Two ‘eggs’ and a ‘social nest’ were unveiled by P1 pupils at Canal View Primary, Edinburgh, today (Tuesday 10th September) – temporary playground installations the children have co-designed with artists over the past four months to help ease their transition from nursery.
An aluminum, domed frame covered with a range of colourful materials creates a social space to encourage inclusive play and relationship-building. Two smaller ‘eggs’ – one for sensory-seeking children and another quiet space for those who may be feeling overwhelmed – sit either side of the larger structure.
These structures are the culmination of our innovative pilot project The Stripy Nest. Today they were erected in beautiful woodland adjacent to the school playground, where we welcomed Children’s Minister Maree Todd to experience one of the Stripy Nest development sessions with the children.
Artists Kirstin Abraham and Katy Wilson, with playworker Max Alexander, have used a variety of artistic and creative approaches to help the children communicate what they need from a physical space to help overcome challenges as they transition from the school’s nursery garden to the school playground.
Through activities such as creative gardening; sculpture using clay, playdough and Plasticine; outdoor drawing and painting; weaving; positive destruction sessions with a range of materials; and building obstacle courses, the children have communicated their feelings and needs to inform the installation’s construction. Today’s session included live cello music, drumming and singing.
Lead artist Kirstin Abraham said: “We know that the playground can sometimes be an intimidating and anxious experience for younger children, particularly those with additional support needs. We wanted to help them create a physical space to help overcome this.
“It’s not enough to simply ask very young children what they need. In a series of sessions over the past four months, we’ve presented them with artistic and creative stimuli. We’ve observed, listened, interacted and responded to ensure what they are communicating is incorporated into the playground installation.”
Rhona Matheson, Chief Executive of Starcatchers, said: “The creative process has been as valuable as the creation of the installation itself. The children have explored their own views and feelings about an issue, communicated this and have seen something tangible grown from that. They can see that they have impact, that they have a voice.”
Children’s Minister Maree Todd said: “It was my pleasure to watch and play with the children in Canal View Nursery and Primary School today. The Stripy Nest project offers a wonderful variety of play-based experiences for children as they make the transition from nursery into primary school.
“It is essential that all transition stages are handled sensitively, inclusively and positively. Play-based learning aims to spark children’s imagination and creativity, providing them with long-lasting happy learning experiences.”
The approach complements Canal View Primary’s play-based approach in P1, which has seen the school move away from having a desk and chair for each pupil to a more flexible, open layout that encourages messy, creative and free play.
The inspiration for this project comes from Kirstin’s seven-year-old son who is Autistic and has, at times, found the playground a difficult place to be. As a visual artist, Kirstin’s work focuses on creating sensory experiences, installations and playspaces to encourage wellbeing and positive mental health.
Although the current installation is temporary, its design will inform research into the possibility of more permanent playground installations for the future.
Stripy Nest is funded by Ponton House Trust, Baily Thomas, The National Lottery Community Fund (Awards for All) and Souter Trust.
Read more about The Stripy Nest here.