An inquiry into identity, through sound

An inquiry into identity, through sound

Category : Blogs Uncategorized

The context

For one week of the Easter break, a series of creative workshops were facilitated for a group of fifteen children, aged 5 to 9 years. The planning team’s initial thoughts had been to provoke some sort of inquiry into identity, with the understanding that, should any kind of ‘project’ evolve, it should be allowed to emerge out of the children’s initial, and growing interests (see our February Facebook Note for what we mean when we refer to something as a ‘project’).

By ‘project’ we mean a child-led, inquiry-based, and open-ended learning trajectory that encourages children to explore, experiment and express an idea, interest, and / or experience with others, through multiple mediums, lenses, and directions.

The week proved to be incredibly rich in learning for both the children and adults involved.

The children…

… developed skills in collaboration. Over a five day period the children developed a deep respect for each other, as they learnt how to collaborate in response to authentic and emerging challenges. In providing a ‘space’ where children were encouraged to explore, experiment and express their thinking – individually, in pairs, small groups, and as a whole – the children were able to experience listening to others and being listened to; which led to a deeper appreciation for others’ perspectives. The children grew together quickly; they began to learn in relation to others and understand how they need others to ‘go further’.

… developed skills in reflection. In spite of the fact that the concept of self-reflection seemed new to the majority of the children, the team’s decision to persist – but to adjust their approach – led to a remarkable shift in each of the children’s ability and depth of self-reflection by the end of the week. In creating space for the children to think first before inviting a response, by giving every child the option to share their thoughts in turn, and by having flexible open-ended focused times of listening – alone in silence, and to one another – the children developed skills to self-reflect, beyond expectations, in a short space of time.

… expressed creativity through prototyping. By exploring a variety of art, anti-waste, and natural materials, most of the children chose to think and work in 3 dimensions. Model making seemed to unlock levels of creativity in this particularly group of children in ways that 2 dimensional ink, painting, and pastels didn’t. The opportunity to rapidly prototype their ideas supported the expression of emerging thoughts in a process that one facilitator described as “layering” – “Playful prototyping meant each child was able to build their next thought on top of their previous way of thinking; ideas just seem to flow in a manner that these children weren’t able to achieve with something like watercolour.” As children’s ideas developed, they were able to return, remodel, and / or recreate their creations quickly.

… developed in self-confidence. It was noticeable how much the children grew in confidence, in an environment where adults offered a space which welcomed their thoughts and ideas; a space where the children could explore, experiment, and express themselves. Adults intentionally chose a posture of facilitation; provoking learning, listening, observing / documenting, and valuing every child’s unique contribution, without feeling they needed to judge, correct, or ‘make’ children conform. The environment offered a space where children could be themselves together; it made room for each and every child to make sense of their world in their way. Children were free to explore multi intelligences, and express their thinking through any one of the 100 languages they possess – by ‘languages’ we mean all the ways we express ourselves that go beyond spoken or written words – all of which allowed them to unearth unique insights about their true self, others, and the world around them.

Spontaneous movement, provoked by background music.

Adult facilitators developed an understanding of …

… the importance of scaffolding learning. By utilizing a variety of ‘instructional techniques used to move students progressively toward stronger understanding and, ultimately, greater independence in the learning process’ (The Glossary of Educational Reform 2015) – also known as ‘scaffolding’ – the group of children were able to develop skills in self-reflection and collaboration (as mentioned above). In spending time reflecting as a team of facilitators – before, during, and after every workshop – potential opportunities to ‘go further’ would emerge whilst reviewing the documentation of the day; the facilitators role became one of provoking children to oscillate between the known and the unknown.

This movement between the Known and Unknown is a journey. Both expertise and exploration are necessary components, and the journey is an oscillation between the two.

Rill B. R., and Hamalainen M. M., 2018. The Art of Co-Creation: A Guidebook for Practitioners. Singapore: Palgrave Macmillan, p. 30.

… the power of rapid prototyping. Playful prototyping – in this instance exploring sound – encouraged and enabled the expression of ideas, thinking and innovation.

Heath’s Real Clap Stretcher (™) really did make clapping in time so much easier. Imagine different sizes and coloured elastic bands for different tempos; you and your neighbours would never miss a beat again!

… the importance of foundational literacies. As the workshops progressed the importance of foundational literacies, e.g. literacy, numeracy, science, and so on (WEF 2015), and the relationship between a child’s competence in these literacies and them realising their ‘creative potential’ (Robinson 2001:131), became more and more evident. Sir Ken notes how ones ‘creative achievement’ is related to the control one has over ones ‘medium’ – the paintbrush of an artist or decorator, pen / pencil of a writer, or piano in terms of music.

‘Children and adults need the means and skills to be creative….These things need to be learnt and if they are not, the creative possibilities…are limited’

Robinson, K. (2001) Out of our minds: learning to be creative. UK: John Wiley & Sons, p. 131-132.

Within a school context children need valid reasons to want to develop certain skills. These skills could and should be introduced as and when it becomes evident that a child requires them; ideally when they show that they are ready, when they identify a desire to utilize and therefore learn a particular skill. Children then need to be given an array of opportunities to apply the skills they’ve acquired – creatively – and an array of opportunities that require skills that they don’t yet have; once again, this requires dancing between the known and unknown.

… the importance of the environment and their posture as facilitators. Rather than a predetermined curriculum or prescribed program of activities, delivered to children by adults, the ‘theme’ for the week – An inquiry into identity – was effectively realised through the provision of space. Facilitators were intentional about offering a cognitively, physically, spiritually and socio-emotionally diverse space, where the experiences, feelings, thinking and views of a group of unique children were welcomed, valued, respected, and celebrated.

In summary

Through a brief exploration of sound, children were able to embark on a journey of self-discovery – individually and collectively – a journey which enabled them to develop a range of foundational literacies, competencies, and character qualities (WEF 2015), in what was an authentic emerging context, rather than a ‘staged’ sterile environment. In learning how to share a space, and make room for the other – cognitively, physically, spiritually, and socio-emotionally – the children’s inquiry caused them to work alongside others with different viewpoints, empowered them to assign themselves roles in groups – based on skills, rather than age or gender – and led to a deeper understanding of sound and their true selves.


Rill B. R., and Hamalainen M. M., (2018). The Art of Co-Creation: A Guidebook for Practitioners. Singapore: Palgrave Macmillan.

Robinson, K. (2001). Out of our minds: learning to be creative. UK: John Wiley & Sons.

The Glossary of Educational Reform (2015) Scaffolding [online], Available from[Accessed April 2019].

The World Economic Forum (2015). A New Vision for Education [online], Available from [Accessed April 2019].