January marked the launch of the Storying Doncaster Sounds toolkit developed through a School of Education, University of Sheffield research project in collaboration with School of Architecture, Doncaster Civic Trust, Centre for the Study of Childhood and Youth, and The Bower Wirks. Dr. Lisa Procter (Early Years Education), Prof. Jian Kang (Architecture) and Dr. Abigail Hackett (Childhood Studies) presented outputs from the Sound of Childhood project, which made connections between sounds, architecture and children’s literacy.
The Storying Doncaster Sounds Toolkit was developed in collaboration with young children (ages 3 and 4) and early years practitioners from a local primary school children. The toolkit facilitates the use of sounds from the environment as a starting point for imaginative storytelling.
The launch event took place from 29th-30th January 2016 at Doncaster Community Arts. Part 1 (29th January) engaged Doncaster Civic Trust members, Educators, Architects and Planners with the project findings and outputs. Part 2 (30th January) involved a free art-based workshop for children and families to capture their perspectives on the toolkit.
Part 1: This event began with the viewing of an exhibition of young children’s sound visualisations. This was followed by a series of presentations by Doncaster Civic Trust, Dr Lisa Procter (Principle Investigator), Fiona Scott (Research Associate) and a practical workshop led by Nicky Ward (Project Artist, The Bower Wirks). The research project was introduced to participants, which involved child-led sound walks and workshop, where children and parents were invited on short walks just beyond their schools grounds to listen to, record and talk about the sounds they could hear. The field data included iPod video recordings of the walks and conversations between children and parents during the walk, high quality audio recordings of environmental sounds, and iPad photographs of where the sounds were coming from. This data revealed how children drew both on past experiences and their imaginations to talk about sounds. As part of the research process, children were asked to visually represent their sounds in a workshop following the walks. These activities showed how listening to and then drawing sounds led to imaginative storytelling and the use of a range of literary devices (such as onomatopoeia). Following this introduction, event participants had the opportunity to play with the toolkit and discuss it’s potential as an educational resource in the early years.
Part 2: The second part of the event was a workshop for children and families to engage with the toolkit. Children and families were invited to participate in a range of activities using the toolkit. One group walked around the arts space to listen to and create sound. They created drawings of the sounds they could hear using ‘sound circles’ from the toolkit. The children responded to the sounds in interesting ways, not only they were communicating and drawing, they also began to create stories from the sounds. For example, two children and their parent created an imaginary story about a ninja and crocodile. Other children listened carefully to sounds from an iPad and started to draw the sounds in imaginative and abstract ways.
Overall, the events demonstrated how sounds from the environment spark children’s creativity and literacy. The next stage of the project is to create a sister Digital Toolkit, so that more children and families can use sounds in fun and educational ways.