Creative Connections in the Early Years

Creative Connections
in the Early Years
Phase One Report
June 2012
“Every child is an artist.
The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.”
Executive Summary
Creative Arts and Young Children: Current Research
Project Aims and Methodology
Project Objectives
Excepted Outcomes
Key Activities
Key Activities and Findings
Research: Trial Programs
Forums and Workshops
Conclusions and Recommendations
Compiled by
Leigh Tesch Project Consultant,
Creative Connections in the Early Years
It is now well known that the early years of life from birth to the age of six are a
critical time for childhood development and wellbeing. What is also becoming
better understood is that when children engage in creative activities, their physical
and sensory development is stimulated in a variety of ways, allowing them to
explore, experiment and communicate. This is vital for brain development, as well
as for a child’s growing understanding of themselves and the world around them.
The Tasmanian Early Years Foundation (TEYF) and the Tasmanian Museum and
Art Gallery (TMAG) share a deep commitment to supporting creativity through the
arts in the lives of young children. Several years ago they formed a partnership
and the Creative Connections in the Early Years project grew out of a scoping
workshop in December 2009. A proposal for a one year development phase was
prepared and funding was subsequently received from the Sidney Myer Fund.
During this first phase of the project, over 600 people around the state have been
involved. It is clear that there is much enthusiasm for giving the arts and creativity
greater prominence in the lives of children from an early age. Both TEYF and
TMAG are committed to building on the work started through this project in order
to meet this important need.
This report describes the activities and findings of phase one, and sets out a
number of recommendations for the next phase of the project.
“Every child is an artist.
The problem is how to remain
an artist once we grow up.”
Pablo Picasso
Sue JenkinsBill Bleathman
Chair, Tasmanian Early Years Foundation
Director, Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery
Executive Summary
Over the past year, the Creative Connections in the Early Years project has
examined the role of creativity through the arts in the lives of young children in
Tasmania. This work was initiated through a partnership between the Tasmanian
Early Years Foundation (TEYF) and the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery
(TMAG) AccessArt program, enabled by funding from the Sidney Myer Fund.
There were three main activities: consultation, trial programs, and forums
and workshops.
Consultation with practitioners from the early years, arts, and community sectors
confirmed that they understand the crucial importance of creative expression
through the arts for young children’s learning and development. Yet a number of
barriers to facilitating such experiences were identified, including a lack of funding
and pathways for projects, the undervaluing and limited understanding of the arts
in the general community, and low levels of confidence in adult caregivers in
engaging with children in creative activities. The need for greater provision of
professional development programs, access to innovative ideas and resources,
and opportunities to work with artists emerged from this consultation as priorities
for the sectors.
Creative Connections delivered two trial programs of hands-on visual art
experiences in community settings designed and facilitated by a professional art
educator. In addition to involving children aged under six years, each of these
programs actively engaged parents and delivered professional development to
early learning staff. Evaluation indicated that both these programs were successful
in raising confidence in adults around creative engagement with children. Parents
reported feeling more connected with their children as a result of these activities,
and professionals reported gaining a deeper understanding of the value of the
creative process over the end product. Key components of a best practice model
for artist-led programs in early year settings were identified.
The project delivered forums and workshops for professionals and individuals.
In November 2011, 40 people from the arts and early years sectors gathered at a
half-day forum to begin a valuable dialogue. In March 2012, over 140 early years
educators and arts and community development practitioners attended a twoday professional development forum. The program included local and interstate
speakers, hands-on sessions led by artists, and the opportunity to showcase
Tasmanian programs and projects.
We have learned through the Creative Connections project that there are barriers
for practitioners and limited opportunities for artist-led programs that can enhance
young children’s creative exploration. To address these issues, it will be vital to
continue to actively support and stimulate the development of programs, projects
and initiatives in this area. The following is recommended to enable this to happen:
Continue Creative Connections in the Early Years as an entity, supported
by TEYF and TMAG, to promote the importance of creativity through the
arts in the early years and act as a conduit for projects, and resource base
for practitioners throughout the state.
Locate a ‘home’ for Creative Connections in the Early Years for a ‘centre
of excellence’ for early years engagement in the arts, ideally within TMAG’s
Centre for Learning and Discovery. TEYF to continue to provide and enable
sector development, expertise in the early years, developing resources,
networking opportunities, and capacity building.
Further develop and promote a model of best practice for quality
programming in this area. This would cover ways that skilled artists can
co-create with children, how to achieve effective parent involvement,
and structures within early year settings for supporting and continuing
such ongoing programs.
Provide quality creative arts programs in early year settings, for example
artist in residence or regular artists’ visits that target vulnerable or at
risk communities.
Provide opportunities for artists from a variety of disciplines and art forms
to work in early years settings and receive professional development,
including peer support and mentoring.
Involve parents in programs with young children as engaging parents to
experience their own creative process can increase their confidence in
being able to interact playfully and imaginatively with their children.
Establish professional development opportunities for early years
practitioners that provide ideas and resources, and increase their
confidence in engaging with creative art materials with young children.
Continue networking opportunities that bring together the arts, early years
and community sectors, with an annual forum to showcase projects and
offer hands-on learning.
