The Inspired Child - History
Liz Buckler trained as a primary school teacher and taught for 10 years in England, Wales and New Zealand.
This experience convinced her that in our efforts to teach, both at school and at home, we often erode children’s natural desire to learn during the fundamental early stages of development. She began to recognise that the child’s perception of their own success or failure in the early years sets up a pattern that affects them throughout their education.
With the introduction of the National Curriculum, Liz moved away from the classroom and set up Arts Alive, a Community Arts organisation based in Crickhowell, Powys, which was initially run by a group of fellow “mums” who wanted their children to have more opportunities to explore their innate creativity. Arts Alive ran workshops for 8 to 11 year olds out of school hours and in holidays which were original, fun, challenging and very popular.
For example, during the Sudanese crisis .... children collected newspaper articles which were used for discussion and role-play. This led into our own story of refugees and over a 3 day period with the help of a mountain of large cardboard boxes, calico and Scrapstore paraphenalia a camp materialised. Each home came up with a product they could use for barter such as some music and a song, a body adornment, a tool or a weapon [of course we felt obliged to discourage the weapons] or some food. The story took on a life of its own whilst the adults watched in wonder and offered a hand when needed. Unlike in a school environment, the children directed the activities and had the time to absorb and reflect on their experiences.
The discussion, concentration, planning, cooperation, thinking ‘inside and outside of the box’, and therefore the learning that took place during this project, just could not be ignored. Neither could the enthusiasm and complete involvement of every child. We felt we had something that could be a useful tool within the education system.
Therefore the projects were adapted for schools. Arts Alive began to move into the classroom, working in partnership with class teachers and devising and running creative programmes in which children across the whole primary age range were given more control over how they worked, freely expressing their own ideas in their own way. We were careful to combine this freedom with the teaching of specific skills where appropriate.
After 20 years of Arts Alive in Crickhowell, Liz moved across the border into Herefordshire where she continued her mission to incorporate creativity into the education system by working for Herefordshire LEA, within the Early Years Team. Over a period of 8 years, Liz facilitated several projects in a range of early years settings that brought artists and early years practitioners together to foster the natural creativity of young children.
It has been widely recognised both nationally and internationally (for example in the region of Reggio Emilia in northern Italy) that for young children, learning is a process of exploration and discovery. It needs to be relevant, challenging and enjoyable. In Herefordshire there was already a strong belief that changes needed to be made at the very early stages of children’s education. Liz helped practitioners make changes in their settings by devising creative projects with artists where pre-school children were encouraged to engage in open ended tasks without a set outcome. Practitioners went on to set up interesting and challenging environments with the help of the children and then observed and guided the children in their chosen activities.
‘The Inspired Child’ set of books are a response to calls from teachers and early years practitioners for guidance in applying Liz Buckler’s unique approach to engaging children in creative activities that are empowering, engaging and tap into the child’s own store of enthusiasm for learning. These simple, beautiful books represent a lifetime of experience and are intended to stimulate creativity within the parent, practitioner and child alike, without being prescriptive.
Lisa trained with Liz Buckler as a community Artist at Arts Alive in Crickhowell since 1995 and has gone on to design and manage large scale collaborative textile projects. She gained her BAHons in Graphic Design at UWCN in 1999 and now lives and works as a freelance designer in West Wales.
Lucienne worked alongside Liz Buckler at Arts Alive as an artist, photographer and subsequently designer, in the workshops that have fed and informed the 'Inspired Child'. Previously, she taught within Further and Community Education for 6 years before completing and MA in Ceramics and moving to Wales. She is now part of the team that runs The Art Shop in Abergavenny.
The city of Reggio Emilia in Italy is recognized worldwide for its innovative approach to education. Its signature educational philosophy has become known as the Reggio Emilia Approach, one which many preschool programs around the world have adopted.
The Reggio Emilia philosophy is based upon the following set of principles:
Children must have some control over the direction of their learning;
Children must be able to learn through experiences of touching, moving, listening, seeing, and hearing;
Children have a relationship with other children and with material items in the world that children must be allowed to explore and
Children must have endless ways and opportunities to express themselves.
The Reggio Emilia approach to teaching young children puts the natural development of children as well as the close relationships that they share with their environment at the center of its philosophy. Early childhood programs that have successfully adapted to this educational philosophy share that they are attracted to Reggio because of the way it views and respects the child.
Parents are a vital component to the Reggio Emilia philosophy. Parents are viewed as partners, collaborators and advocates for their children. Teachers respect parents as each child's first teacher and involve parents in every aspect of the curriculum. It is not uncommon to see parents volunteering within Reggio Emilia classrooms throughout the school.
This philosophy does not end when the child leaves the classroom. Most parents who choose to send their children to a Reggio Emilia program incorporate many of the principles within their parenting and home life. Even with this bridge between school and home, many people wonder what happens to Reggio children when they make the transition from this style of education to a non Reggio Emilia school. The answer is that there is some adjustment that must take place. In most school environments, intellectual curiosity is rewarded,, so students continue to reap the benefits of Reggio after they've left the program.