Starcatchers and the National Galleries of Scotland are working together on two new pilot projects aimed a exploring different ways of engaging with nursery children as well as parents and carers.  Two pilot programmes have emerged in 2015/16 Wee Wanders and Toddle Tours.

Wee Wanders

Wee Wanders took place in Autumn 2015 with help from children, staff and parents at Canal View Nursery School.

Wee Wanders was pilot project to explore different ways of engaging nursery children with the National Galleries of Scotland and the three galleries they have in Edinburgh. Wee Wanders was lead by four artists, Katy, Paula, Kate & Maria, (or the Wanderers). Together with the children from Canal View, the Wanderers explored the National, Portrait and Modern Galleries and some of the exhibitions there in ways that are fun and exciting for everyone.

The Wee Wanders project had some key aims:

  • To work with the same group of children over a number of sessions
  • To visit each of the three NGS galleries
  • To offer an opportunity for the children, staff and parents to look at artworks as well as to participate in some practical activity
  • To encourage the nursery to continue to talk and explore activities relating to the project when they were back in the nursery

This pilot project was a unique opportunity for the children of Canal View to help play a part in the development of a new programme for nurseries at the National Galleries of Scotland in the future.


Visit 1 – National Portrait Gallery

The artists decided to start the project with a visit to the Portrait Gallery with a focus on the Head to Head exhibition.

The visit began by taking the children up to the top floor of the gallery in the lift. The group then gathered in the gallery and sat on the floor in a large circle and the artists began to talk and ask questions about what a gallery is and this started a dialogue with the children, staff and parents.

Visit 2 – National Gallery

From the outset, the artists had identified David Bailiey’s Stardust exhibition as a space they wanted to share with the children.

After an introduction to the whole group, the children and grown ups were separated into 4 groups who each got to wander round part of the Stardust exhibition accompanied by one of the artists.

This gave the children time to look at the photographs and talk about what they saw. Being in smaller groups enabled every child to have chance to share their thoughts.

After a period of time wandering, the group came back together and talk about what they had seen. The children then got to create a costume constructed from paper, foil and other materials before participating in a fashion show in the middle of the gallery accompanied by music by Rod Stewart.

Visit 3 – The National Gallery of Modern Art

The National Gallery of Modern Art offered the opportunity to share the work of Roy Lichtenstein with the group. The artists were keen to introduce the children to the bold colours, sharp lines and pop art shapes used in his work.  After sitting in the first room with the whole group, they were encouraged to walk through the gallery in small groups and identify which works they liked the best. In the final room the group was brought back together and talked about which picture was their favourite whilst listening to jazz music on a cd player – Lichtenstein would listen to jazz whilst creating his work.

The final room visited had a large mural style artwork with thick black lines by Louise Lawler, the group looked at this picture and were told that they would create something similar.  The Wanderers then took the children, parents and staff outside to the Charles Jencks Landforms outside of the Gallery and created a large-scale Lichtenstein inspired drawing using thick black pens along with primary coloured tape and stickers. The children were able to take off their shoes and walk right over the large roll of paper and could draw, stick and tape wherever they wanted.

Katy Wilson likes to create new worlds and environments for people to feel good, relaxed and inspired in – often sophisticated and far from conventional baby friendly spaces – she likes to shake things up. Katy created Starcatchers’ creative play space for babies 0-24 months and their adults, Blue Block Studio. 

Maria Giergiel is Starcatchers’ Trainee Associate Artist. She is a performance maker and facilitator, and graduated last year with a BA (Hons) in Contemporary Performance Practice from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. You can follow Maria on her blog to find out more about her traineeship, her reflections and her artistic ideas for making new work for under 5s.

Kate Temple is a visual artist. Her practice is varied and incorporates installation, sculpture, drawing, writing and design. She works on many education and engagement projects as an Arts Educator with organisations including National Galleries of Scotland, Artlink and the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.

Paula Flavell is a visual artist who enjoys getting messy. She works as an Arts Educator for the National Galleries of Scotland where she encourages others to find out if they like messy or not.