HOW CAN PROVIDING CHILDREN WITH A WORKSHOP PROGRAMME FOCUSED ON PLAY HELP TO OPTIMISE CREATIVE POTENTIAL?
By RALPH BARKER
My project looks at the relationship between play and child development. The aim of the project is to boost creativity in children by introducing a play workshop programme into the current academic curriculum.
IMPROV 2 IMPROVE is a workshop programme specifically designed to optimise the creative potential of children in the UK school system and bring more play based learning into the current curriculum. This intervention is based on educational psychology and focuses on the 7-11 age range. My project aligns with the ideas of the Too Much, Too Soon campaign launched by the Save Childhood Movement. This political advocacy group seeks to ‘re-establish the early years as a unique stage in its own right and not merely a preparation for school’ and ‘reinstate the vital role of play’ as an alternative to baseline testing, although my project looks at the later years of primary education.
By providing a structured weekly workshop programme (minimum three weeks) the aim of this project was to enhance and develop the child’s own creativity, building on their social skills as an access point for unleashing their creative drive. The programme was well informed and developed by adapting teambuilding activities sourced from areas such as theatrical improvisation, and the business environment.
I talked to a number of stakeholders who informed me that we have a real issue in our national school system of denigrating creativity. Children are currently measured half-termly on the three Rs (reading, writing and arithmetic), with creative play experiences valued lower than a child’s academic success. However, when you start to look at brain development and the psychological implications that lack of play has on a child, research shows that the vocabulary developed in creative play contributes to the overall success of the child in the academic environment.
Working with schools in Surrey, Kent and Greater London, I looked at the impact of play workshops on the creativity and social skills of children aged 7-11. Using creativity tests, I was able to judge the impact of the workshop programme on the children and the extent to which their creativity was enhanced. Comparing results from the first and last week, my findings indicated that incorporating more play into the school curriculum helped develop a child’s creativity, fostering new skills learned through creative play and helping to enhance the social adjustment of the child in the academic environment.
My project continues to evolve with help from the Save Childhood Movement who have invited me to continue my work with them and publish my research in an educational journal. My programme seeks to optimize creative potential wherever it is needed and I continue to develop my project into a tool for use as a creativity boosting package for wider application. I have learnt a lot about myself over the course of this year, learning new skills such as project management and increasing my view of the role of creativity in all our lives. It hasn’t always been easy but even when I was stressed, I now realize how much it helped my personal and social development, enhancing my listening skills and forcing me to constantly re-evaluate and define what I wanted to achieve.
 Discussions with director Sasha Damjanovski, actors (eg. Imogen Vinden North) and using research into play based games.
 An example of this being the inclusion of research by strategist Giovanni Schiuma and his work on Arts Based Initiatives (Schiuma, G. 2011. The Value of Arts for Business. Cambridge University Press, UK)
 An example being Ofsted Inspector and Educational Consultant, Christine Newell
 Tests developed using the work of Klaus K. Urban and based on the works of J.P. Guilford/Ellis Paul Torrance (http://www.pabst-publishers.de/psychology-science/3-2004/11.pdf)
 Impact discussed in debrief sessions with the teachers I was working for. Results inputted into spreadsheet to form holistic view of impact.