Last week I visited the Lego exhibition in London’s Truman Brewery. The collection is a presentation of a range of work created by Nathan Sawaya, an American ex-law practitioner turned artist. Sawaya begins the exhibition by speaking directly to the audience’s creative minds through his welcome video. In it, he exclaims that art is inherit in everything we do and is an absolute necessity in our world.
Wandering around the exhibition, I was struck by the dedication and commitment that went into every piece. The patience needed to create sculptures with Lego bricks that in some examples contain around 20,000 pieces is unbelievable. However, the most thought-provoking aspect, for me, was the audience’s interactions with the objects.
As Lego is such a global brand and instantly connects with everyone in some way, the audience consisted of people of all ages and backgrounds. The room was awash with children, as the half term kicks into full swing, and it was their interactions that interested me most. The concept of Lego surrounds that of enabling the ability to make. Lego is innately tactile ‘stuff’ and the first thing that struck me was the utter strength the audience needed not to touch the exhibits.
Unable to touch, instead children took control of their parents (or probably their own!) smart phones in order to document tens of images of each structure. Cries of, “No, don’t touch that!” echoing around the room from parents concerned that their little one would be the demise of 16,000 Lego bricks quickly turned into, “Just one will do!” as the concern changed to avoiding reaching full iPhone capacity. Undoubtedly, the majority of children’s interactions with the exhibits were through screens as each project was captured indirectly through digital media.
As you exit the show, you are finally able to relieve yourself of the need to touch in the ‘Play Zone’. This saw adults and children alike diving into pools of multicoloured bricks as they fought for the coloured square that would finalise their creation that they had spent the last 30 minutes structuring and restructuring in their minds. For me, this was the best part of the exhibition. Messages from the artist flowed through the show of the individuals need to create and finally we were given the ability to do just that! The act of making allows us to apply our creative ideas in a tactile way and end with a product that becomes the physical representation of our previously abstract thoughts.
This got me thinking. How much does a school construct its curriculum to enable and empower its pupils to make?
This year saw the start of a new curriculum, which at my school generated a great deal of excitement as pupils, teachers and parents were invited to co-develop a new curriculum model. This in itself requires another blog post in order to document and reflect on the amazing process that occurred towards the end of the summer term. However, what immediately became important to those involved in its development was the need to explicitly design opportunities for children in every year group to make and create as part of their learning.
So far this term, my class have relished the opportunity to make a variety of ‘things’ as part of our Stone Age topic. They made Stone Age tools using materials collected from our garden area to explore how technology was developed using the natural environment. Using digital design tools, children created virtual art gallery spaces to display the artwork that they created as part of exploring Stone Age communication. In groups, children planned, resources and taught lessons to Year 3 children all about Stone Age life, which involved giving those younger children the opportunity to make replica pots out of clay. Here, the children demonstrated their understanding of the importance of making by incorporating it into their own lessons for younger children.
While I realise this is nothing new and overwhelmingly innovative, I am still reflecting on the potential of making in our curriculum. And while these creations are relatively small in comparison to what we could create, they signal an important start in ensuring such opportunities are provided for children throughout their learning experience.