Develop partnerships and dialogue between arts organisations and the
early year sector to consider ways to meaningfully engage with young
audiences in arts activities, events, festivals and performances.
Run education and awareness-raising initiatives that target parents and
the general public.
The strength of AccessArt’s programs has developed from a number of
partnerships and collaborations, which have been geared towards connecting a
diverse audience. Prior to co-developing the Creative Connections in the Early
Years project, AccessArt had supported TEYF’s work in a consultative capacity
for a number of years. The partnership between these two organisations is an
especially effective one.
The learning from the development phase of the Creative Connections in the Early
Years project provides clear direction for the future. There is much work to be
done to ensure young children in Tasmania, particularly those from more vulnerable
communities, access opportunities for creative play, artistic activity and cultural
experiences. Supporting parents, educators and caregivers is absolutely essential
to achieving this goal. As a result of the research, consultation and trial programs,
the Creative Connections in the Early Years partners TEYF and TMAG AccessArt
program are now well placed to champion a new direction for creativity and the
arts for young children in this State.
The TEYF report Outcomes in the early years: the state of Tasmania’s young
children shows that outcomes are poor on a number of indicators of children’s
health and development and that there are particular geographical areas of
vulnerability in the Tasmanian community.1 Child and Family Centres are currently
being established in areas of disadvantage to help address these vulnerabilities.
Meanwhile, the Department of Education supports Launching into Learning
programs for children from birth to four years of age and their parents. There are
many services for young children around the state, and many currently target
vulnerable communities, however programming for creativity within early years
services varies greatly.
Creative Connections in the Early Years sought to find out about the current role
of creativity through the arts for Tasmania’s young children by connecting and
working with key stakeholders including:
The TEYF was established in 2007, with the vision that every Tasmanian child
be given the best possible start in life as a foundation for a healthy, happy and
positive future. It soon became apparent that there were many issues and service
gaps affecting young children and their families, including many children having
limited opportunities for meaningful creative activities. One important stimulus for
action was the Reggio Emilia conference held in Hobart that year, which offered
a philosophy and vision for how services might look, based on its emphasis on
aesthetic environments for young children and collaborative arts practices,
together with community engagement.
Early years educators and teachers in education and childcare settings.
Artists, arts organisations and arts workers, particularly those who work
with young children.
Community organisations, government and non government agencies
who work with young children and families.
Parents and the general community.
AccessArt is TMAG’s dedicated art education unit. Fully funded by Detached
Cultural Organisation since 2008, it delivers programs for all ages with a focus on
interpreting contemporary visual art and hands-on engagement in art practice. At
the core of all AccessArt activities is a commitment to increasing access to and
participation in contemporary culture, particularly for remote and disadvantaged
communities. AccessArt’s activities span in-house programs at TMAG and
Detached Gallery, community outreach, professional learning for industry peers
and the development of new art educational resources. In just over three years
AccessArt has emerged as one of the most reliable and exciting providers of
quality art education outside of the formal education sector in Tasmania.
“I liked being with mum.”
Child participant
Creative arts and young children:
Current research
Creativity and the arts can contribute significantly to human development and
wellbeing during the early years of life from birth to the age of six. Extensive
research supporting this is now available from a range of disciplines including
education, health and wellbeing, business, science and psychology.
Creativity has been described as both a process of generating ideas linked with
problem solving, and a personality trait where originality, independence, curiosity
and artistry are valued.2 A recent meta-analysis of the creativity literature identified
five “habits of mind” of creative people – they are inquisitive, persistent, imaginative,
disciplined and collaborative.3 When we are engaged in a creative process, we
often become totally absorbed in what we are doing and this sense of “flow” in
play and work is linked to our enjoyment and wellbeing.4
E. Paul Torrance, a leading researcher of creativity, suggested that we are most
creative at the age of four.5 Children engage with the world in a process that is
naturally inquisitive and enables them to explore, experiment and communicate.
Playing with visual art materials, following pace and rhythm in music and dance,
hearing and telling stories are some of the many ways that children can engage
with the world around them. Many early years educators have recognised the
importance of this for learning and for physical, cognitive, sensory and brain
Benefits of engaging in the arts
The arts provide a valuable avenue for experiencing our creativity and the wider
benefits of arts engagement are well documented.9,10,11 At a personal level they
include greater self confidence, an active imagination, a sense of belonging,
empowerment, and improved wellbeing and educational performance. At a
community level, they include active citizenship, improved social cohesion,
reduced social isolation, reduced crime levels and increased employment rates.
Australian research into arts participation in schools shows that it has a positive
impact on student learning in areas such as social and personal development,
attitudes to learning , literacy, numeracy, enjoyment and value of the arts.12 A
study of Learning Through the Arts, a Canadian educational program that uses
arts-based activities to teach the core curriculum, found that students showed
improvements in mathematical scoring when compared to control schools.13
Role of adults in children’s creativity
The attitudes and actions of parents, teachers and community members shape
and influence a child’s environment, and can either support or thwart their
creativity.14 The role of an “interlocutor” is important, where an adult takes time to
play and converse with a child, following the child’s imagination on a journey of
discovery and meaning making.
