Kate Tregaskis reports on a multimedia project culminating at Edinburgh's King's Theatre on Sunday.
On Sunday, June 17, Corstorphine and Gylemuir Primary schools will take over the King's Theatre in Edinburgh to stage a multimedia production. This is the culmination of an extraordinarily ambitious project entitled Minds of Different Kinds.
The project has involved more than 1,000 pupils, the combined school roll from P2 to P7 of the two Edinburgh schools, as well as teachers and parents. Together they have been using dance and digital technology to explore a variety of myths and legends.
With assistance from Edinburgh's Dance Base and a team of dancers, they have learnt hip hop, gum boot and contemporary dance. They have also worked with a digital artist and a musician.
Sunday's performance, Digidance - The Flight of Flounders, will marry the children's new dance skills with a digitally animated sequence accompanied by a specially commissioned soundtrack. The performance unravels a swashbuckling narrative of conflict and resolution that weaves through imaginary underwater, forest and cyber worlds.
The strength of the project lies in the innovative way in which it has been allowed to permeate through the life of the schools and the local community. This process has engendered numerous partnerships and collaborations.
The project's aim was to establish the two schools as cultural centres for the community in an area where arts venues are not readily accessible for families. In addition it sought to "redress the balance in the school curriculum between visual, auditory and kinaesthetic learning styles".
In practice, the project has been one of the most memorable learning experiences of the year for everyone involved. The assistant headteacher of Corstorphine Primary, Carol Wood, says it has woken up the children's creativity.
"Worksheets and systematic programmes play an important role in delivering the curriculum but projects like this bring learning alive. It inspires creativity; this can then permeate everything. It's how you should live your life; learning should be about life experiences, not worksheets."
Until recently expressive arts was considered by many to be the least importantcomponent of the curriculum. However, a slew of research is turning this idea on its head, as "creativity" is increasingly becoming the most sought after skill in the workplace.
Ms Wood, who worked in publishing before becoming a teacher, says: "Employers are saying that they have no problem attracting candidates with first-class degrees, top band Highers and A-levels. What they are desperate for is employees who not only have these but can also use their creativity."
These ideas are supported by Jack McConnell, the Education Minister, who said earlier this year: "I want to see every school in Scotland dedicated to creative activity. Every school should be a centre of creativity in the community. Embracing and developing creative skills in young people will ensure that they become creative individuals and good citizens with an interest in lifelong learning and more chance of success in the modern workplace."
Learning and Teaching Scotland has commissioned a report on creativity in education. Kevin Gavin is researching case studies for the report (this project will feature) and has no doubts about the unique contribution that creativity can make in schools.
"Creativity is not just about the expressive arts. It is something which could benefit learning and teaching in all aspects of the curriculum," he says.
"Creative projects such as that at Gylemuir and Corstorphine can really motivate children. It gives them opportunities to problem solve on real projects, which are then validated by display."
Mr Gavin's research so far suggests that although creativity is used to unlock literacy and numeracy skills in the early years of education, it then gets squeezed out by what he describes as a "hard-edged performance indicator regime". The research highlights the need for more flexibility throughout every aspect of school life, including management structures, to enable creativity to flourish. Minds of Different Kinds illustrates the benefits that this integrated approach can bring.
Minds of Different Kinds was funded by a pound;13,500 grant from the Scottish Arts Council National Lottery Fund. For advice on arts project support, contact the Scottish Arts Council, tel 0131 240 24434 or www.sac.org.uk.