Jack’s August blog . . .

The Big TreeTop installation for families is almost over and last week I gathered our team of facilitators around some cake to reflect on strengths and weaknesses.   One area where I feel we’ve learned a little more is in the nature of ‘Family Learning’ which for us means activities which engage the adults alongside the children. 

So in our gallery installation, adults and children playing together = good; adults as spectators = bad. 

One influence on this is seating which we place in a way that encourages participation with the children.  Last year the main seating was a giant tree-root (with a tunnel underneath) – and although it kept adults in the centre of the installation, their position meant they were looking out, rather than into the space.   This year we have some rather funky low cane seats that can be used anywhere in the space.  

We try to alter the gallery each day, so our regular visitors have a change in colours, layout and materials – and every morning the seats will be clustered around activities such as dressing up, sorting or soft toys.   But so often they are quickly moved to the walls where adults can be spectators (bad!)

Or so I thought . . .  I’ve talked to so many parents recently who have said that just having 30 minutes without having to answer endless questions is a blessed respite.  How can that be wrong?  

‘Family learning’ and ‘respite for worn-out parents’ seem to be mutually contradictory, but most of what we see in the space is so positive and there doesn’t seem to be a problem.   So far I am not sure how this spectrum of engagement amongst adults should influence our planning for next year  – I think like a lot of aspects of In the Big TreeTop, we can try to send subtle signals about how to get the best out of the space, but we won’t impose rules.    Thankfully we have plenty of time work that one out for 2011.

Jack.

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Posted on 26/08/2010, in Exhibitions, Social Inclusion and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. hello
    i saw the big treetop on a recent visit to the herbert and it looked amazing – do you have any images of previous years installations?
    thanks
    sian

    • Hi Sian

      I’ll send you evaluations for 2007 and 2009 (2008 we had a bought-in exhibition from @Bristol). The evaluations are a sort of manefesto for what we do and why, I am still working on this year’s, which included several deliberate deviations from our established ideas.

      If you want to talk about our approach, I am more than happy to do so!

      We had contemplated touring the exhibition, but it is hard to get colleagues to see it, as most family learning officers are working flat out with their own projects or are on holiday.

      All the best

      Jack

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