Playing With Circles – Action Research

“The Carousel Project in all its activities is underpinned by the belief that early years children deserve top quality creative arts opportunities and engagement. This is evident in the thoroughness with which they approach their projects and workshops and the professionalism of their artist-practitioners. The Carousel Project makes Devon a much richer county for families with young children to live in and grow.” Catherine Cartwright, Director, Double Elephant Print Workshop

In the summer of 2012, artists from the Carousel Project worked with Stoke Hill Nursery School on an action research project exploring creative approaches to arts based learning.  Three artists worked with the children and early years practitioners, once a week for 6 weeks. Their theme was circles.

This short film is intended to highlight findings from the action research project.

Playing With Circles – An Action Research Project from RA Projects on Vimeo.

We asked,

What is the approach being taken by the Carousel artists? 

What are the children getting out of it?

What is the Carousel approach

What are the children getting out of it

Via an open-ended approach centred around maximising children’s experiences, ‘ten hallmarks of excellence’ in practice have been identified, drawn from personal reflection, observance of key national strategies and through the Carousel team’s collaborative action research, ‘Playing with Circles’ (above)

We value process over outcome – the process, experience and ability to explore over end product.

The artists build the atmosphere and environment, thus setting the scene, and the children are encouraged to get involved. We sometimes include craft-based activities into our sessions but these may form part of a more experimental session where the children are encouraged to explore and be creative.

We enjoy working with grand themes and new ideas but we also value simplicity, with our activities often inspired by the natural world around us. We support the use of recyclable materials and encourage our artists to use Exeter Scrapstore for materials.

We encourage collaboration so that children not only have a chance to express their own ideas but can also learn from other children, parents and artists. Our projects often involve families/children working together in groups rather than individually, all contributing creatively to the project. Carousel artists also collaborate closely with practitioners when working in early years settings to build up a good partnership and create a better experience and outcomes for everyone.

The impact of creative learning experiences on the personal, social and emotional development of very young children is well documented within research. We are doing our own action research projects so that we can see the evidence of our approach, and are finding new ways to disseminate and share this with the wider Earlyarts community.

We realise the importance of parent involvement in a child’s creative development and have noticed that a child is more inclined to join in an activity if their parent is engaged. With this in mind we are trying to create more opportunities for parents/carers to engage in voluntary and training opportunities, enabling them to realise their potential, start new initiatives, make a positive difference and develop their creative and entrepreneurial abilities more fully for social benefit.


The researchers were: Catherine Cartwright (Carousel Printmaker, Double Elephant Print Workshop), Dr Kerry Chappell (University of Exeter Lecturer), the children (Stoke Hill Nursery School), Stuart Dawson (Carousel Film-maker), Clare Farion (Stoke Hill Nursery School Early Years practitioner), Katherine Ford (Carousel Director), Tamsin Pender (Carousel Visual Artist), Gill Richmond (Stoke Hill Nursery School Early Years practitioner), Lizzie Swinford (Carousel Dance Artist).

We would like to thank the children and parents of Stoke Hill Nursery who took part in the action research.

If you would like more information about Carousel’s research please click here