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Celebrating as a community that’s learning

Getting started

Student Brittany, Matthew, Lucas,
Sarah, Keriann, and
George (Room 7),
Marshall and
Damon (Room 11)
Date March - May 2008
Topic The arts: visual arts and
education for
sustainability (EfS)
Observer Libby (teacher)
Helen (arts and EfS advisor)
Marie (teacher aide)
Dawne (volunteer)
Sarah (teacher aide)
Juanita (teacher aide)
Vanessa (teacher aide)
Rob (cameraman)

How we created opportunities for learning

After attending camp in the first term, the group will embark on a learning journey to make a collaborative work of value in response to the collective camp experience. With the knowledge and expertise of Helen, and the teacher’s knowledge of the children, we will work together to enable the children to make their own works, to make their own decisions and choices, and to take risks. We will learn the language of the visual arts.


All the children had been on camp in term 1, one group to the sandy shore estuary, the other to a hill-top camp with native bush. There was a wheelchair-accessible walkway by the edge of the harbour and also an estuary environment, with lots of bird life and vegetation.

At the end of the first term, just after both camps, we had a combined session to talk about the high and low points of camp for both groups. We also talked about how we were going to make a visual representation of our experiences.

There are three children of the eight who are able to speak.

Our first session was to talk about, and recall, both camp experiences; I had been on both and was able, with photos, to help the non-verbal children share some of their camp adventures. Marie wrote down the things we liked, things we did not like, and the things that were frustrating.

Access issues came up as a problem in both venues. Marshall could not get to the mini-golf course, which was up a flight of steps; Lucas could not roll down the hill because he had a dislocated hip. Brittany could not get on the sandy shore in her power wheelchair. Positive things included Brittany’s older sister coming to stay overnight with Brittany in her bunkroom, Keriann going to the campfire and eating toasted marshmallows, and Matty swimming in the covered pool.

They all loved lying in a big heap on the trampoline together and Sarah enjoyed going on the Liberty Swing in her wheelchair.

The retelling of the stories and finding the common things to both venues; sky, sea, vegetation, and birds helped to get us started on our discussion about our artwork.

We talked about the possibilities of art being a way for us to imagine a fuller access to our environment and the ability to put ourselves wherever we wanted to be.

After talking with Helen about the experience we had with paint in the past, I talked about how direct access finger painting had always been most successful.

We had talked about canvas or calico being a stronger medium to carry the paint.

Between us we had a large collection of paint acrylic and test pots. We used blue, green, and brown hues, and white and black for mixing and blending. We used slope boards with washed calico stretched and clipped at the edges. Having the calico on an angle and secure was really important for access and to enable children with low vision to see their work.

We organised the painting sessions to coincide with the best staff-to-child ratios. This was a crucial factor in the success of the exercise. We made sure staff who worked well with a particular child were matched with that child.

Learning story

The first painting session was held over a morning. Rob was filming throughout the morning. We took lots of digital photos to use in our feedback sessions and Helen was recording any conversations as they happened, asking children for their thoughts and ideas. (video clip 1)

We talked with the children about starting on “sky pictures”, and Helen showed us how to colour mix, scratch back (scraffito), blend, and lay on colour.

The children were a bit reluctant to engage with the paint at first. We offered them choices of colour to work with or mix and before long Brittany and Marshall (video clip 2) were requesting different colours or asking to use the colour mix of another child. (video clip 3)

The children painted all morning in blues, greens, and browns for the estuary mud, using their hands, brushes or a combination of whichever worked best for them. 

Helen brought sawdust and sand to add to the paintings. This gave the children another opportunity to decide how their work would look and to take a risk with another texture. Helen would gently pause and introduce the group to another technique. Brittany, Marshall, and Damon talked freely throughout the session. Those unable to speak indicated by vocalising and actions that they were very much present and part of this community of learners. (video clip 6)


  • “I’m an artiste.”
  • “I’m in my element here.”
  • “Can I stay here all day?”
  • “I’m never going to wash my fingernails.”
  • “I’m better with my hands” (he initially did not want to use his hands).
  • “Blue and yellow make green.”


  • “I love this.”
  • “I love green.”
  • “Can I have some more paint?”
  • “I gave some paint to Marshall and I got some from Keriann.”
  • “I want to do this all by myself.”

Keriann was focused and she worked well with Dawne. She was better standing at her high slope board and she was better using a paintbrush. Keriann was choosing colours out of a choice of two, this was quite distinct. (video clip 4)

Matthew pointed directly to the place on the calico where he wanted Helen to put the paint. He was able to make his “yes” sound to indicate a colour choice. He also used his vocalisation in the feedback sessions when asked. He became more and more engaged as the session progressed. (video clip 5) He was keen to watch the other children to see what they were doing.

Lucas chose the colour he wanted. He was focused and looked at his work. During the feedback sessions he touched and explored the dry paint on his work, looked at it, held it up, and vocalised.