We invite Principals, Teachers & Educators to reflect on the work of Room 13 Inquiry. Here are some of their responses.

Making Room for the Arts, is an essay gifted to Room 13 Inquiry by Jessica Hoffmann Davis, EdD

Renee Moran, Teacher & Arts Coordinator in Scoil Bhríde Cailíní
We were delighted to hear that we had been chosen to take part in the Room 13 Inquiry after expressing an interest in the project to Fingal Arts Office. Admittedly, after the initial excitement, I began to grow anxious, as I really wanted it to work. Everything that had enthused me about the project also posed a considerable challenge. On a practical level, what would a working art studio demand of a primary school? Could we meet the demands? How would we work with the artist? Would the artist suit our school, would we suit the artist? Would our pupils embrace the art studio or be confused or at best, bemused by it? Could the rules of a school be relaxed enough for the ideology of Room 13 Inquiry?

Thankfully, these challenges were met and dealt with effectively over the school year. First and foremost our artist, Orla Kelly, has been a pleasure to work with. She has built a wonderful rapport with the pupils and teachers of our school and the importance of this cannot be underestimated as it has fostered a creative and collaborative environment in which to work. Both teachers and pupils enjoy Orla’s enthusiastic and encouraging approach to work within Room 13 Inquiry.

The staff of Scoil Bhríde has supported the project from the beginning and was eager to take part in all of the ‘getting started’ workshops offered initially. Class teachers were flexible with their own timetables to allow for this and support teachers were encouraged to bring smaller groups to the studio. We consider ourselves privileged to have such a space within our school where pupils can go and make art in a very different way to the classroom environment. The pupils absolutely love Room 13 Inquiry. Scoil Bhríde is a primary school and therefore operates within certain constraints. As a staff, we were curious about how the somewhat informal approach of the art studio would work out. It has been interesting and uplifting to see that the pupils, in particular the senior pupils, have adopted a respectful attitude to the studio. Rather than taking advantage of the freedom offered within the studio and wasting the opportunity afforded to them, they have embraced this and used this in the spirit with which it was intended. They experiment, explore and enjoy the process rather than focusing solely on the end product.

The biggest change with regard to Room 13 Inquiry is that we now have an art studio within our school and this has become normal! The studio has worked its way seamlessly into the life of Scoil Bhríde. We have all adopted it as something that we can all avail of. Room 13 Inquiry is our studio.

Studio Inquiry

Sinéad Toomey, Teacher, Scoil Bhríde Cailíní

What aspects of the project do you enjoy most?
Seeing the children make art with very few limitations or inhibitions. As a class teacher, you try to encourage children to be as creative as possible. However, in a classroom setting this is not always feasible as firstly, there are the time constraints of setting up the classroom for art and tidying up afterwards. Secondly, in the classroom it is generally more practical to focus on one strand of the art curriculum at a time as it is easier to manage art supplies. This also means that the children tend to have to finish their art in a limited space of time before moving on to a new strand.

With Room 13 Inquiry, the art supplies are ready and waiting for the children. They know where to find everything they need and where to put them when they are finished. They’re not afraid to get paint on the floor or desks! They can spend as much time as they want on a project. In this way they are exploring all of the strands of the curriculum on their own terms, often mixing and blending media. They are less concerned with getting things “wrong” and work more confidently and intuitively.

What aspects of the project made you feel challenged?
One of the main aspects of the Room 13 Inquiry project is letting the children take control of their own learning and encouraging them to be more independent. During the first couple of weeks most of the children really took to this and started working straight away. Others found it difficult. Some children would flit from paint to clay to fabric, starting an art activity within the studio and leaving it half way through. Others would wander around the room, struggling for inspiration. As a teacher I found it very difficult not to intervene and give them a project to complete.

However, I have noticed a huge change in these children since the project started. Now when they come to the studio they spend a few minutes looking through art books or observing other pieces of art for inspiration before getting started. Often they will have ideas before they come into the room, or have something they began the day/week before that they want to finish. I don’t think that these children would have developed these types of skills if they weren’t given the chance to work independently.

Studio Inquiry

Aoife Coffey, Teacher & Arts Coordinator, Tyrrelstown Educate Together NS

What aspects of the project do you enjoy most?
The project is a wonderful opportunity for children to experience what I would consider real art. It made me smile to see my own student from the ASD unit burst through the door every morning with a new creation he had made and to listen to him describe the process of how he made it. There is very much a sense amongst the children that Room 13 Inquiry is theirs. I'm looking forward to watching this project grow and expand over the next few years. It is an exciting time for us in Tyrrelstown Educate Together. We are so happy and grateful to be working with our artist Anne this year as she has had such a special influence over the children in opening their eyes to the art world!

What aspects of the project made you feel challenged?
The beginning of the project was challenging as we had to find a suitable space within the school without using up space we needed. Emails were flying back and forth with problems and solutions until we found a room we all agreed on. Fortunately we were able to add a sink to the room and our wonderful art studio was born.  After this there were no major challenges. With the help of Anne and Julie the whole project ran smoothly from then on. The staff showed a great interest in the project and we all agreed it was a fantastic opportunity for our school and our pupils. When Anne came on board the studio work really got going. On any given day as you walk past the studio children are busily designing, painting and constructing. There is always something new happening. It is wonderful to see the children have their own space and time to just create. We are very appreciative in the school to have our very own art studio!