Creative foraging, fortune cookies, and using rhizomes as a metaphor

Elspeth Penfold from Churchfields Primary School tells us about the school's My Creative School project

28 June 2018

Rhizomes, such as a stem of ginger, have no central root system. A murmuration of birds has no leader; no one bird giving orders. But still, they come together to collectively produce amazing patterns. These were the metaphors my school, Churchfields Primary School, used as a starting off point when planning our My Creative School Creative Catalyst project.

Our aim was to start a dialogue in the school about creativity, and maybe even think about producing a creative manifesto for the school, which would require us to identify a group of creative champions who could take the work forward after the project had finished.

Our method was to create connections through small actions which gave the opportunity for ideas to develop. We began with an ideas feast at the staff INSET day lunch (see photo below) which generated amazing statements from teachers about creativity. These were then transformed into Chinese fortune cookies with statements about creativity which were handed out at a parents’ evening and as a part of a walking staff meeting. image 4bjpg

Some ideas, such as asking people to choose a flower which best expressed their thoughts, didn’t quite work, but may well re-appear at a later date for another project. The key was to be flexible and adapt activities as the project started to unfold.

We did, however, create pass the parcels for each class to open over the course of a few days. The parcels were paired with a creative thought for the day, which was disseminated to teachers online each day by Mandy Holland, Art specialist teacher and co-producer of the project at the school.

We also used walking as a research tool to develop ideas and bring together processes. This allowed ideas to spread and allowed ideas to come to the surface in surprising ways (taking us back to the metaphor of the rhizome).

Mandy took a leap of faith with me as we embarked on an exploratory journey using the members of the Schools Council as creative foragers. We had caps, notebooks and special passes which Mandy produced with great ease and wonderful attention to detail. image 10jpg

A Creative Deck (not a manifesto)

In the end, all these ideas connected together to end up in the creation of a Creative Deck (see below).
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The metaphor of the rhizome allowed us not to close down opportunities for discovery, chance encounters and ideas. My Creative School encouraged us to take risks, experiment and make connections. This allowed us to move between ideas, explore processes and recognise the value of in-betweenness.

One of the most important characteristics of the rhizome metaphor is that it has multiple entryways. My involvement in this project reminded me that children are not as constrained in their thinking as we are. They feel free to experiment and move from one concept to another - making connections with a great deal of ease. This is something I intend to take with me into future projects.

When Ewan, aged 6, was asked ‘what do we mean by creativity?’, he replied:

“Creativity is like cooking in a slow cooker, if you take time to cook things you can get more interesting flavours.”

In our children, we found our creative champions. And we learnt a great deal in the process.

Download the classroom tools

These ideas have informed a tool and case study for the MCS Learning Resource - read about it here.