Play is important in developing parent-child bonding15, and this can be stimulated
by using creative arts activities. A United States study suggests that opportunities
for play, particularly for children living in lower socio-economic areas, have reduced
due to current changes in lifestyle, technology and family structure.16 The Australian
Government has also acknowledged the importance of play in growth and
development, making it an integral part of the Early Years Learning Framework.17
Educational models
Many educators have called for greater attention to the role of the arts and creativity
in educational settings. United Kingdom specialist Sir Ken Robinson argues that
education has undervalued the arts subjects and as a result children are losing their
creative capacities.18 He points out that it is in making mistakes that we can come
up with original ideas, but that many children learn to be afraid of making mistakes.
A variety of educational models focus on the child and their inherent curiosity
and creativity. One in particular, the Italian-based Reggio Emilia philosophy sees
teachers as co-learners in children’s development. It also highlights the importance
of the aesthetic environment and features the use of the atelier, a studio where
artists can practice and engage with children.19 The emphasis in these centres is
the process of creativity, rather than the outcome.
A children’s literacy model known as ORIM has been adapted to arts-based
learning.20 It distinguishes four elements through which children learn and develop:
materials and experiences, imagination, skills, and talking about the arts. It also
identifies four ways that learning can be facilitated: providing opportunities, giving
recognition, interaction and modelling. These two aspects can be mapped in
matrix form and used to design a range of activities.
Artist-led models
Artists and arts educators in educational settings can bring quality art experiences,
and opportunities for interaction with, and modelling of, art making. The UK charity
Creativity Culture and Education, led by CEO Paul Collard, has run the Creative
Partnerships program for the past decade, funding creative professionals to work
in partnership with teachers and students in schools and early years settings.
There has been a focus on working in lower socio-economic communities and
providing professional development for teachers, and there are now many inspiring
stories of children creating and learning in their school environments, with real
improvements in school attendance and engagement. Collard has recently been
Thinker in Residence with the Western Australian Commission for Children and
Young People and while there highlighted the importance of developing creative
thinking in educational settings.21
Research into children’s participation in artist-led activities at Melbourne’s ArtPlay
– a civic studio where children can be creative and express themselves in an open
and supportive environment – showed deep engagement of children and their
parents and carers. Focused participation and high levels of curiosity and interest
were observed, and the environment, interactions, materials, time and experience
were found to be key components.22
Arts organisations
Responding to artwork and performances is another way that children engage
their curiosity and thinking, and it also provides a vehicle for communication.23
The Queensland Performing Arts Centre has developed guidelines for how arts
organisations can work with parents and young children.24 These suggest that
for arts programming to successfully engage young children, it should centre on
their experience, support parents, and acknowledge cultural life as a collective
and collaborative responsibility.
Arts Council England also offers principles for delivering quality programming
for and by children and young people.25 It describes 10 characteristics including
leadership and commitment, achieving outcomes for healthy children, integrating
arts across other curriculum areas, high quality artistic experiences, hearing the
voices of children, training and professional development, networks, sustainability,
evaluation and celebrating success.
Australian Programs and Activities
Nationally, there is a large range of opportunities where arts and creativity for young
children is valued.
Childcare Centres where artists are employed to deliver arts experiences
e.g. Melbourne Early Learning Centre and their children’s art gallery,
Illawarra Children Services, which has an artist studio and offers regular
artist-led sessions.
Museums and Art Galleries that offer art programs for young children
e.g. National Gallery of Victoria, Queensland Art Gallery, TMAG.
Children’s arts festivals e.g. Awesome International Arts Festival for
Bright Young Things in Perth, South Coast Children’s Festival in
Wollongong, Sydney Children’s Festival, Adelaide’s Come Out Festival,
and Brisbane’s Out of the Box Festival, which specifically targets children
aged 3-8 years.
Council-run services e.g. ArtPlay in Melbourne, which offers artist-led
creative experiences for children and families in a specially designed
Artist in Residence programs e.g. the AIR program, an Australia
Council initiative with artists working in education settings. The ACT and
Queensland have a number in early childhood settings.
Arts Organisations such as Melbourne’s Polyglot Theatre, which provides
interactive experiences for children and families, and Adelaide’s Patch
Theatre, which specialises in theatre for 4-8 year olds.
Early learning programs inspired by arts learning methods e.g.
Kindergarten and schools inspired by Reggio Emilia, and schools based
on Steiner and Montessori philosophies.
Within Tasmania, there are also a number of initiatives, described later in this report
(see page 25)
“I had never thought
of drawing a story and
using this as a way to
Foster parent
Project aims and methodology
The long-term vision driving this project is that every Tasmanian child has the
opportunity to enhance their creativity, and that parents and caregivers have the
confidence to provide creative experiences. The aim of this initial project was to
develop programs and support for creative art experiences for children in the
early years of life.
5.1 Governance
The TEYF and TMAG AccessArt program partnered to support the project, with
Leigh Tesch engaged as project consultant in May 2011. A steering committee was
established with representation from the early years, arts and community sectors.
