The Workshops come nearer

It was great to meet with some of Group B this week at Rogue Studies and also hear from Catherine and Dan about Group A’s plans. It was striking how many good ideas there are. Now is your opportunity to really shape the workshop. Try to think about the following:

  • timings – this is a really tricky one to get right. My main advice would be that you should probably double your timing explanations
  • roles – think about what each member of the group is doing. Do you need to allocate people to roles (leading the talk to children, showing them how to build, asking key questions, supporting children
  • practicalities – where are they going to put their coats, how are you going to manage ‘toilet times’, where are you putting the rubbish from snacks???
  • safeguarding – does the whole group understand their responsibilities in regard too safeguarding? What has been agreed around photographing children?
  • evidence – what evidence are you going to collect to support you with your assignment?
  • the end – how are you going to close off the session.

Between now and the workshop begin to write your plans – consider doing this as a shared document online that people can contribute to at different times.

Don’t forget as well that you should be doing wider reading (particularly those doing 30 credits). What literature is out there around the imagination, creativity, project-based learning, dens and the important of them, the arts in schools etc…

We are meeting with the school tomorrow so we will let you know how this goes


Some (Further) Academic Context


[Now that the project has matured a little further, we would like you to share with students three to four more good academic papers which help them to ground their work in some theoretical or empirical contexts.

Task: Integrating Reading

Produce at least one blog post which responds to something from the texts shared above. Refer to the previous blog post for guidance on the way you should approach your reading – and remember; we’re not interested in what the paper says, we’re interested in the way you put it to work (how does it help you think about the things you’re doing in your project)

The Project Plan

[This post requires Project Coordinator input]

[During the Saturday conference, you should hopefully have pulled together a plan for the development and implementation of your project – including key milestones and dates for outreach activity. In this post, we would like you to set this out as clearly as possible so that the students understand the journey for the next phase. You may write this however you like, but it may include;

  • A link to a project summary document listing what you’ve done so far, the decisions taken and the support provided
  • A timetable of future physical meetings and agreed dates for outreach activity.
  • A list of any tasks allocated to students and suggestions for how they are carried out
  • Other links to working processes

IMPORTANT NOTE: From this point onwards you will need to create posts as and when they are needed alongside the scheduled ones – please use this liberally to ensure that all students are able to access updates (particularly where they haven’t been able to attend something) and arrangements for future work]

Safe Guarding and Ethics of Project Work

It is a legal requirement that anybody working with children, young people or vulnerable adults is appropriately briefed on safeguarding. As such it is important that all EdLab students engage with this post carefully.

By its very nature your work in EdLab will put you in contact with external partners and individuals outside the university – and often, these will be children and young people. Whilst you should never be put in a position by which you are responsible for a group of children, it is important that you appropriate briefed and considerate of the responsibilities this brings to you for child protection, and more broadly for ethical and professional conduct.


The term ‘safeguarding’ is used to describe the processes and measures which are put in place in order to protect children, young people and vulnerable adults. This protection includes, of course, extreme instances of abuse and maltreatment – and the current legal framework was put in place in response to highly publicised failures of public bodies to respond to warning signs that children were in danger. Safeguarding does mean something a bit broader, though. The UK Government defines the term as;

‘The process of protecting children from abuse or neglect, preventing impairment of their health and development, and ensuring they are growing up in circumstances consistent with the provision of safe and effective care that enables children to have optimum life chances and enter adulthood successfully.’

(DERA, 2014)

This extends the reach of safeguarding beyond child protection to incorporate the additional aims of preventing adverse impacts on health and development, and the promotion of circumstances is which children can thrive through to adult life.

