Sunday, 27 September 2015

Den building - the journey!

In the dim and distant past I met an amazing group of people whilst doing some work for 4D creative in Manchester. One of these was the brilliant Cathy Cross - a theatre designer who can turn a whole pile of random stuff (include stuff I would have thrown away) into magical worlds and art.

For the past two years we have been working on a book all about den building. Originally this was aimed at teachers and we had a complete ball literally 'playing'

This was the original intro to this book.

When you tell people that you are writing a book about ‘den building’ in the classroom, you get one of two responses:
1.       A completely blank expression followed by a ‘tumbleweed moment’, usually swiftly followed by a nervous cough or laugh and a comment along the lines of ‘Sorry …you are doing what?’
2.       A huge grin followed by ‘that’s amazing – do you want to come to my classroom …I’m so jealous.’
Why den building in the classroom? The combination of a den builder with a theatre arts background and a photographer with a creative teaching background gives you two grown woman with a license to ‘play’, experiment and create. The beauty of den making is that anyone can do it – it doesn’t require a range of specific skills, just an openness to different ways of working with children, a willingness to ‘have a go’ and the ability to see the world through the eyes of a child again.

If you think back to your own childhood, most of you will have created a den of some sort. It may have been in the living room with chairs, an old clothes horse (wooden or plastic, depending on your age!), a blanket, some cushions and a torch.

Over the last two years we have worked with every age group from Early years through to A'Level, to student teachers to whole school teaching groups. We have worked with SEN pupils with a whole range of needs.
We have made so many friends, we have laughed, we have broken a few things and collapsed exhausted but exhilarated.

Why den making? The positives for the classroom are -

1.      .. Children learn by interacting with each other and developing social skills.

2.       Problem solving skills are vital – children need to work out how to fasten materials together?  How do they ensure that the den is safe?

3.       Empathy – they need to put themselves in the shoes of a person who would use or need this space.

4.       Understanding of abstract concepts – the den is a representation not a replica.

5.       Using all of their senses – multi sensory approach, texture, lighting and sound. – Does it feel different to write a poem in the dark?

6.       Becoming a team leader - children now take the lead and make decisions.

7.       Deepen understanding and become fully immersed in their learning.

8.       Children are ‘hooked’ into their learning and the magic in everyday objects is revealed.

9.       They begin to adopt a different way of looking at the environment.

10.   Children are doing what comes naturally – playing, using their imagination and creating their own worlds.

  Having spent a long time in classrooms we decided to branch out and aim this book directly at children. Teachers don't worry - we have loads of 'stuff' you can use - Cathy will come and build dens in your school and we are happy to support and offer advice.   is a separate blog just for den building in your classroom.

   The book is finally on Amazon and can be ordered HERE or using the link in the side column.

Cathy and I are really excited and can't wait to share this with you and see what you think. Please feel free to get in touch with us x

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Poignant images and the ethics of photography

Following the heightened media discussion last week about the poignancy of images I wanted to share an extract from my book - Learning through a lens in the hope that it might support teachers in the discussion of such images. 

There have been many images which have been described as ‘iconic’ and that have influenced the thinking of thousands of people. The photograph of the young Syrian boy last week was one such devastating image. As adults we can respond to this and have the depth of emotional literacy to allow us to process this. How do we introduce our pupils to images of this nature? In fact should we introduce them to such images at all?
We live in a digital age where images are beamed almost instantaneously into our homes.  Horrific images were shown of the bombs at the end of the Boston Marathon – heart wrenching, graphic but they told the world what was happening. If we had just been told that there had been a bomb would we have understood in the same way without the images or were the images too graphic and too upsetting to have been shown?

learning through a lens

The Pulitzer Prize winning image by Kevin Carter referred to as ’waiting for a meal’ has been described as ‘a picture that stunned a somewhat complacent world’ The photograph was taken in the Sudan in 1993 and depicts a vulture that appears to be waiting for a starving child to die. 
In interviews Carter stated that he waited about 20 minutes for the vulture to spread its wings. When it didn’t, he took this image and chased the vulture away. The image was first published in the New York Times and prompted many enquiries as to the fate of the child.
 The newspaper subsequently ran an editorial in which they claimed that the child ‘walked away from the vulture but that her eventual fate was unknown.’
The questions raised from this are manifold but the image itself portrays a stark reality, children were dying due to malnutrition – did the world need to know and was this an effective way, or the best way, of conveying that?
The statements below are all about the Carter image - They can be printed off and cut up – give them out randomly and ask pupils to introduce their statement where appropriate in the discussion. By doing this they may actually have to argue a point of view which is different to the one that they actually believe in, thus encouraging empathy and looking at an issue from more than one point of view.

