Educators in many countries are gearing up for Advent and the run up to Christmas. For once I have been organised. As an alternative outdoor approach to the traditional Advent calendar, one of my classes has created an Advent Garden.
After all, most decorations are plastic and surprisingly weather resistant. And there is no reason to presume that a calendar has to involve opening doors to reveal pictures or chocolates.
The area chosen was a secluded court yard. In many ways it’s been a bit of dead space with ornamental planting. However it is very public in that many rooms look onto this space including the main corridor through the school, the staff room, community wing and ICT suite. In other words it lends itself to being an interactive display space and is perfect for a bit of sparkle bombing.
The project was kickstarted by four visiting B.Ed.1 students (Michelle, Rebecca, Chloe and Maddy) from Aberdeen University. They are undertaking an outdoor learning module as part of their teaching degree and Creative STAR along with many other organisations in NE Scotland were hosting students to give them a broad flavour of activity within the local area.
They decorated a couple of trees to give the children an idea about patterns and the potential of using Christmas decorations outside. In a short space of time, they did a very effective job.
Back inside the next day, a group of children checked out some of the other decorations. Naturally the glittery blue deer was exceedingly popular, not least as a place to hang or attach other objects.
Mercifully, outside the deer was kindly placed where he could munch on some vegetation and remain shielded from view. After all, deer are naturally shy creatures.
Quite a bit of vegetation ended up with tinsel trails or ribbons woven through the plants…
The trees remained a popular place for hanging decorations. In winter, this really made the bare trees look totally different.
Themes also emerged through the patterns around the placement of tinsel, baubles, ribbons and bows…
The wind moving through the area works nicely. The laden branches move and so the places glitters and sparkles more than inside. I did consider fairy lights but as the children are only present at school during daylight hours, then the effect would be missed.
So then, you may be wondering where the calendar fits into this garden. Well, the class also painted numbers on 24 baubles. Every day a new bauble will be hung up outside. The children will have to decide where is the best place for each bauble to be hung. We painted the odd numbers silver and the even numbers gold.
As Advent had not begun, none of these numbered baubles can be seen. But there are lots of other decorations to look for.
And this is where the display becomes much more than simply a few decorated trees, bushes and benches.
Several years ago, a series of I Spy Books of Picture Riddles were published with photos of objects and a rhyme underneath each page. The rhyme challenged you to find different items hidden within each photo.
This display is the 3D equivalent. Inside there are photos of objects and children and adults passing by can see if they can find these objects within the outdoor display.
As well as bringing a bit of sparkly festive cheer, the seeds have been sown for future projects. After all, in the New Year we have Burn’s Night, Valentine’s Day, Chinese New Year, etc. All festivals and celebrations make an ideal context for a public celebration. So perhaps this space may not look quite so ordinary in the future!
Enjoy Advent and the run up to Christmas!