Building a 'Community of Learners' through art installations

Year: 2018

Author: Dean, Jo

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

This research project was set in a New Zealand Early Childhood Centre with a focus on children's aesthetic learning through embodied experiences with art installations. Thirty young children from the age of two to five years old engaged as co-researchers in collaboration to investigate the question: "How do young children and teachers co-create meaning when installations serve as a catalyst for aesthetic explorations?"Through a sociocultural lens, the foundations of building relationships for learning was established within this project. Vygotsky (1978) and Dewey (1916) emphasised that children learn through social interactions, and that these experiences are enriched through co-learning encounters with others.  In this project, it was recognised that every child carried their own unique experiences and funds of knowledge to the Early Childhood Centre, and that such experiences and knowledge can be enriched by social and aesthetic engagement. The notion of 'Community of Learners' is described as a place where learners come together, such as children, teachers, and family (Cherrington, 2011; Konzal, 2004). Children can often be the leaders and are able to express to adults the learning processes. Developing a 'Community of Learners' became a key goal of this project, where learning could be shared to develop children's confidence and skills in creative processes and aesthetic experiences. Creating the art installations enhanced young children's agency and empowered them to make choices, take responsibility and lead the research project.Collaboration and co-creating meaning occurred through multiple layers of interactions from child to child, teacher to child, and teacher/s to researcher. As children and teachers started planning, designing and creating the art installations together they found innovative ways to foster connections within the wider community and strengthen a 'Community of Learners' across different contexts.