Q. Who is the club for?
A. Any children in the age groups specified. We usually suggest children are in year one before starting as it’s a fairly long school day and they need to be able to cope with fundamentals such as reading basic text and cutting with scissors.
Q. What do you mean by design?
A. Our classes are specifically created to be centred around design - this is partly because most children already undertake art practice during the main school day - painting and sculpting etc. Instead we have taken the basics of a typical graphics/foundation course and have scaled it down into child-centred topics. We also encourage them to feel positive about the subject rather than position it as more homework!
Q. So what do you do then?
A. We normally have a theme - which the children typically explore through two exercises. Normally there is a micro-lecture (literally 3 A4 pieces of paper) and a good old group chat about the topic. Then the children get going on designing - but not without working on the idea and elements such as choice of palette first.
Q. What skills will they learn?
A. The children will learn skills in drawing through practice - though from our experience a standard drawing techniques lesson does not go down well! They will learn how to consider an idea (and sometimes a brief) and how to take this forward to suit the target audience. This includes conceiving appropriate colours/illustrations/forms etc. For example when we design buildings they are always asked to name the ‘client’. Over the years we have seen children learning to think and plan before they do, making vast improvements in their fine motor skills, and learning to look to the world around them for influences and ideas. They also become aware of contemporary trends in visual and cultural design. We explore design and cultures from around the world too.
Q. Why do you 'template' things?
A. Increasingly we have to print base templates for the children. We have found it is much easier for them to start off from something rather than nothing - but we always welcome it when they go ‘off-piste’ and move a design away from the base template. This is particularly the case for KS2 where we challenge the children a little more. NOTE: occasionally we will have a ‘do as you like week’ this is NOT because we are lazy - but because the kids deserve the freedom to do just that with their creativity now and then and we are good at helping them build on those ideas.
Q. How can I help?
A. Talk with them about what they were trying to achieve that week - and praise them for thinking as well as doing - we often see children talk and sketch amazing ideas even if they don’t quite have the time or skill to fully realise them. We used to worry about the amount of things the children took home, but we really know it’s more important for them to feel pleased with one element than rush through several. Some children rush everything whereas some deliberate for ages - and we work with both. You can also help by telling us if your child has any special educational needs as it would be hugely helpful if we know how best to work with them, otherwise a helper can spend the whole session with one child. Finally, don’t forget their snack (major traumas there) and thanks for not sending nut-based food in.
Q. What may I not be seeing?
A. 1. Fun! We try and create a really fun, relaxed atmosphere. One very popular element is News - the children LOVE saving up their news to tell the group and we really build a team that way. They sense they are in a ‘club’ and share easily, even if this does sometimes take more than five minutes. 2. Singing - sometimes when a good song comes on, many of the children sing along whilst working. 3. Laughs - we have in-jokes such as repeating each week that someone has a dog or the next consecutive piano lesson as a news item. Plus a running joke re lost teeth. 4. Design critiques - we stand up and those who wish to (normally everyone!) show and discuss their work. 5. Mess - you would not believe it! 5. Designer of the week - always tricky not to disappoint but children get a chance to win a very small prize - and this is based on effort and attitude not skill.
Q. Why is the price the same irrespective of term length
A. because some terms are seven weeks and some are five but it all evens out over the year
Q. Will the price go up?
A. Our price has not risen for four years but will need reviewing at some point due to increased costs of materials and inflation. Our price still compares well to other forms of childcare and certain clubs in Winchester.
Q. Can we submit an idea of a theme
A. Yes the children often do.
Q. Will you open at other schools
A. Yes if they’ll have us!
At the Birdhouse we do things differently. We have a special colourful view on the world and try to encourage this in all the young people we work with. Why not join us and see for yourself!