Responsibility to assure safeguarding lies with both organisations (in our case, with the university through EdLab) and individuals (your project coordinator and, importantly, you). There are some basic implications of safeguarding policy for you. These are very simple, and should not be complicated;

  • It is important that all EdLab students have completed a full DBS check. It is your responsibility to ensure that you have one, and our responsiblity to pay for it and to limit access to outreach activity without one. In rare situations in which it isn’t possible to gain a DBS (for some international students) alternative arrangements will be made for the student
  • At no point should an EdLab student be left in sole responsibility – the lead for the space you are working in should be the project coordinator, a class teacher or equivalent or the parents of children (who should remain with them at all times
  • If you are concerned, tell your project coordinator. One of the golden rules of safeguarding is that communication is important, and you should flag up any concern (even if you think it might be silly) about young people you are working with immediately with your project coordinator (let them decide whether further action should be taken). It is important to remember that there is no right to confedentiality in law … if a young person starts to disclose something to you, tell them that you will have to tell somebody, and then do tell somebody else, even if they don’t disclose anything.

At this point, we would like you to follow this link and confirm that you have read and understand your responsibilities regarding safeguarding.

Risk Assessment

Whilst the guidance above ensures that you are compliant with fundamental safeguarding commitments, there are additional responsibilities which you should be aware of. Most notably, you are responsible for ensuring that any participants are kept safe within the activities that you run for them. Risk assessment can sometimes get caught up in slightly silly rhetoric, but the fundamentals are pretty simple. The usual process goes something like this…

  • Identify all of the hazards associated with your work. This is anything which might feasibly pose perils to physical or psychological health.
  • Consider which of these hazards constitute risks. Hazards only become risks if they are likely to occur, and if they would be unsafe if they did. This is the process by which you ensure your risk assessment is both effective and sensible, by identifying the things that are most likely to need planning for
  • Finally, you should establish precautions which will be taken in order to prevent risks turning into genuine dangers. What will you do in order to minimise the danger posed by hazards?

Usually, risk assessments are recorded in forms that look something like this – and shared with everyone involved in running the activity.

Professional Conduct

Work on educational outreach projects also has broader implications in terms of your personal conduct. It hopefully goes without saying, but we expect you to behave in professional ways – it is very easy to accidentally damage external relationships if not, and this makes arranging future projects very difficult. Everybody involved, including the outside guests who attend your project work, understands that you may well be inexperienced and novice at ‘doing education’ – and nobody expects that things will be perfect. Equally, though, there is basic level of professional conduct which is expected of our students in how you conduct yourselves within your teams, and in your interactions with those outside the university. Critical to this is effective communication and reliability; other people are often relying on the work that you do, whether its your project team or guests who are attending your activities – and it is therefore critical that you meet your commitments and deadlines. It is also important that you keep communicating with your project team throughout the process … even if things are going entirely to plan.

Quality Assuring your Work

The final dimension of this blog post relates to the importance of taking every reasonable precaution to ensure that your activities and events run smoothly and effectively. As noted above, we don’t expect everything to always run as you expect (indeed, education rarely works like this!) – however there is an extent to which, with some careful though, you can plan for the unexpected. In lots of ways, this process mirrors that of safeguarding, in that it follows these steps (but focused on things that might disrupt the smooth-running of your work, rather than responding to danger)…

  • Work out everything that could go wrong when your run your activity.
  • Audit each hazard in terms of how likely it is to go wrong, and how damaging it would be if it did.

You can then prioritise responses according to this framework:


… In which you would have very definite fall-back plans to respond to anything red (high likelihood and high impact), and be aware of the possibility of anything yellow. The stuff in green, can be fairly safely deprioritised to give more space to focus on the more risky stuff.

Some academic context


Here’s a previous project  by TASC which we think is relevant to the Geo-Dome project as  we worked with students from Manchester School of Architecture (MSA) and children from 5 Primary schools in Manchester and Salford in  building Dens in different locations in Manchester.

In response to the project the students formulated various blogs, of their experience learning and outcomes  which may give you some inspiration for your own practice.