Members were:
Sue Jenkins
Chair, Tasmanian Early Years Foundation
Mark Green
CEO, Tasmanian Early Years Foundation
Bec Tudor
Co-ordinator Art Education, Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery
Suzanne Purdon
Senior Project Officer, Centre for Community Child Health
Michael McLaughlin
Community Cultural Development Officer, Glenorchy City Council
Cheryl Larcombe
Principal Project Officer Early Years, Department of Education
The steering committee met every 4–6 weeks throughout the project, initially
guiding the development of the project plan, then monitoring progress of the
activities. Working groups were formed and people co-opted as needed.
Share the knowledge, skills and confidence of all those individuals and
organisations who work with young children, in order to assess how
children’s engagement in creative experiences can be increased.
Raise community awareness of the role of the arts in healthy development,
particularly its value for early years literacy and numeracy.
Strengthen relationships and understanding between parents, carers,
community members and children through the process of creating and
learning together.
5.3 Expected Outcomes
Early years practitioners informed about and engaged with this Creative
Connections in the Early Years project.
Increased dialogue within the arts and early years sectors about the
importance of the early years and the contribution of the arts to child
Program model developed for artists working in early years settings.
Two trial programs conducted and formally evaluated.
A minimum of three workshops and three community forums conducted
between November 2011 and June 2012.
Research synthesized and made accessible through presentations and
publications available to the sector and the community.
Proposal for program funding beyond the development phase developed.
5.2 Project Objectives
Gain a sound understanding of leading examples of encouraging young
children’s creative development in a range of early years settings and
communities relevant to Tasmania.
Hear parents’, caregivers’ and families’ ideas and feedback in regard to
fostering and engaging their child’s creativity.
5.4 Key Activities
Consultation with practitioners from the early years, arts and
community sectors.
This was to find out about existing programs and models, ascertain
demand, gaps and ideas, and establish dialogue and partnerships.
Research into current literature, with a trial of two programs.
This was to gather together existing evidence, document and disseminate
that evidence, trial programs based on credible programs, and assess the
feasibility of a physical base.
Forums and workshops with arts organisations and early
years practitioners.
This was to raise awareness, enable dialogue and networking, explore
challenges and offer opportunities for professional development.
An action plan with specific strategies under the three activity areas is included in
Appendix A. Details about how each activity area progressed and what emerged
are set out in the next section.
“I do get more confident
with trying these things
and knowing how to use
the product so it has
been beneficial to me.”
Foster parent
Key activities and findings
6.1 Consultation
The Creative Connections project consulted broadly with practitioners from the
early years, arts and community sectors. Stakeholders were asked about the
current status of arts and creativity in the early years in Tasmania, as well as current
gaps, resources and ideas about future opportunities. Meetings and discussions
were held with key individuals and groups and an online survey was conducted.
Meetings and Discussions
Early years sector
Discussions were held with Launching into Learning coordinators, Child and Family
Centre leaders and community representatives, the manager for the statewide
professional development program for early year educators based at Gowrie;
individual teachers and early year educators, including the Reggio Emilia Research
Network; and through site visits to Gowrie Centres.
Links were also made with the University of Tasmania’s School of Education; the
University of Melbourne, through arts and education lecturer Robert Brown and
Director of the Early Learning Centre, Jan Deans; and ArtPlay Melbourne, through
creative producer Simon Spain. Contact was also made with Professor Cathy
Nutbrown of the University of Sheffield, who has a special interest in arts based
learning in the early years.
Arts sector
Discussions were held with individual artists working with young children, arts
organisations; community cultural development programs such as Kickstart Arts,
Interweave Arts Association and Creature Tales; regional galleries and performing
arts companies; and Arts Tasmania, specifically the Artist in Residence program
and Artsite program. The project consultant also attended a Creativity Conference
in Wollongong NSW on the topic of children and creativity.
creative process with their children, and that there is an over-reliance on television,
video consoles and similar technology. It was also suggested that children in
vulnerable communities have fewer opportunities for creative engagement.
The educator’s role in the creative experience was also raised. Some people
commented that there tends to be an emphasis on an end product to give to
parents, and that time pressures often limit meaningful creative exchanges
between young children and their carers.
Online Survey
The purpose of the online survey was to investigate the current skills, experience
and resources available in the state, find out about barriers and enablers, and seek
suggestions for further development. A detailed report is included at Appendix B.
The survey was distributed widely through the networks of the early years, arts
and community sectors. There were 103 responses, with 51% from early years
education and care programs, 29% from the arts sector and 20% from community
It confirmed that Tasmanian practitioners share the view that creative opportunities
are very important for young children, particularly for their self expression, learning
and development, imagination and discovery, flexibility and resilience, and self
esteem. Around half of the respondents were aware of specific successful
programs in Tasmania.
Each sector had a unique perspective of the enablers and barriers to creative
engagement, summarised in the table below. All the sectors noted the enablers
of professional development and developing networks, and that community and
parent attitudes and perceptions did not always recognise the value of the
creative process.
Community Sector
Discussions were held with local government representatives, the Tasmanian
Association for Community Houses, and the Early Childhood Move Well Eat Well
initiative within Population Health in the Department of Health and Human Services.
