The Biggest Learning Opportunity on Earth Festival took place from Saturday 25th June through to Friday 1st July with activities across three key venues in London; The View Tube, The Unicorn Theatre, and Punchdrunk's secret venue under Waterloo Station.
What we set out to do...
- A range of creative workshops for schools to inform their learning and engagement with the 2012 Games
- A range of creative teacher inset sessions to support teachers to use the 2012 Games as a learning resource
- An open family day offering creative activities for families to enjoy together
- An opportunity for participating schools to share their work with each other and the wider festival audience
What we did...
The View Tube hosted a number of events across the festival week starting with a family day, followed by school workshops and then finally completing the festival with a celebratory school picnic.
The majority of activities took place out in the open-air along the Greenway and in front of the Olympic Park, which provided an inspiring backdrop and access to members of the public from all over the world. Primary School workshops saw pupils working with Clayground Collective and two ton of clay (including clay sourced from the Olympic site) to create an ever growing city of clay inspired by the view, before then meeting Kinetika and helping to animate their puppet 'Chaz' to interview members of the public, adding to the 100's of people Chaz has already met from around the world living or visiting London.
Meanwhile, secondary students worked with LIFT to create an original sound-scape informed by the emotions of the Olympic announcement on 6th July 2005 and the London bombings the following day, before then working with Fundamental Architectural Inclusion to create a site specific drawing based on their ideas for post 2012 and the legacy of the Olympic park.
'Brilliant workshop, knowledgeable staff who brought out the best in our children' – Teacher
'A great morning - fantastic setting and great ideas / new ways of thinking. I thoroughly enjoyed myself!' – Teacher
'Very well pitched at the right level - the boys loved it! A fabulous day!' – Teacher
'Best educational day I've had in years! ' - Teacher
'One of the best trips ever!' – Pupil
'We loved everything!' - Pupil
'Fun, educational and interactive.' - Student
'There were opportunities to be creative and make up your own mind.' - Student
Beneath The Streets
Punchdrunk Enrichment collaborated with Nimble Fish and MakeBelieve Arts to offer a series of unique and magical creative experiences for pupils and teachers in an awe-inspiring immersive environment.
The Punchdrunk space housed the culmination of their Enquiry School project 'Space Invaders' - created with 10 London schools exploring the pupil's relationship to London and the 2012 Games.
Punchdrunk invited pupils to train to become super skilled and creative new agents by discovering secret stories, putting their creative skills to the test and unearthing London's Olympic Voice.
Nimble Fish used riddles and clues to encourage pupils to find the people, places and spaces in the area around the venue to find out how the neighbourhood connects to the 2012 Olympics. And finally, MakeBelieve Arts asked pupils to discover 'the stories of our city' using drama and storytelling to enable the pupils to create their own original stories.
"It was well organised as there was no time to get bored" – Teacher taking part in inset
"I've had such a good time! 'There's so much to see it's magic" – Teacher taking part in inset
"This is freaky but good freaky - I want to come back here" – Pupil
"This isn't a school trip, it's an adventure." – Pupil
"Wow! Wow it went really quickly, can we stay longer?" – Pupil
The School of Research
Housed at the Unicorn Theatre and led by social researcher Charlie Tims and practitioners from Emergency Exit Arts and Nimble Fish, the School of Research tasked participants with finding evidence from the local area to add to the ever growing collection. The groups then returned to the space to sort through their findings and connect them to the following Olympic inspired themes; the changing city, dreams of something better, stories of London and connecting to the world. The space also housed an exhibition devised by Charlie to accompany his think piece 'The School of Research' which articulates on the power of the Olympics as an inspirational learning tool, which was also used to fuel the content for the school workshops and teacher insets.
The feedback from the session was positive and staff were able to make clear links and see how they could use some of these techniques back in school 'this would be a great story starter activity' (primary) 'these can be adapted for all year groups' 'I like the idea of [using the Olympic] values as part of a structure. I'm also getting lots of ideas for display'.
The teacher commented that it was a new approach for the pupils to take part in a 'treasure hunt for clues in public space without a fixed end point.'
"Much better than school!" - Pupil
And now the Story in numbers...
The aim of the original proposal was to involve a minimum of;
- 35 schools
- 1150 children and young people
- 235 teachers
- in a total of 46 workshops, INSET sessions and events
Challenges along the way...
- It took a lot of effort to encourage schools to sign up to workshops due to lack of energy and just too many school commitments to fit into the end of term
- The weather in the earlier part of the week effecting turn out to some of the insets despite a thorough booking and confirmation process (50 places booked and only 38 attended)
- The teacher strike on Thursday 30th June had a dramatic impact on the anticipated number of attendees to the festival with 6 previously booked workshops being cancelled at the last minute, reducing our anticipated numbers by 180 pupils and 15 teachers
Surprise outcomes and highlights...
- 60 schools took part in some aspect of the festival from 27 different London boroughs, which included 21 new schools to A New Direction and the CP programme
- We received very positive feedback from both teachers and pupils about their enjoyment and learning from shorter workshops and the positive effect of being able to engage with more schools with an effective a lighter touch model
- The week before the festival Graeae's Jenny Sealey was named as Co-Creative Director of the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Paralympic Games. As Graeae have been one of our partner organisation for the delivery of the Enquiry School programme it was possible to get Jenny (at very short notice) to give a very inspiring address to the audience at the School of Research evening school event
- After months of research and dead ends we finally managed to make links with a 12 year old Paralympic swimmer from Havering currently in training for London 2012. Amy Marren agreed to come to one of the workshops at the School of Research and be interviewed by a class of participants. Amy was an exceptional speaker and her interview features as part of one of A New Direction's young social media journalist's blog