might work on the boxes (that we had got from Recreate) for a few weeks before moving in a different direction.

Well, this project just kept unfolding and developing each week as we looked at new materials and construction processes and techniques each week. We got into a routine each week of beginning each day, as an artist in their studio would, by spending time looking at their artworks. Where might they go next with them? We would then have a group chat if someone was stuck or needed inspiration or an idea. This worked out really well as it gave the class chance to look at and talk about each others work and share ideas and inspirations for where they might go next. It worked well to see where everyone was at at the start of the day rather than at the end during the frantic clean up! So everyone made decisions on what they would do next, what materials they needed and if they needed help. And each week was a very busy session of hands on making and exploring new ways of using different materials.

Each week the “box sets” developed as different scenes or spaces were developed and also considering how the spaces linked to each other and how the character could move or be transformed as they moved between the different scenes. It also helped the students in story telling – looking at the what happens next….or if they were stuck using the prompt “And then what happens…”

It was amazing to see each week how the students continued to add and develop the artworks and even the sense of opening and closing them at the start and end of each week gave a sense of discovery. But also how they brought in their ideas from Minecraft/ Pokemon and other games they play online but how they could relate these virtual spaces to making real 3D constructed spaces, scenes, actions and storylines that they created, designed and made themselves. They were all very proud of their creative contructions! And all so completely different! Fantastic work 3rd Class! Great fun working with your class over the last 8 weeks!

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Week 4+5 – Stitching and Sewing – 6th Class, Holy Family N.S

We were bravely embarking on a block of sewing! Now as I explained to 6th Class – stitching and sewing is not my strong point but still I believe a skill that they should all learn in some format before they leave 6th Class. Even to understand the principles of how it works and also to be aware of sewing and fabrics in the world around us. And also what jobs may use sewing and stitching – not just clothing manufacturers. Even looking around the classroom – our clothes, our runners, the blinds, the tennis ball and the scars sewed by the doctors! We talked about who in their family can sew or knit – lots of grannies were mentioned, a good few mammies and aunts but less Dads and Grandads!

So week one – we looked at the school uniform sweatshirt – how many pieces of material are used to make this one garment? 3 or 4 we guessed? We began to realise that it was much more complex to contruct with different stitching used for joining parts, or hems or the decorative trim! Wow 15 different pieces of woven fabric all used to make up just one jumper! If we were going to learn to sew we would have to start with simple steps. We are using needles with large eyes to make it easier to thread and good cotton thread so it does not unravel and hessian material – a loose weave material so easier for learning.

Thread the needle, Double the thread, Tie a knot in the end.

Sew one straight line.

Each time trying to get the stitches evenly spaced and in a straight line.

Try and do double stitch at the end to secure.

Sounds simple! Some students took to it immediately! Some took a little longer. With some practice and some patience! We are all getting there! So after a few lines of stitching we tried sewing the letters of our initials. That was a lot of work for week one of sewing! But everyone was surprisingly enthusiastic! So the following week we began with refreshing ourselves on the basic techniques – up and down, even stitches, straight lines and double stitch at end. We also tried sewing one small patch of fabric to our practice panel. Trying to follow the edge of the patch and making sure the stitches go through the fabric and the hessian. And that the patch was kept flat – trying not to pull the stitches too tight. We then tried sewing just a two hole button – in and out and then wrapping around the stem of the button at the end to make it stronger and so it can be buttoned!

I know it is probably not the best sewing lesson and examples but it will give the students some understanding of how stitching works, We are going to work on stitching our maps from a few weeks back so at the end of Week 5 we have transferred the drawings onto a neutral coloured cotton which we will stitch in lines and add patches of fabric for different areas of the map.

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Week 4+5 -Places and Spaces – 3rd Class, Holy Family N.S

Before we moved into 3D construction I wanted look first at how we could explore cutting and tearing paper to create an edge – a horizon line or dividing line could be prompt ideas for different landscapes, different sorts of places and different sorts of spaces. Just using two colours and tearing along the sheet and placed on top of the scond colour we noticed it could be a different sort of landscape depending on the colours or depending on how the sheet was torn or cut and also if you turned it upside down it could be a different place. What shapes were suggesting different features. We began also to think of how big or small it was when you put a figure in. So lots to think about. Here’s some of the different landscapes suggested:

Town, river, beach, volcano, ice land, arctic, undergound, island, mountain, tunnel, mine, lake, underwater, ocean, city, space and cave

To begin each person started with two sheets in different colours and experimented in cutting and tearing to divide the space. What did it look like? How could you add more shapes to create features in the landscape. This was going to be our first background. A very busy morning as everyone got cutting and sticking and making.