Parents of young children were consulted through the trial programs.
Summary of Discussions
Key points discussed were the value of arts based learning in the early years, the
importance of parent attitudes and understanding, and the need to work with
families. There were suggestions that many parents don’t have time to connect in a
Community sector
Arts sector
Lack of funding, time and space,
Resources, ideas
Lack of funding, pathways to projects
Opportunities for projects
Professional development
Arts and benefits not valued or
understood by community
Support and networking
Lack of confidence of workers,
knowledge of art experiences
Parent attitudes
Low status of arts
Opportunities for projects
Regular visits/involvement
of artists
Lack of training and support /
limited understanding of child
Induction, orientation and training
Tasmanian Programs and Activities
Legal issues e.g. public liability
In Tasmania, there are a number of initiatives offering valuable programs for young
children, although many are on a small scale.
TMAG offers outreach activities statewide through its AccessArt program
Early years sector
Lack of expertise, experience
Resources, ideas
Timetabling, education outcomes
and assessments
Professional development
Community perception of art
product rather than the process/
parent attitudes
Lack of recognition of the value of
arts in the community
Funding for resources
No specialist, or someone to help
Resources to encourage parents
Regular visits/involvement
of artists
Support and networking
Health promotion workers in community health settings have used artists
to offer programs with dance, puppetry, and drama with young children.
Some local councils have supported artists or arts organisation to run
programs for young children e.g. Kingborough Kids Allowed.
Some arts organisations target areas of disadvantage and work with
communities that may involve young children e.g. Creature Tales,
Kickstart Arts, Big hART.
Some performing arts companies offer programs and classes for young
children e.g. Tasdance.
A small number of music therapists work with young children and parents
e.g. Sing & Grow program.
Regional galleries such as Launceston’s Queen Victoria Museum and Art
Gallery and the Devonport Art Gallery have community education programs
and holiday programs that target young children.
Some private tuition in visual art, music, dance and drama is available for
children under six e.g. children’s dance schools.
Some teachers and educators use arts-rich experiences such as those
inspired by the Reggio Emilia model.
Some childcare and pre-school services provide art exhibition experiences
e.g. New Horizons Preschool and Northern Children’s Network, which has
a regular Art Tastic art exhibition.
Launching into Learning coordinators already use, and are keen to use
more, creative activities.
Play groups and neighbourhood houses run programs at times e.g.
Learning and Information Network Centres (LINCs) offer weekly or school
holiday program programs that sometimes include arts approaches
The Fahan School uses a Reggio Emilia philosophy.
6.2 Research – Trial Programs
Two trial programs where a visual artist worked with children, parents and carers
was conducted in two different settings. An Art Educator from TMAG’s AccessArt
program, Rosie McKeand, designed the program content and led the artistic
process, assisted by project consultant Leigh Tesch.
The objectives of the trial programs were to:
Enable parents, carers and staff to recognise and value their own creative
thinking, and increase their skills and confidence in providing opportunities
for creative activities with children in their care.
Provide children with a quality creative arts experience.
Recognise and value the child’s perspective in the creative process.
Develop a shared language to support children’s expression, learning
and stories and to connect with children as they make their stories visible.
Arts Tasmania arranges artist commissions for work for new buildings
through the Art Site program e.g. the newly built Child and Family Centres
have art installations, sculptures and mosaics. Some of these works have
been inspired by discussions with local young children and families.
The creative tasks and activities were designed to build confidence with art
materials and offer adults practical ideas for engaging with children. A variety of
visual art methods were explored using pencil, art-liner pens, charcoal, pastels,
oil pastels, clay and printmaking.
Arts Tasmania also runs the national Artist in Residence program, which
in Tasmania currently has a focus on high schools.
The two programs were devised specifically to suit each participant group. The
program design drew on TMAG AccessArt’s extensive experience in program
delivery, in outreach programs specifically. It was also influenced by current
research about components of engagement 26, the ORIM framework of support
for children’s learning with arts experiences 27, and components of
quality programming.28,29
Individual artists work with young children on a variety of projects e.g. in
childcare centres and local government programs.
1. Children in Out of Home Care Program
The first program was for foster parents, children and case workers and was held at
the Parenting Centre in New Town. It was developed and promoted in consultation
with staff from Children and Youth Services in the Department of Health and
Human Services.
The program was a sequential series of three morning sessions about two weeks
apart. Each session workshop began with a session for foster carers, enabling
them to learn techniques and explore their own creative process. After a morning
tea break, the children joined their foster parents to extend the learning through
shared creative activities. Case workers were encouraged to join both parts of the
session. Take home kits with some art materials were provided to the children to
enable continued art-making in between sessions.
2. Beaconsfield Child and Family Centre Program
The second program was held for children, families and staff at Beaconsfield
Child and Family Centre, with two outreach visits six weeks apart. The program
was developed in consultation with the centre leader, community liaison officer and
Launching into Learning coordinator. Sessions were offered to established groups
at the centre, including playgroup, childcare, pre-kinder, and Launching into
Learning. As with the out of care program, the sessions focused on parents for the
first hour, with the children joining them for the second. A professional development
session was provided to centre staff on each visit, and an additional program
tailored for primary school teachers was well attended.
