Sculptural experiences inflate curiosity and confidence

Issue: Volume 93, Number 17

Posted: 22 September 2014
Reference #: 1H9cs_

A Learning Experiences Outside the Classroom (LEOTC) programme had students from Newtown School translating sculpture into dance moves at their local gallery.

Moamoa: gather together

“Where do artists get their ideas from?” asks Claire Hopkins, educator at Wellington’s City Gallery. “Probably their brains,” answers a Year 3 student from nearby Newtown School. “Or maybe other artists.”

Claire works in conjunction with Lyne Pringle, educator at Dance Aotearoa New Zealand (DANZ), to introduce the students to a major exhibition by Korean artist Seung Yul Oh, ‘Moamoa, a decade.’

In Korean, ‘moamoa’ translates to ‘gather together’, Claire explains as the children sit on the floor and gaze up at Huggong, a large-scale inflated sculpture that is squished in the gallery architecture.

Led by Claire, they discuss the work. “It’s really enormous. It’s bulging.” “Do you think a little needle could pop it?” “It’s just like a yellow huhu grub, or a tent.” They talk about space: fitting around things, making shapes, inflating and deflating objects.


The session (held in August) is part of a wider LEOTC programme. Funded by the Ministry of Education, LEOTC acknowledges that education takes place everywhere, and through monitored programmes, safe and effective learning opportunities are linked to classroom learning.

LEOTC programmes provide students with hands-on experiences outside the classroom walls and usually take students out into their community. Throughout the country, there are over 60 Ministry-approved programme providers, ranging from museums to wildlife sanctuaries, observatories to aquariums. Wellington’s City Gallery and DANZ are two such provider organisations.

Meaningful connections

The New Zealand Council of Education Research (NZCER) has a contract with the Ministry to ensure the programmes remain closely connected with The New Zealand Curriculum. In addition, they provide monitoring of – and support for – the various programmes on offer.

Senior researcher at NZCER, Rachel Bolstad, says there’s been a shift in how we think about LEOTC and the role it plays in education. This includes recognising its potential for cross-curricular work and the possibilities for new and different types of student inquiry.

“For example, some providers in the Waikato region are investigating the Waikato Wars in the 1860s. Other providers are working with digital technology to create unique and engaging education experiences for students,” she says.

A common thread running through LEOTC is the need to connect outside experiences with what is happening in the classroom in a meaningful way.

Movement and respect

The students are from a mixed Year 3–4 class and are visiting the gallery with their teacher Karen King and some parents. Karen says she was pleased to have the opportunity to bring her students to the art and dance programme.

“This term, our arts curriculum topic is drama. We’ve been exploring touch and movement in groups, through mime and acting. The students have also been playing games like ‘freeze’, which they really enjoy.”

The activities have also sparked discussion in class about how students relate physically to each other and show respect with personal boundaries, linking to the school’s Positive Behaviour for Learning (PB4L) programme.

It might seem counterintuitive to have young students exploring dance and movement in an art gallery, but this exhibition is particularly well-suited to such a visit.

Most of the works are interactive, and those that are not are clearly marked. Throughout the collection of sculptures, Seung Yul Oh plays with size and scale. He’s recreating familiar objects: matches and mice, toy birds, and what could be the bristles on a toothbrush, large enough to hide between. Everything is distorted: noodle bowls are stacked impossibly high, and dinner settings appear to be eaten by tall ghosts. The interactive inflatables guarantee that young ones will be able to touch, push, and even climb inside some of the pieces.

A small room is home to a large screen that shows short clips of people blowing balloons until they burst. The video is edited so just the popping moment is shown. It’s noisy and unexpected, and the children laugh and laugh.

Connecting communities

Tracey Monastra is visitor learning manager at City Gallery, and she accompanies the school group. Why is it important young students have positive experiences at institutions such as this one?

“It’s about introducing children to the importance of art,” she says. “The hope is that they’ll feel comfortable and confident around it and want to visit again.”

Creating good experiences in art galleries is vital for the future of such institutions and the creative arts in New Zealand: children will bring their parents back with them next time, she says.

“If we can switch kids on to art at this age, hopefully they will always feel open to these kinds of experiences.”

Lyne Pringle, educator at DANZ, has collaborated with Claire Hopkins at the City Gallery to bring this programme to 14 class groups so far.

“They’ve absolutely loved it, and we’ve even had some parents join in with the dancing,” she says.

After an hour with the artworks, the students move to a workshop room upstairs and explore movement and dance with Lyne. Some of the movements are inspired directly by the sculptures themselves.

One example is copying the movements of the Oddooki bird sculptures, the oversized plastic toys recreated from a childhood favourite of the artist. There is a weight in the bottom, so each bird can be rocked this way and that by a group of children. Then they copy the balancing, rocking movements without the birds.

Together with Lyne and Claire, the students find a spot on the mat to practice their moves and explore new ones. Recalling the memories of the sculptures they have just seen, they make inflating and deflating movements with their arms and try to be as ‘big and small as they can’, by themselves and with a partner. They make ‘personal space bubbles’, practice moving as an organism altogether, and strive to fill up all the space on the mat. 


Moamoa, a decade at City Gallery(external link), Wellington
The Ministry of Education’s LEOTC programmes(external link)

BY Melissa Wastney
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 8:39 am, 22 September 2014

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