·         Journalists and photographers in the Sudan at that time had been told not to touch famine victims because of the risk of disease - So he followed instructions.

·         Carter has been heavily criticised and referred to as ‘another predatory vulture’ on the scene.

·         Carter won the Pulitzer Prize for this image
·         Carter committed suicide 3 months after the photo was taken.

·         The vulture has been used as a symbol of oppression or representative of governments.

·         At the time the image was taken the girl’s parents were receiving food from a UN plane and would return to the girl.

·         The publicity generated by this photograph has been immense.

·         Carter was suffering from depression.

·         The girl was obviously very weak – Carter could have infected her and any food given to her could have been too rich and caused an adverse reaction.

·         There were relief workers in the area.

·         Carter waited 20 minutes before taking the photograph.

·         Because of this image the world became aware of the atrocities in this region.

·         ‘Sometimes I want to ask God why he doesn’t do something about world hunger – I don’t because I’m afraid that he might ask me the same thing’ Anon

·         This image moved many to donate and so effectively saved the lives of many children.

There is a whole chapter in Learning through a lens about the ethics of Photography and the use of poignant images. Discussion around reporting wars, disasters and the concept of ‘Compassion fatigue’. This is a difficult concept to introduce into a classroom but as teachers we can provide a safe environment for children to develop their own emotional literacy.

Photography quote

Monday, 7 September 2015

YSP Poppies - Wave Installation

Just a quick link to my Photography blog which has information about the Poppies at YSP along with several images which can be used in the classroom x
Yorkshire Sculpture Park September 2015

Sunday, 30 August 2015

Looking for the positives

The start of  a new term is always one of mixed emotions. The excitement of new classes, the blank page - the new stationery mixed with the wistfulness of missing family and the slower days of Summer.
 For many children school is the one place that they have security. Following our visit to Kakuma refugee camp the first classroom from our fundraising is now built and will open shortly.
 Hopefully this is the first of many - we will keep you posted. I've been doing some editing today and looking back over my Kakuma photos - these are a few that I haven't shared before.

Kakuma refugee camp kenya

Kakuma refugee camp kenya

The two photos above are outside Hope school as we were leaving. Children desperate to wave for as long as possible - young children with nothing. Anything I write will sound trite but I have to keep reminding myself of how much I have and how much they actually need.

Refugee camp Kakuma Kenya

This collage is of a workers' cooperative where the people there were  making bags both from the amazing material you can see here and also the plastic UNCR heavy duty plastic sacking.
The resilience we saw there was second to none. The people were welcoming, friendly, determined, parents and teachers just like us who only wanted the best for their families and children.
Enjoy your first days of term and remember Education  can make such a difference to peoples' lives x

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Why did I not know this before?

I often run out of charge on my iPhone, especially when away from home. We've just spent 3 days in London and by the end of the day I've used my phone regularly - taking photos, looking at train app - all the things you do to make life easier - and consequently have no charge left on my phone. My brother showed me his phone case which had an in built charge - you charge it separately and when placed on phone (and switched on! I missed that step to begin with) you effectively have 2 batteries so twice the battery life! At under £10 it's brilliant - see link in side column.

Kew Gardens

Street Art Camden

Friday, 14 August 2015

The first of many

Our visit to Kakuma refugee camp seems a lifetime away. So much has happened since then and sometimes it's easy to forget how much we have and how much we take for granted.
I have however, been overwhelmed by the kindness of people who listened to our stories, who looked at our photographs and said 'OK we are behind you - we understand.' From the young girl who gave me 7p - all the change that she had in her pocket - to the schools who have fund raised, who have committed to helping to create a future for these children.
Some of these schools aren't in affluent areas themselves but they have worked tirelessly. The Dearne ALC has already raised £4,500 and aim to build a complete classroom themselves - what a legacy and what an experience for the young people involved.
Today we received photos of the classroom that was funded by a mixture of donations from our twitter colleagues, family and friends as well as Debbie emptying her wardrobe on E bay!

