Engaging children in learning with creative learning experiences | Vicky Meets

Vicky meets... Angela Watkins, co-ordinator, Actors and Creatives Insight, Chichester Festival Theatre.

• What is Actors and Creatives Insight?

It is a pilot project spearheaded by Chichester Festival Theatre to deliver creative learning experiences through interactive workshops. The educationist Sir Ken Robinson tried to establish this years ago. He believed that creativity and the arts could really enhance educational outcomes; that you needed to present learning in a creative cultural way to really engage children in their learning. Actor Edward Bennett is a strong supporter of the late Sir Ken’s work, as am I. My background is in performance, production and education and I have led the project, but Ed has been motivational. It’s very much been his brainchild.

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• How many schools have benefited from the workshops?

Angela Watkins, co-ordinator, Actors and Creatives Insight, Chichester Festival Theatre

By the end of the pilot we will have delivered 100 workshops to 20 West Sussex schools. We pinpointed areas where children don’t often get an opportunity to work this way, connecting with teachers prior to the workshop to be clear on their objectives and how we could best support the children’s learning within the syllabus.

• What does a typical workshop entail?

We have had every single year group working on Shakespeare in one school, for instance. Making the words come alive and being a part of the story engages children much more. I have also been into schools teaching dance and linking it to maths – developing muscle memory from making patterns on the floor. Another workshop was called Performing Postcards and gave children a way of expressing their feelings about the pandemic. Teaching through creativity is also a really collaborative way of learning. It creates an equality that makes children more motivated.

• Does it push children out of their comfort zones?

No, not at all. We work with teachers to identify specific needs and then help children engage in a different way. We did a puppetry workshop for low readers, for instance.

• Are the freelancers that lead the workshops all industry professionals?

Yes. All our freelancers are highly skilled. They have all welcomed the initiative and thrown themselves in. We’ve met some incredible freelancers who we didn’t even know were on our doorstep.

• How has the project been funded?

It was enabled by the government’s Culture Recovery Fund grant, awarded to CFT to help the theatre transition back to full activity, employ freelance artists, maintain its community commitment and support education work in schools. We’re hoping to be able to fund the project again in the future, but wouldn’t it be amazing if this could be rolled out nationally?

• How have you evaluated the project?

The most important part for us has been the evaluation. We recruited Sue Webb, a schools improvement consultant, who worked with freelancers on SMART objectives – Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic/Relevant and Time bound – so that we could ensure the best possible quality and outcomes. We’re also working with teachers so we know what we could improve. It’s been such a win-win project. Freelancers were itching to do something and schools were delighted to receive a fully funded project.


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