Evaluation findings
In evaluating the program, feedback was sought from participants in interviews,
questionnaires and observations. This was carried out by the project consultant.
A summary is provided below and the full report is included in Appendix C.
Structure and organisation
Participants rated the programming and arrangements positively. Parents and
carers appreciated being in a physical environment that was comfortable and
enabled privacy, and which allowed them time to explore their own creative
expression. It was helpful to have a second facilitator to assist with logistics, and
support from the host settings was essential.
Feedback from parents and carers about skills, confidence and
creative thinking
Parents and carers reported increased skills and confidence in being able to
provide creative opportunities for their children and this was also noted by
observers. After initial apprehension, they soon became highly engaged in the
activities and described new ways of thinking, learning new ideas, and gaining a
sense of achievement. All the parents and foster carers who attended were women.
“I liked thinking about
art in a different way.”
Foster carer
Feedback from staff about skills, confidence and creative thinking
There was positive feedback from staff about the value of professional development
and opportunities for engaging with clients. One case worker who attended the out
of home care program described in detail how he used the skills he had learned at
an access visit between a father and his child.
“I was going to see a father and child where the father hadn’t spent much time with
his children at all – like 20 minutes every three weeks – and now he had three hours
each week, so it’s been a real stretch for him. We started doing the art activities and
the father and his three year old child ended up making fancy hats with feathers and
stars and that sort of thing. The father wore it and they went outside and played like
an Indian game. It was really good. This father has since had another access visit
without me, and he came prepared. He’d made some play-dough! He’s got the
idea to actually plan some activities!”
– Case Worker
Staff and teachers who attended the professional development sessions at the
Beaconsfield Child and Family Centre reported feeling more confident and
comfortable in their approach to working creatively with young children. They said
they gained tips, techniques and ideas that were directly applicable to their work.
They also described becoming less concerned about the end product or their own
artistic ability, and finding new perspectives about art-making and communication
that they can explore with children and parents.
“It really extended my thinking about the processes of being creative and the
potential for storytelling.”
– Teacher
“I lean towards more structured activities, then I stress too much about what
children should be able to produce instead of just letting them experiment.”
– Teacher
Feedback from the children
Children were asked to provide feedback either verbally or through a drawing. Their
feedback reinforced their sense of being present in the moment, the immediacy of
their experience and that the art activities were part of their whole experience rather
than anything specifically challenging. They showed pride in their achievements and
some of them assisted the adults with techniques.
I made light orange.”
Child participant
Developing a shared language to support children’s expression
Feedback indicated that parents and children were developing a shared language
and building the relationship of child and carer through making art. There were
many examples of listening and prompting stories, and sharing experiences,
techniques and ideas.
“I provide a lot of materials
and sit with the kids but don’t
always know how to get more
involved with them. This gives
you another basis to prompt
Enablers and barriers to support children learning through creative experience
Model of practice
The analysis of the evaluation data indicated the following barriers and enablers:
The two trial programs enabled valuable learning about how best to support
creative engagement with adults and young children. The above enablers are
key factors in building a model of practice, along with current research, our recent
experience and feedback from participants. They are summarised as follows:
Not enough time to develop,
establish relationships and skills
Skilled leadership of the arts
Undervaluing the importance of
separate sessions for adults
Safe environments that are nonjudgemental and not competitive
Difficulties finding engaging and
inviting ways to promote programs.
Social connection and support of
a group
Preferences and preconceived
ideas e.g. about art being messy or
not an enjoyable activity
Activities that are practical and
Focus on and control of the end
product rather than the process
Adult perceptions around creativity
and the arts, particularly past
negative experiences with the arts
and self-criticism about their own
creative ability
Limited expectations of what
children can achieve
Individual openness to learning
Ongoing programming opportunities
to develop and follow up skill
Strategies to embed creative
practices in settings and build
Support structures linking with
expertise and support in the early
years settings
Adequate time for set up and to
support planning and preparation
Central to this model is the skilled artist or art educator who is able to
work well with children and parents. The artist needs to have skills in
listening to young children and to be able to engage with the children’s
ideas in a shared creative process as collaborators. They need to enable
safe supportive environments, as well as being flexible and practical.
Around the artist is a team to support their work. This includes the roles
of assisting and planning logistics, marketing and promoting the program,
and expertise in the early years.
Senior management of the host organisations need to endorse and support
the program. The organisation needs to allow for adequate preparation time
and ongoing programs to follow up and further build skills and relationships.
They also need to consider sustainable approaches that build capacity and
embed regular creative arts experiences as part of their practice. Programs
may need to be explained and promoted in ways that engage people and
attract participation.
Ongoing evaluation, quality improvement and research possibilities should
be considered.
Finally the model needs to involve the trusted adults caring for or teaching
the young children. Because of their own experiences and perceptions,
adults may initially be reluctant. Separate parent sessions can reduce
apprehension and give time for their own hands-on exploration.
Professional development sessions for staff are also essential.
Consideration for the role of
organising, logistics and marketing
of the program
Parent-only sessions before working
together with the children
Quality professional development
opportunities for staff
“I went away and thought about how easy it would be to do something.