I'm not sure I've ever been as overwhelmed as I was at Northern Rocks, holding the orange bucket for people to throw 'change' into whilst listening to the wonderful Rachel Orr singing. I confess I did burst into tears when people put in notes, emptied their purses of change - not one person just walked past me without donating - amazing people.

I cannot thank you all enough - the difference this will make is beyond words. Education is the only hope for these children. If you are interested in learning more please get in touch - we have funds in place towards another classroom but aren't there yet so will continue to work as hard as we can. 

The just giving page is still open 

 Schools are involved in healthy tuck shops, 4,000 mile challenges, community projects - 

I felt incredibly inadequate on our return from Kakuma but today I feel heartened - humbled but heartened. Thank you all so much xx

Thursday, 13 August 2015

Fresh starts

There is something special about the start of a new school year. A pristine planner, new stationery, laminated display headings. I used to love going into school during the last week of the holidays, catching up with others and pottering around my room. My classroom was described as 'messy' or 'inspirational' there was no in between! I loved having pupils' work up, news boards, working walls, things strung from the ceiling, over doors... The pupils loved it, the staff were divided!

This is a really old image - from about 5 years ago but I loved that classroom (it was originally the girl's changing rooms - hence the high windows)

The link below is to a Pinterest board where I have collected ideas for you to set up staff photo boards with a difference.

Give staff - and pupils a blackboard to write their hopes for what they wish to be or have done by the end of the year!
The next Pinterest board is 'All about me' and has a collection of ideas about getting to know your new pupils.

I love the idea of drawing a camera around your window and using it as a discussion point
(This isn't my image but will happily credit if anyone know who it belongs to)

Remember Learning through a lens  has a whole chapter on Photo challenges and another about using photography to find out 'All about me'

 Sparky teaching has a great post on sourcing images for your classroom  - see above link

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Photographs for use in schools and by educators

I really believe that nothing can move people like an image. All photographs are subjective and will mean different things depending upon who is viewing the image.
I have thousands of images and am happy to share some of them.

Images can be used for personal use in the classroom or for education presentations but are not to be used for resale. A credit and tweet or link would be lovely if you use any thanks J x

I was reminded of this following a great post from @SparkyTeaching here about using stock images. I have a page on here with some images already uploaded

There is also a page with quotes posters on here

I have a 365 blog which has hundreds of images - some of which may be of use (although there are hundreds of my grandson too!)

It may well be that you are looking for something specific - feel free to tweet and ask!
My book has got lots of information on using photography in the classroom as well as explaining about Creative Commons usage of images.

has Halloween or Ghost story images :)
Hope to hear from you x

Sunday, 7 June 2015

Summer Photo Challenge Shadows

If we are lucky enough to have any sunny days this summer – this is a fun activity that doesn’t need any resources other than a plain (preferably light coloured wall)
You can see from the image above that by using careful angles you can add another dimension to your images. These can then be made more dramatic afterward by editing using apps!
You can add another dimension by adding a simple prop – we used the sweeping brush as inspired by one of Banksy’s pieces of wall art – can you find which one?

Look for clean lines and plain clothes as the impact comes from the contrast between the figure and the shadows. Can you write the story behind the image?
There are more links and ideas on the Thing Link Site above

Use the hashtag #photochallengeLTAL to share your photos

Friday, 22 May 2015

Summer Photography Challenge

Please see my other blog for information about a Summer Photography Challenge - week one is Oil and water

Wednesday, 13 May 2015


Thank you to @wallaceisabella for nominating me for the #Twitteratichallenge -  I'm honoured and love the support that is available on Twitter. We are still trying to raise money for #kakuma and so spreading the word through any means is great!

There are so many people that I work with regularly that I would love to include but that's against the rules! (see below) Plus it would take me ages are there are so many of you! You know who you are :) There are also other people I would love to nominate but know they have already been included (late to the party as ever) 
I have bent the rules a little though! My 5 nominees are 

@musicmind - Nina Jackson
Quite possibly the loveliest and most supportive person on twitter. The Ninja is always there if you need her - advice, information, compassion or fizzy sherbet lemons - what would I do without her?

