Early Years CPD, networking and Magic Moonbeam Moments!

The Mighty Creatives supported a group of delegates to attend the `How to Catch a Moonbeam and Pin it Down: Arts and Creativity in Early Years Conference’ on Monday 5th June 2017 in Birmingham.

Posted by: Hazel Townsend | August 17th, 2017

The conference was led and organised by Arts Connect, the West Midlands Bridge Organisation, with 220 attending from across the UK, Denmark, Canada, Malaysia and Ireland.

The day started with Chair, Beatrice Merrick the CEO of the British Association of Early Childhood Education, reminding us that respect for children was core to creative learning before she introduced delegates to the two morning keynote speakers, early years experts; Professor Christine Pascal, Director of the Centre for Research in Early Childhood and Dr Susan Young, an internationally renowned early years music expert.

Delegates were also invited to attend a wide range of seminar sessions during the day including a session led by Spark Arts for Children, sharing learning from their Imaginative Neighbourhoods programme, a partnership with Leicester City Libraries that provides opportunities for story making, reading, creative writing and drama for children and young people.

The day closed with final keynote speaker Sir Tim Brighouse, former Chief Education Officer in Birmingham and former Commissioner for London Schools, arguing for the incredible value of early years education.

After such an inspiring and action packed conference we asked some of the The Mighty Creatives supported delegates to share some of their thoughts on the day asking ‘What are your key reflections from discussions’? and ‘What was inspiring’

Here are some of the responses:-

Julie Digby, Mini Music Makers:-

“Inspirational speakers challenged perceptions of ‘teaching’ the arts in the early years. Painting the current context as a ‘squash and a squeeze’ (fitting it all in), pinpointing the location of the arts within the hierarchy of learning (i.e. they are often the first to be excused from the over busy curriculum), as well as the National Curriculum directive of outcome focused modes of learning.

The speakers were provocative with their offerings………..

They championed a transformative approach with a continued focus on process, recommending ‘tuning in’ to the children to encourage participatory practice, as opposed to the customary ‘transmitting’ directive modes of teaching. Empowering children and offering space and lentitude to explore and develop, creating opportunities for reciprocal learning, as well as interrupting with resistances and challenges with a view to raising the bar of expectations, in order to create those aesthetic and ephemeral moments.

An inspirational and thought-provoking day”.

Kim Pott, Kimble's Music and Movement:-

“The Moonbeams conference was a great opportunity to be amongst like-minded individuals. Professor Chris Pascal gave a great presentation on participation, creativity and deep level learning, emphasising the importance of focusing on the children’s interests and creativity, liberating practice and searching deep into the souls and minds of both the practitioner and the participants, letting go of control, not worrying about predetermined outcomes. It is liberating to observe, trust and let it be.

Pascal referred to this as ‘Moonbeam Magic’ during a presentation on Moonbeams arts and cultural based project “It is not about power, it is letting go of control, going on a journey together and letting the project be and create it’s own magic”.

A key message for me as a creative practitioner is to hold back a little, see what happens and become a skillful observer and watch for those ephemeral moments”

Eleanor Hodgkinson, BabyGigs:-

“Dr Susan Young’s comment about art being important in it’s own right really struck a chord with me. In our desire to promote the arts, I feel we, as artists (and certainly as musicians), often try to justify art rather than simply let it exist and be valued as itself. Culture as culture is valid. The value of art seemed to be paramount in all the speakers’ presentations; this impressed upon me the importance of us being good advocates too.

Peppy Hills’ workshop was an eye-opener in how to use the body as an expressive tool, something I will definitely be thinking about including in my children’s concerts. I loved the freedom and spontaneity and the subtle attention she gave to how each activity was unfolding. It was good to be reminded of being a child again, and of the power of non-verbal (and for me, non-musical) communication.

The discussions about creativity were thought-provoking; the dilemma between teaching and spontaneity as presented by Dr Susan Young was very relevant. I often feel that freedom is presented as an open-ended space that can only be a good a productive thing: yet the idea that teaching enhances this concept is one I find valuable. In my studies on musical improvisation for my MA, many musicians noted that there is no such thing as ‘free improvisation’, as there is always some thought or idea that come from a memory or is influenced by another. I wonder if the same applies to children’s creativity, and therefore by giving definition and structure, their improvisatory play is given inspiration”.

Liz Clark:-

What was inspiring?

“I found the key notes speeches the most inspiring parts of the day. It was great to not only hear about the projects history but also to understand their ambitions going forwards. I was encouraged by their notion of 'creativity' and that skilling up practitioners through collaboration was the way to develop this. It was inspiring to see so many people attend, which is testament to the investment they have made into early years and creativity. With a clear pedagogical core the work they delivered had a from foundation on which to grow.”

What are your key reflections from what you heard and from discussions on the day?

“That developing EY leadership is high on their agenda. Also, that dance is very low down in the hierarchy of the arts ………….even though movement is a child's first language. There is a job of work to be done here about what the notion of dance is and how it can help practitioners meet their goals for their children's learning. I am passionate about enabling this to happen on a practitioner level - and I strongly believe that creativity and the creative process can be captured, explored and taught to help practitioner embed it in their working week”.

More information:-

Click here to find out more about the conference and speakers:- http://www.artsconnect.co.uk/moonbeams-conference-...

Partners of the Moonbeams programme were the Centre for Research in Early Childhood, Birmingham Nursery School Teaching School Alliance and Britannia School Alliance , University College Birmingham and The Mighty Creatives who both part sponsored the conference .

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