Early Years Arts Education Research

Who is involved?

Fingal County Council’s Arts Office (FCC) in partnership with Artist Jackie Maguire & Naomi Draper, Fingal County Childcare Committee (FCCC), Ros Eo & Little Learners Community Creche services and Trinity College Dublin, are delivering an early year’s Music and Visual Arts project in two community crèches in Fingal, Ros Eo Community Childcare from north county Dublin and Little Learners from Dublin 15. The programme commenced in September 2013.  The project organisers engaged the Arts Education Research Group of Trinity College Dublin to study the programme in detail from the start. 

Project Description:
Initially an 'artist in residence model’ was adopted where the two artists were located in the two services on a weekly basis.  The artists were present for a 3 hour session where they set up, delivered a music and visual arts workshop and evaluated the session during this time.  The artists worked closely with one childcare group (aged 3-5 years) in each setting and the Early Years Educators (assigned to that room) to explore the world of Music and Visual Arts together.  A primary aim of the project was for the Early Years Educators to develop a strong foundation in music and the visual arts and be equipped with the skills to embed these arts practices in their services once the arts programme finished.

When the artists’ residency came to an end evaluation and reflection highlighted particular areas worthy of further exploration and work. The partnership provided the resources to build on what from that moment on was known as phase one (2013), and establish phase two, a ‘creative exchange programme’ (2014-2015).  A key element of phase two was the introduction of the ORID framework by Jackie, as an evaluation method.   The framework gave everyone a voice and provided sound evidence to direct and inform future delivery.  As the project evolved the partnership grew stronger and a third phase, the ‘parental involvement programme’, was created.

The research partnership evolved with the programme and the study extended to include all three phases. The researchers were supported to visit the arts sessions, observe and document the activities and responses of the children, early year’s practitioners, artists and parents.   

Programme aims:
• To provide an exploratory, creative and playful artistic space for children to develop and grow.
• To enhance children’s early literacy and numeracy skills through the early years arts programme.
• To document the outcomes and link them to the Aistear Framework.
• To build the capacity of Early Years Educators so that they can embed arts practices in their settings.
• To create a community of exchange whereby all the key stakeholders learn alongside and from each other e.g. children, Early Years Educators and artists. 
• To explore the impact of an artists in residence model that works through two arts forms with the children and Early Years Educators in two community childcare services.
• To research the early years arts programme and share the learning with the artistic and early year’s communities through the dissemination of the summary report and subsequent articles.

Key Research Questions:
1. Do music and the visual arts enhance children’s early literacy and numeracy skills?
[Aistear defines literacy as being:
more than having the ability to read and write.  It is about helping children to communicate with others and to make sense of the world.  It includes oral and written language and other sign systems such as mathematics, art, sound, pictures, Braille, sign language and music.  Literacy also acknowledges the nature of information communication technology, and many other forms of representation relevant to children including screen based (electronic games, computers, the internet, television). ]
2. Did the early years music and visual arts programme meet the themes, aims and learning goals in Aistear?
3. Did the early years arts programme build the capacity of Early Years Educators and their understanding of Aistear?

Other research questions include:
• Did the artist in residence model provide an exploratory, creative and playful artistic space for children in the two community crèches?
• What evidence has been gathered to demonstrate that a community of exchange occurred?
• What impact does an artist in residence model that incorporates two art forms have on early year’s arts practices?  What learning occurred for the two artists?

Dissemination of Research

An article investigating the evidence of early literacy & numeracy development among the children as a result of their participation in Artful Dodgers was writen.  The Article (see abstract attached) was discussed at Space Invaders Early Years Arts Seminar in 2015 and has been submitted to a journal publication for peer review.  The full article will be made available to the general public following the journal feedback.  A second and thrid article are underway. Seminar footage will be shared here shortly.