04 - dencity[1]


tasc logo pdf bold



For a number of reasons young children in the United Kingdom are not encouraged to ‘play out’ in the urban environment in which they live. Increasingly, the major part of their lives is spent indoors, at home, at school or in other institutions, immersed in structured learning or passively immersed in the virtual world of watching TV or in playing with electronic and virtual games. For reasons of care and protection the lives of children are mostly organized by adults rather than being, in any way, self- directed. The ‘schedule’ of their day-to-day lives is imposed on them with little, if any, time for the creative exploration of their own ideas or the creative potential of exploring the environment that exists beyond the front door of their homes.

The revival of the traditional concept of children ‘playing out’ is a major way in which this inward looking domestic world can be opened up through play. Opened up in- ways that are vital, not only to the lives of the children themselves, but also to the benefit of all of us who live with them in towns and cities. Our adult lives and those of our children can only benefit from taking place in a creative urban context in which we play a part. Such a context promotes the cultural diversity and enrichment that comes from public engagement and exploration of buildings, places and the activities they contain; the composite world that is the built environment of towns and cities.

Research indicates that in order for the life of cities to thrive the day-to-day lives of children should be more evident alongside those of people of other ages. In the case of children there should not be designated and enclosed areas for them to play in but they should be be encouraged to join in with their friends and families to find local places that interest them. To work together to stimulate their shared play in a creative response to the city – for example – places where they can build their dens.


Den Building has traditionally been the most exciting part of children ‘playing out’ because it gives them the chance “to create a world of their own”. In this way they are experiencing first hand the creation of a habitat – a place in which to live. For most children building a den is their first sensory experience of understanding materials and using tools to construct ‘a world’ they have first visualized in their imagination. It is experiences like these that are the first stages in children understanding ‘the tectonic story of architecture’ that they see illustrated in the buildings that are all around them in towns and cities.

A children’s den is just such an example of ‘world making’ that is a product of imagination, ingenuity and intuition and gives children a sense of their ‘self’ located in a place they have selected in which to build. Such dens are the product of an innate

human instinct to construct shelter and protection. When children choose to build their dens together they enter in to a process of collaboration that is instrumental in their social development. As part of their creative learning it introduces them to concepts that inter-link both the natural and made worlds like ecology, democracy, citizenship and sustainability.

Looked at in such an educational context there are countries in Europe that have reacted positively to the lack of opportunity for children to build dens; structures that these countries define in educational terms as creating ‘homes away from home’. For example the reaction in Finland has been for the government to pay children to build dens through an urban regeneration project called “Try Yourself”!


In the ‘Den City’ project we are promoting the idea to communities in the city of encouraging children to build dens in the locality of their homes. The practical aspects of the project work illustrates how children, teachers and parents can make this happen, not as a school based project but as a project that takes place outside the school gates and beyond the front door of the child’s home. For this reason it is important for the project work to be introduced to the children, teachers and parents in the creative spaces of the Manchester Schools of Art and Architecture in Manchester Metropolitan University and not in the classroom of the children’s school.

For each school the project begins with workshops in which the children work in groups alongside their creative collaborators; first in discussing what is the meaning of the word ‘den’. Then they look at images of dens built by animals, birds and insects, they explore a range of natural and re-cycled building materials they can use in building their den and investigate and experiment with ways of joining these materials together in a structure. At the end of these initial workshops the children explore their ideas further through large communal and collaborative drawings that illustrate how their ideas for dens come together to create Den City.


The children’s work on the project is then taken further in an open-air workshop in a selected public space in the city in which each group will build and inhabit the den they have designed. The first task of each group is to select a site for their den. This process begins with the children talking about how they feel about each site they consider. They explore the territory they will be occupying and respond with intuitive answers to the question – Does it feel like a good place to build a den?

These discussions generate other questions like – What is the shape of the site? What is the shape of the den?How will we use the rest of the site? How much does the site slope? How does the site relate to the path of the sun? How will the entrance of the den relate to the prevailing wind? In finding the answers to these questions the children consider if they will have to modify their initial design in ways that respond to their analysis of the site.
Other questions then arise – Do we need to enhance the appearance of the den with decoration? What would our reasons be for doing this? Does this decoration need to be permanent or can we change it later?