So last week at playgroup I took some of the materials down. It was just amazing.
The children – one of them drew a long-necked animal, one was 18 months, so
it was lines on paper. And the level of engagement with the parents was just
amazing for us. We saw the stunning effect. That was the wow factor! And then
the parents stayed and played for a good forty minutes once the children had
left the activity.”
– Beaconsfield Teacher
“We took pencils and
paper when we went
camping recently – we
looked at wildlife and the
beach. I encouraged her
to draw what she saw.
Better than just saying
‘do a picture’. We have
just done more drawing.”
program at Beaconsfield Child and Family Centre received print media coverage
in The Examiner and the statewide forum received print and television news
coverage, featuring interviews with Melbourne University’s Robert Brown, one of
the keynote speakers.
Young Children, the Arts and Creativity: A Way Forward for Tasmania
– November Forum
This first forum at the Moonah Arts Centre brought together over 40 invited
representatives from key organisations to establish dialogue between the arts
and early years sectors. With sponsorship from the UTAS School of Education,
the forum was able to host Dr Nick Owen from Aspire Trust in the UK as keynote
speaker. His presentation, “You wanna be a partner? The impact of new forms of
cultural partnership on the early years setting” was well received. A hypothetical
session followed, where a panel of arts sector representatives and early childhood
practitioners and educators discussed the development of a fictional arts project
focused on early childhood participation in the creative process. A facilitated
discussion then considered the question, “What is needed to build capacity in
Tasmania for creativity and the arts in the early years of life?”
Written feedback revealed positive feedback overall and highlighted the importance
of opportunities like this to network, share practice and showcase projects.
“A well constructed event, creating the conversation that can lead to creative
– Participant feedback
“Lots of passion and commitment – opportunities for partnerships are strong.”
– Participant feedback
6.3 Forums and Workshops
Presentations and Media
The project consultant gave a number of presentations about the project and the
role of creativity through the arts with young children. These included the Early
Years Launching into Learning coordinators statewide meeting in Campbelltown,
a Child and Family Centre forum in Georgetown, the Reggio Emilia Research
Network, Tasmanian Leaders program seminar, and the Tasmanian Infant Mental
Health conference in Hobart.
A media launch was held on September 2011 at Possums Day Care Centre in
Taroona and resulted in coverage in print and television news broadcasts. The trial
Young Children, the Arts and Creativity – Statewide Forum
A two-day professional development event was held at the Tailrace Centre in
Launceston for people in the arts, early years and community sectors. Over
140 people attended, with the venue exceeding capacity. A full report about the
forum was compiled by Fiona Ferguson, independent evaluator, and is included in
Appendix D.
Keynote Speakers were Simon Spain of ArtPlay Melbourne, Robert Brown of the
University of Melbourne and, with sponsorship from the UTAS School of Education,
Professor Susan Wright, also of the University of Melbourne. Tasmanian presenters
also offered concurrent sessions and showcased local projects. Artists who had
worked with young children ran hands-on workshops. The program is attached in
Appendix E.
Feedback about the program was very positive, reporting that the practical
arts-based workshops, keynote presentations, and showcased projects were
particularly valuable, as well as opportunities to network and make connections
with other disciplines.
The report of the forum recommends further opportunities for networking for
educators, artists, early childhood professionals and community members,
including targeted workshops, future Statewide forums, organised visits to
ArtPlay in Melbourne, and the creation of an artist register for educators and
early childhood professionals.
“Sharing knowledge, collaborating and investigating art with others.”
– Participant feedback
“Learning about
creative ways of
working with children
and using different
materials and means
to engage children.”
Participant feedback
“A well constructed event,
creating the conversation
that can lead to creative
Participant feedback
Conclusions and recommendations
The Creative Connections in the Early Years project has engaged early years
practitioners and the arts sector in consultation, information sharing and
networking. As a result of our trial programs, research and consultation, key
enablers for a model of best practice for artist-led initiatives and programs in early
year settings have been identified. Building on the success of the project so far,
the following recommendations provide a framework for the second phase of
the project.
Statewide support for the value of creativity through the arts for young children
The Creative Connections project has confirmed that practitioners value the role of
creative experiences through the arts for young children’s development; however
the survey showed that only half of the respondents knew of any successful
programs in Tasmania. Currently there are very few opportunities and limited
funding for creative arts practitioners to work with young children in Tasmania. Of
the few programs that do exist, often practitioners, particularly artists, are working
in isolation, and programs are scattered and ad hoc. There is no statewide
coordination, or real pathway to recognising skills, or to resourcing, developing and
ensuring quality practice. A central statewide resource base for practitioners would
support and promote creativity through the arts for young children and provide a
springboard for initiatives and opportunities.
Recommended Action 1
Creative Connections in the Early Years needs to continue as an entity, supported
by TEYF and TMAG, to promote the importance of creativity through the arts in the
early years and act as a conduit for projects, and resource base for practitioners.
This can involve web-based resources and networking.
