We had the pleasure of hosting our third online network meeting on 2nd July with artists and academics Dr. Louisa Penfold and Dr. Roma Patel. Over 40 participants joined us from around the globe to hear and discuss children's loose parts and arts play.
Exploring theories and research around 'loose parts' in academic contexts both Roma and Louisa are passionate about creating and sharing accessible practice for families, parents and educators.
Louisa's work has been exploring fine art gallery and museum works and considers the materials and processes used by artists to open up ways to work creatively with very young children. Roma creates interactive sensory spaces that combines tactile surfaces and digital technologies.
Thinking about tactile interactivity Roma introduced Munari's "Seeing Hands" exercise - exploring touch as a sensorial process. Touching and exploring everyday objects with our eyes closed, using our hands, the skin on our arms and face, we were invited to think about the sensations that might be different if we had our eyes open. Regarding our hands as 'seeing' in this way might help us to relate to how children might experience materials. Adults tend to be visually dominant and this exercise helps us to foreground other sensations. The different material properties of the objects have different affordances that also change our experiences forming aesthetic interactivities.
Louisa introduced the network to Simon Nicholson's " Theory of Loose Parts" which proposes children need opportunities to a number of different manipulable materials to construct to deconstruct in open-ended ways that are meaningful to them. These can be on small scale or large scale immersive spaces. Loose part materials can be anything variable that can be used in open-ended ways and offer opportunities for possibility play. We could consider our bodies, sounds, light and shadow as loose parts also.
Thinking about technology as a material loose part, rather than a tool, opens ourselves to possibilities and offers ways to use technology more actively. In aesthetically interactive works or in children's arts play 'the work is incomplete, waiting for an audience to complete it.'
As always with the network meetings the richness of the discussion after the presentation and activities comes from the diversity of participants that attend. During the session we created a padlet with links to resources that came up in conversation.
We will be back with another network meeting (hopefully in person! ) in the autumn.