We discuss with the children how we need to decide some of the answers before we begin to build but other questions can be answered as we progress.


This is when the process of making the dens begins . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

It was very important that the process of constructing the dens was like open air theatre; highly visible to the members of the public walking in the park and in the streets around.

This feeling of an open-air theatre helped the children to become drawn in to ‘the story of the project’ and for the public to see the creativity of the children expressed in the structure and cladding of the dens themselves. As the public watched they absorbed the joy of the children at being able ‘to play in the city’ and through this experience to become advocates for the children’s creative learning being promoted by the environment of the city.


In relation to children ‘playing out’ and the visibility of children on our streets you might want to look up this link  the-child-inside and subsequent links attached to the page

See you all on Saturday



Some Academic Context


Reminder: Preparation for Conference #2


Task: Integrating Reading

Produce at least one blog post which responds to something from the texts shared above. Refer to the previous blog post for guidance on the way you should approach your reading – and remember; we’re not interested in what the paper says, we’re interested in the way you put it to work (how does it help you think about the things you’re doing in your project)



TASC the architecture school for children



Looking forward to the session when we can get together again for the second practical design and making workshop, this time we are taking it up a level and have an engineered structure made up of different components – so get your thinking hats on!!


10:00 AM –

CONTACT – DAN 07717333518 / CATHERINE 07983125847

image001 (2)




ASHTON OLD RD    bus stop chisholm st 


How Does Reading Fit In

In previous posts, we have discussed the pedagogy that underpins EdLab – the ways in which it encourages you to generate theoretical understandings of education on the basis of your enacted experiences running projects. There is no pre-defined knowledge, and you are not expected to demonstrate any specific understandings of content or ideas – what matters is the way in which you develop a rigorous and critical sense of what it is you are producing through your projects.

This is, however, not to say that we do not expect you to undertake outside reading in support of the unit. In part, this will take the form of sleuthing other educational initiatives from which you can take inspiration. It should, however, also involve more conventional academic reading which should be used to inspire deeper analysis of the work that you do, and provide languages to talk about that work in more sophisticated ways. Here are some quick and dirty tips for engaging with reading in ways which will support the EdLab process;

  • Its not what it says, its what it makes you think. Try to avoid an impulse to be able to describe what the author is saying verbatim. Instead, find bits of the writing that make you think things (particularly if they affect how you are thinking about your project).
  • One sentence is enough. Often, students find themselves trying to respond to the whole paper. In some cases, this is appropriate – but equally it might be that one particular thing that the author says (it might even be just one statement) is enough to provoke a useful response.
  • Don’t punish yourself. If you are finding reading hard going, don’t blame yourself! Often, it’s because it is dense (and badly written). Don’t read and reread the same paragraph over and over again if you don’t understand it – read on, and find the bit that does talk to you.
  • Stop and write – particularly if you find yourself struck by a thought. Don’t lose that thinking by finishing the paper; go and write a blog post which starts with a quote from the article, and proceeds with a brain-dump of your thoughts. Then finish the paper.

In the next post, your project coordinator will share a couple of sources that might get you started in this process … but do try to do some independent hunting for sources too!

Reflections on Edlab conference and geodomes workshop

A playful response…

Here’s what can be done when a group of people who have never met each other were given a challenge….consider the room you are in to be a blank canvas and adapt it however you want in order to create a structure/shelter.

Working with limited resources…walls, ceiling, floor, tables, chairs, light, paper, masking tape,and their own bodies, this is what happened when the participants began to interact and play…

The outcome…3 different thought provoking interventions in space.

It was great that everyone was so enthusiastic and responded so creatively and collaboratively to an open ended challenge… this is just the beginning of a great journey, looking forward to you all coming to our studio space in January!