Story Makers was a BBC Children in Need-funded project run in partnership with local primary schools, speech and language therapists, Fusion Arts, and an Integrative Arts Psychotherapist. It used the Museum collections and environment to stimulate children’s capacity to think reflectively and dialogically, with the aim of enriching their speech and language skills.
Working with local schools in areas of multiple deprivation within Oxford, Fusion Arts and teachers selected small groups of key stage 2 children with language support needs to take part in after-school sessions over a 12-week period.
Each small group of children visited the Museum twice for two-hour sessions exploring the theme of ‘Stones and Bones’. They then returned to school to use the inspiration from these sessions as a focus for their learning.
Children with various language and communication support needs were selected from the participating schools. As Story Makers, they were encouraged to get involved in a new context as artists, creating, reflecting, improvising and sharing with the group. This aimed to create opportunities for participants to build self-confidence, capacity for emotional expression and to reduce individuals’ isolation. The children were accompanied on their creative journey by teaching assistants, a speech and language therapist and volunteers.
The Museum sessions encouraged physical exploration of specimens and concepts, using material from the collections and the Museum’s unique spaces to inspire creative communication. This deeply felt experience was channelled into a mode of communication, a language portraying feeling through gesture and movement. The stories that emerged through artistic imagery were then transcribed into narrative, dialogue and poetry, forms in which there was a meeting between science and art.
During the sessions, children physically explored specimens and concepts relating to the zoology, mineralogy and geology collections using oral and analytical skills, movement and craft. Through their experiences of the Museum collections, children engaged their creative selves, through direct feeling and sensory observation, using the hands, body and senses, engaging self-awareness, self-confidence and the sharing of experiences.
Over the subsequent weeks, the children engaged in weekly sessions at school, developing stories, poems and art which were displayed in the Museum and celebrated when teachers, parents and important adults in the children’s lives came together in the Museum.
Sharing new ideas in the group built confidence and self-belief, creating a playful, trusting and thoughtful atmosphere that was the foundation for new learning, curiosity and openness to new ideas. Through stories and poetry, the Story Makers built their capacity to think reflectively and dialogically, enriching speech and language.
The project cemented stronger links between the schools and Fusion Arts, and opened new avenues for using the collections creatively to support children’s learning. Using the Museum’s Community Case to display the children’s stories and art gave other visitors a chance to understand how the Museum engages with learners.
Partnering with an arts organisation to support specific language and communication needs by blending science and art opened new methods for supporting this audience in their learning. We are hoping that we can re-run this project in future.
Kieran Cox, Fusion Arts
Chris Jarvis, Education Officer