I had found in Recreate ( gift boxes that opened out with interesting flat forms and angles that would work as great templates for us to build on and create different backgrounds and landscapes . They are really sturdy so will allow for building up of different surfaces, textures and more 3D construction elements. So these first backgrounds were now ready to be stuck onto one of the sides of the box. This could be the start, middle or end of a journey….all to be decided.

At the start of Week 5 – as everyone has been so busy working on their own creation we did not have chance to look at each others. So we began by setting up our boxes and we did a slow gallery walk around to look at the different ideas emerging. We then used this chat to suggest ideas to each other as to what they might work on for their second scene. We are trying to link the spaces so that it is as if you are moving from one scene to another – coming back to the idea of portals that we had discussed in the first weeks. So for example we looked at Ruby’s arctic background and someone suggested maybe travelling down through the frozen lake to under the ice. Or with Killian’s solar system we thought maybe he could Zoom in on one of the planets and create a Mars landscape. Everyone was very excited to get going so once again a hectic morning of activity and creation. We are also looking at folding techniques to make the scenes more 3D and also connecting them using concertina folding and looping. As well as cutting out holes to create portals connecting the spaces. Lots of diverse landscapes emerging and narratives and stories beginning to hatch! Looking forward to seeing how we will move them along next week with more moving elements.

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Forest Friday

Session 9

This was our final session with fourth and second class for 2021.

The children choose what they would like to do last week.

Fourth class

Fourth class ask for paper and drawing pencils, oak gall ink and peelers to sharpen sticks. They asked to play lots of games, moth and bat, Eagle Eye, Stoat, and Zombie.

Two children collected some mushrooms last week. They were asking how could they preserve them. They also wanted to do a mushroom hunt on the way to our base.

I did a few tests of mushrooms during the week that would be possible for the children to do at home rather than during Fridays as it needs time. I bought the results to share with the group.

Ink From the Shaggy Ink Cap

The mushroom became a lovely grainy dark ink in two days.

Spore Prints

Having removed the stalks I put a selection of mushrooms, gills facing down, on white and coloured paper and covered them with a bowl. The next day they produced these lovely spore prints.


Looking closer and closer.

Transcripts from recordings of the children.

“Oh, you can find so much stuff. I’m glad you didn’t stand on it by accident.” While parting leaves and finding tiny mushrooms.

“Look at this one. That’s the inside, you can touch it. It’s so cool, do you want to see the other side? We have to be very careful so it doesn’t break”.

What is this?

“It’s kind of like jelly only harder””It’s a tiny bit sticky.”

“It feels nice. It’s a tiny bit sticky, it looks like it melted.”

“If you look very closely there is something beginning to grow on it.”

Pine needle tea and free play.

Second Class

Building pine needle nests.

Looking closely.

Creating with Clay

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Forest Friday

Session 8

Celebrating Diwali

Nature mandala / rangoli pattern

Mandala – A mandala is a geometric design meant to symbolize the universe and our connection to it. It is an art form that is found in many cultures around the world. The word mandala is rooted in Sanskrit, and means “circular” and were often create beauty, traditionally, using sand.

You can find mandalas in flowers, tree rings, eyes, snowflakes, spiderwebs, sea shells, seeds, fruits and more.

Rangoli – a Sanskrit word meaning creative expression through color, is the art of drawing beautiful patterns on the floor, typically using colored powder to serve as a welcoming gesture to the gods and bring good luck.

Finding Mandala patterns in nature

Do you want to  work as a whole group or in two or three smaller groups?

Use the colour and texture of the fallen seeds, sticks, leaves, needles and feathers to create a Mandala.

Fourth Class

Collecting Materials

Second Class

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Week 3: Hallowe’en at Holy Family N.S, Monkstown

Today was the Hallowe’en party and parade at Holy Family Monkstown! Great excitement as everyone came into school dressed up in some deadly costumes! All the teaching staff were dressed up too so great fun and atmosphere around the school. With both the workshop times shortened today with the disco I decided we would have a bit of fun making a street of pop up haunted houses with both 3rd Class and 6th Class. So for 3rd Class it was a continuation of looking at different folding opening techniques. With both classes we did a brain storm on what you might find in a haunted house, around a haunted house and what might lie beneath a haunted house….. Lots of drawing, cutting, pop out elements and sound effects!

So two shorter sessions but two very busy sessions and the houses with a bit of work came together nicely and spookily!

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Forest Friday

Session 7

Celebrating Samhain in the Woods.

Everyone came dressed up for Halloween today.

Fourth Class

Making costumes from the forest.

We focused on lots of games and stories.

Circle time making a web to escape from.

On the way up to our base the children stopped at sites that looked spooky and told scary stories.

Second Class


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