Melbourne June 2013 – Yarra Rd PS

Tues June 11 2013 – Landed in Melbourne from Tasmania on the ferry first thing in the morning (boat-lagged!) for a two-week teaching binge, and headed straight over to Yarra Rd Primary School in Nth Croydon to spend a fantastic day catching up again with Grades 3 – 6.  But first….

Rewind to March of this year:  principal Kate Perkins (dear friend & significant teaching mentor to me back in the 90s) asked me to do a week-long Artist In Residence at Yarra Rd PS, running the Creative Communication workshops from Kinders to 6.  The week was a fantastic success on many levels – apart from being loads of fun, the kids surprised us all with the amount of latent creative talent that suddenly had a forum for expression (given that the school has been largely – and successfully – sports-focused for many years). Kids were running up to me in the playground, eager to show me sketchbooks bursting with the most wonderful drawings.  It was quite an honour!

These sorts of residencies are always a wonderful opportunity for me to also become a part of the school community, the kids get to know me better, and working across all grades helps plant the seeds of a drawing culture within the school.  Not only are kids inspired to share their drawing skills within their grade, but siblings can share the experience as well.  When I first collaborated with Kate in the 90s, she was principal of Pembroke Primary in Mooroolbark (VIC) and she had the same vision of a drawing culture within that school – Kate is passionate about Creativity in Education, and its important links with personal development & well-being.  Kids need creativity!

During this year’s March residency I also ran some lunchtime “masterclasses” for a few small groups of select students, and began some collaborative work with Shirley Robertson, the school’s Student Welfare co-ordinator, to develop some cartoon art that will complement some resources Shirley’s developing about emotional communication & well-being in the school.

This has so far included a series of “Faces” cards, 12 cartoon faces expressing various emotions, which are used with the younger grades to gauge how the kids are feeling from day to day – a kind of open-ended emotional check-in, where the kids can choose a card that represents their current state.  An example:

yarra rd faces001

I’ve also designed a logo for their schoolwide “Mateship Program”, encouraging students to look out for each other, and we’re developing other resources looking at personal space & boundaries.

YPRS matesship logoAnyway, back to Tuesday’s visit:  as soon as I arrived, students greeted me with “Hello Bradfield!” – it was such a lovely feeling to be remembered!  I had Grades 5/6 first up, and we extended on the previous workshops with looking at sequential cartoon art (comic strip) as a way of communicating a simple story without any text ie two characters interacting, and telling their story through their facial expressions.  The kids were fantastic, and we rounded off the sessions with my (almost) famous flipbook technique (more on that elsewhere!).  The rest of the day was with the 3/4s, and we extended on the March workshops, looking at a few simple techniques for getting distance, backgrounds & perspective into a comic strip (see photos below).   I was very impressed with how well the students grasped the concepts and their enthusiasm was incredibly rewarding!

All of which tied in perfectly with the day’s timetabled visual literacy units (an unscheduled synchronicity)!