Recommended Action 2
With TMAG currently undergoing redevelopment, it is an ideal opportunity to locate
a physical ‘home’ or ‘centre of excellence’ for early years creative engagement
in Tasmania, with an annual calendar of programs led by a dedicated coordinator
working with commissioned specialists. TEYF would continue to provide and enable
sector development, expertise in the early years, developing resources, networking
opportunities, and capacity building. Additional funding would be needed as this
vision is beyond the current capacities of these organisations.
A model of best practice for artists working with young children and families
The key enablers of a model that successfully engages young children in creative
experiences have been identified and are described in a model of best practice on
page 27. Programs need to involve skilled artists who can share a creative practice
in collaboration with children, and parents need to be involved. Early years settings
need to provide specialist expertise, endorse programs and support preparation
time, logistics and professional development opportunities. Strategies for evaluation
and sustainability need to be inbuilt into these programs.
Currently there are few opportunities and little funding for such programs and
initiatives need to be developed through partnerships and networks.
Recommended Action 3
Further develop and promote a model of best practice for quality programming in
this area. This would cover ways that skilled artists can co-create with children,
how to achieve effective parent involvement, and structures within early years
settings for supporting and continuing such ongoing and sustainable programs.
Recommended Action 4
Provide quality creative arts programs in early year and community settings, such
as artists in residence or regular artists visits. These should target vulnerable or at
risk communities, for example, by having ongoing programs in Child and Family
Centres and in out of home care. Funding would need to be sourced for
such programs.
The role of artists or art educators
Results of the survey and feedback from the forums and trial programs showed that
early years and community practitioners would value working with artists in these
types of programs.
Recommended Action 5
Provide opportunities for artists from a variety of disciplines and art forms to work
in early year settings and receive professional development, including peer support
and mentoring.
Increasing the confidence of parents
Adults can be critical of their own creative abilities, they may have had negative
past experiences of arts engagement, or they may see creativity as being in the
realm of elite artists. These perspectives can sometimes result in them feeling
uncomfortable with creative opportunities and, for parents, reluctant to play with
their child using creative materials. Parents who attended the trial programs said
they felt more confident and reported learning new ways of engaging creatively with
their children. The practical hands-on sessions with ideas for activities and materials
were helpful.
Recommended Action 6
Involve parents in programs with young children. Engaging parents to experience
their own creative process can increase their confidence in being able to interact
playfully and imaginatively with their child. Meanwhile, further consideration is
needed in how to promote engagement, and encourage parents, particularly
fathers, to attend programs and opportunities.
Needs of early years teachers and educators
A number of early year practitioners also reported discomfort engaging in the arts.
In addition, pressures of time for assessment and operational responsibilities in
programs meant that taking time to create with children became a lower priority.
They also described a preference for ‘instant’ results that focus on children creating
an end product to take home, rather than experimentation and exploration. The
consultation revealed that educators wanted ideas and resources to support their
work with young children and would value working with artists.
Recommended Action 7
Establish professional development opportunities for early years practitioners that
provide ideas and resources, and increase their confidence in using creative art
activities with young children.
Networking and learning opportunities
The forums were hugely successful and indicated the desire for practitioners to
meet together when possible to continue promoting and developing practice in
creativity, arts and young children.
Recommended Action 8
Continue networking opportunities that bring together the arts, early years and
community sectors, along with parents and caregivers. A forum to showcase
projects and offer hands-on learning should take place annually in Tasmania.
Opportunities for visiting artists to give workshops to the early years sector and
mentoring for artists and early year practitioners should be explored.
Dialogue with arts organisations and early years
The Creative Connections project initiated a dialogue between arts and early years
practitioners. There was a strong interest in shared initiatives. Young children are
a present and future audience and arts organisations and companies expressed
interest in reaching this audience in a meaningful way. Arts activities, events,
festivals and performances that include potential audiences of young children can
promote and highlight the importance of creative expression through the arts
Recommended Action 9
Develop partnerships and dialogue between arts organisations and the early years
sector to consider ways to meaningfully engage with very young audiences in arts
activities, events, festivals and performances.
Public perception
Although practitioners in the arts, early years and community sectors value
creativity and the arts, they suggest that this is not the case for the general public.
Barriers identified through the survey and the trial programs included community
perceptions that undervalue the role of the arts, and a lack of recognition of its
importance for growth and development of young children.
Recommended Action 10
Run education and general awareness-raising initiatives and events that target
parents and the general public. Marketing and media strategies need to be
developed to engage people who may be hard to reach.
The Creative Connections in the Early Years project in its development phase
has celebrated the value of creative experiences for young children and provided
valuable insights into how opportunities for greater access and engagement can
be created here in Tasmania. It has been a year of learning for many sectors and
communities, and the time and commitment from the many people involved is
appreciated. It will be important to build on the momentum created, in order that
every child has the opportunity to realise their potential. If we can do this, Tasmania
has a bright and creative future.
“It really extended my
thinking about the process
of being creative and the
potential for storytelling.”
The author would like to thankfully acknowledge the support of the Tasmanian
Early Years Foundation, Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery AccessArt program,
the Creative Connections in the Early Years Steering Committee and support
from the Sidney Myer Fund.
Photography and design by Sarah Foley.
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