@betsySalt - Emma 
Fridays would just not be the same without her 'hugs' for people on twitter!

@theheadsoffice - Julia S thousands of children each week respond to her prompts, hundreds of comments, shared working and real human support 

Always positive, always motivational - ready with support and a listening ear.

@renoonog37 Rachel
I first 'met' Rachel on a 365 photo challenge and we share images and comments most days - we have a love of images, nature, children and Yorkshire in common.

I think my world on twitter is one where I surround myself with supportive people - kindness is so important.

 Here are the rules of the challenge (as set out by @TeacherToolkit ):


There are only 3 rules.
  1. You cannot knowingly include someone you work with in real life.
  2. You cannot list somebody that has already been named if you are already made aware of them being listed on #TwitteratiChallenge
  3. You will need to copy and paste the title of this blogpost and (the Rules and What To Do) information into your own blog post.

What To Do?

There are 5 to-dos you must use if you would like to nominate your own list of colleagues.
    1. Within 7 days of being nominated by somebody else, you need to identify colleagues that you rely regulalry go-to for support and challnege. They havenow been challenged and must act as participants of the#TwitteratiChallenge.
    2. If you’ve been nominated, you must write your own #TwitteratiChallengeblogpost within 7 days. If you do not have your own blog, try @StaffRm.
    3. The educator nominated, that means you reading this must either: a) record a video of themselves (using Periscope?) in continuous footage and announce their acceptance of the challenge, followed by a pouring of your (chosen) drink over a glass of ice.
    4. Then, the drink is to be lifted with a ‘cheers’ before the participant nominates their five other educators to participate in the challenge.
    5. The educator that is now (newly) nominated, has 7 days to compose their own #TwitteratiChallenge blogpost and identify who their top-5 go-to educators are.

Sunday, 10 May 2015


I was kindly invited into Springwell School on Friday morning to lead an assembly about Kakuma Refugee camp and to enlist their support in fund raising. I had been into the school before my visit and the pupils had made some posters for me to take with me.

We were trying to think of an unusual challenge and as luck would have it I was sent a link to which is the charity set up and organised by @WallaceIsabella (Isabella Wallace) - there were lots of ideas on there but one sparked an idea for us to be sponsored to cover the mileage between Barnsley and Kakuma. A quick check on Google and the #4000milechallenge was born.

Pupils and staff will divide up the mileage between classes and be sponsored to cover their share in any way they can - exercise bike, staff wearing pedometers during the day ...

This idea has the advantage of being fairly easy to organise and divide the 'labour' between staff. You can easily include Maths and Geography as well as the empathy that is needed to understand why they are doing this.
Classroom one has already been funded and thanks to pupils like the ones at Springwell we have made a start on classroom two!

Sunday, 3 May 2015

Calling all Northern Rockers

If you are reading this then the chances are that you will be attending the second ‘Northern Rocks’ conference in June. Last year was a mixture of thought, rain, conversation, laughter oh and more rain! It was however, a meeting of like-minded people with one aim – to be the best educators that they can. 
Knowing the sort of people who attended last year I feel hopeful for my plea to you all. As many of you know Debra Kidd and myself visited Kakuma refugee camp in March  –  Debbie's write up can be found on her blog - funds have already been donated to build a new classroom and our aim is to fund as many as we can. I will be running a stall on the day with postcards and images to buy but would also like to run a raffle. Hopefully it can be a raffle with a difference – just 3 prizes – each one a box/hamper – one containing bottles the other books. #bottlesandbooksraffle. and a hamper which has been donated by Belmas which is worth £500. 
 At the moment I have a copy of my book in the books box and nothing else! Yet again I would ask for your help – if you are coming to Northern Rocks and could donate a bottle (can be anything!)  or a book (again can be anything!) please can you tweet (@janeh271) or leave a message on here and let me know  then simply bring your donation on the day.

Here’s to another brilliant day ‘up north’ x

Less than 24 hours on twitter and I have offers of books/bottles from @lisa7pettifer , @debrakidd @hywel_roberts @musicmind @carole_XLIX @realdcameron and even offers of a workshop by @Emmabramley75 

Our Kauma visit and fundraising are supported by