‘The wind changed our plan…’ 

2 August 2019

Starcatchers’ Stripy Nest team give us an insight into the research phase of this community project to help nursery children feel more at ease in the playground when they make the transition into P1

We have been working with pre-school nursery children at Canal View Primary in Wester Hailes, Edinburgh, who will soon be making the transition to P1 and may experience some difficulties in their new school playground. We wanted to particularly try to work with children who might find the transition tricky -they may have additional support needs, or anxieties which surface in a challenging way.

In nursery, all the children have access to a garden where they can water the plants, climb and create with loose parts like tyres, furniture or pedal around freely. They create their own jobs, challenges and collaborations with all the objects on offer.

When they move into pP1, the playground, as is the case in many schools, is a wide open, big, concrete space with nothing loose to pick up. Is this just too hard to manage with larger numbers and older, stronger children?  There is a lovely grassy hill for when it is dry, but mainly it is just a big blank open space – like many primary schools.

During this project, we’ve wondered: Is this daunting for a child when they move to school from nursery? Where can you hide? What do you do?  What can you busy yourself with?

Great if you love to sit and chat and an open space for inventing games and imaginary worlds, but it’s also likely to be a space where there’s challenging behaviour too.


The research phase

‘…the wind took flight with our crepe paper kites and the children ran with delight’


At the beginning of the project lead artist Kirstin Abraham, Starcatchers associate artist Katy Wilson and playworker Max Alexander visited the nursery to meet the children in a natural way before starting work.  (Read more about the artists and how this project came about at the bottom of this page).


We began working with the children in the playground, experimenting with colour stripes. We had planned  to build a space but the wind took flight with our crepe paper kites and the children ran with delight. The paper whipped into massive circles like an instant festival and the colours popped against the grey playground. The wind changed our plan completely but showed us something new. Maybe these elements could be brought into the design.

Kirstin and Max looked into  proprioception – awareness of the position and movement of your body and how you affect things around you – has been an important focus. The children were pushing each other in boxes for feedback; heavy lifting, throwing and pulling using elasticated tights. There was unplanned chalk rubbings on grids making vibrations and the children were hunting down satisfying feelings.The sun shone through coloured water bottles and they created an obstacle course of colour and light through the concrete.

Kirstin and Katy zwith a wee gang, worked on building a nest in the pouring rain – empathising with birds. It’s very tricky! The children instinctively began weaving, they all knew what to do and were fully engaged in their tangle of colours. The rain made us want a roof and think about waterproof materials.

We chat about having a part of our creation that is living, perhaps in soil so something can grow and be attended to by the children; something ever-changing and different depending on the elements. So many of us feel safe and comforted around nature.

Through this project we want to create something with the children that is empowering, a structure or a series of structures that will help these children as they move from their nursery garden to the playground on the other side of the fence this month. Our explorations continue…

Kirstin Abraham

Kirstin is an artist who is very tuned in to what different children are interested in – she can pick up on their needs quickly . She has three young kids of her own and is fascinated by their differences and the way they navigate their world- her middle child is autistic and has been a big part of the inspiration for this project .

Max Alexander

Max is a playworker and artist who Kirstin met at the Yard. He has a fascinating blog called Play Radical where he writes about inclusive play and shares insights into his personal experience of autism. Max uses playfulness and creativity to get to know the children and young people he works with so they can co-create meaningful, exciting and unique spaces and experiences. This might involve playing with movements, sounds and words, building things from junk and finding unique ways to explore the senses.

Katy Wilson

Katy is a visual artist and set deisgner who works with and for children and who has been working on and off with Kirstin for a few years .. they bonded over working as artists on Starcatcher’s Expecting Something project while bringing up young families themeslves – sharing their messy, tangenty, ambitious, optimistic brains .. making similar aesthetic choices and interests. They have a short hand because they can see what each-other are describing .