Freedom: Cynefin – Week Three

Week three of working with Year 4 and 5 children on the ACW Cynefin project. We had planned to go on a walk to Penllwyn Manor, a local house that was known until recently as the Penllwyn Arms. It was built in the 16th century by Thomas Morgan of the infamous Morgan Family of Tredegar. The reason for the visit is for the children to see where our character may have been taken after his kidnap and long journey across the Atlantic. As the walk had to be postponed until after half term, Ceri asked the children to think about what they had learned during the project so far.

They wrote down some things that stood out to them and in groups they focused in on one aspect and ways to present it to another class. They used chrome books to make power point presentations and videos, uploading it to the shared Google Drive. Most of the children seemed to be fascinated by Henry Morgan, maybe because of the local connection, but probably because he is famously know as a ‘pirate’.

I explained that it was important to make the link back to Cynefin and remember that he was a plantation owner and slave master and places like Tredegar House and Penllwyn Manor were most likely maintained by the money he made from slavery. The children were interested in all the facts Dr. Chris Evans had told them about pirates, like the fact that they didn’t bury treasure or make people ‘walk the plank’. I was concerned that the pirate interest was taking us away from the Cynefin theme, but Ceri reassured me that it was important to allow the project to be pupil-led, and if that was what the children wanted to research, to just go with it. As I went around the room from group to group, I could see that the children were including aspects of the character’s journey within their research, and understood the link between Henry Morgan and Cynefin.

In the afternoon the head teacher suggested that we explore the theme of Freedom with the children, and that we could let the children paint images on the windows using glass paints. Ceri and I agreed that this would be a good way to help the children to think about what the concept of freedom means to them today. I asked the children to think about ways that they know they are free (as opposed to the enslaved people we have been reading about). The answers were very varied: playing with my toys, walking my dog, playing football, climbing trees, doing my acting and dancing. I encouraged them to focus in on one detail to represent each of their ideas such as a football boot and ball, a costume, a teddy bear, a sunset, a tree. Ceri and I agreed that this might also be a good theme for June to work on with the children, finding ways to embody the concept of Freedom through dance and movement.

Brainstorming ideas about Freedom

When the children were happy with their images, Ceri and I chose a selection to be transferred to the windows. There was good collaboration as the children happily worked on a section each. They managed to apply the glass paint really well, adapting their designs to suit the medium, though it was harder on the high windows where they had to stand on the counters. It was a nice way to share their creativity with the rest of the school as other people can see the paintings as they pass along the corridors.The children used wonderful uplifting colours and mostly nature-based imagery. It was a good balance to the darker themes of slavery.

To end the day, Ceri showed the children a short film with Betty Campbell, Wales’ first black head teacher talking about her life and inspirations. For our next session after half term, we are hoping to hear from Eve Shepherd who has been commissioned to make a sculpture of Betty that is to be unveiled in Cardiff in September. We are going to be working with clay to create sculptures that will hopefully be part of an exhibition of all the work from the project.

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