Art and Design at MGS during the pandemic

Posted on: July 21st 2021School News


For the MGS Art Department, practicing social distancing and implementing Covid-secure measures was a particular challenge given the hands-on, visceral nature of Art lessons. However, Head of Art and Design Lisa Murphy and her team were determined to find creative but safe solutions so that lessons would be both engaging and enjoyable for boys.

The bubble system meant that boys in Year 9 and above could still safely use specialist equipment such as the printing press and screens for printing when they returned to the class in September 2020. They developed what Lisa describes as a “form of choreography”, where a boy would use a piece of equipment, sanitise it, then step away to let another safely use it.

Portable boxes were created to ensure year group bubbles outside the department did not share the same equipment, and even an old catering trolley was recycled and put to good use, delivering clean paint and water pots and brushes to classrooms on the Maths corridor to provide core curriculum features such as the colour wheel theory and painting task.

“We called it ‘survival art’,” said Lisa. “Initially we asked: ‘How can we protect the boys and staff, but still make lessons valuable, fun and exciting for them?’”

The January lockdown and the return to remote learning brought another challenge, but luckily, Lisa and her team had already successfully innovated by using digital platforms such as Instagram and YouTube to deliver remote lessons during the first lockdown. Rather than directing boys to existing online videos and risk their attention wandering, the department – or depARTment as they are called here at MGS – filmed and created their own instructional YouTube video that would ensure pupils continued to receive MGS-standard teaching.

With more than 200 subscribers and an expanding library of 90 public demonstrational videos, Lisa’s official YouTube channel has been a huge success, not just with our own boys, but amongst other schools across the country who are using it as a teaching resource.

“Children today are very device-orientated,” said Lisa. “They are so comfortable using iPads and Surface Pros that we knew they would really engage with the YouTube videos. But what we didn’t expect was just how successful they would be. They have changed the way we teach forever and are now a mechanism to extend how we deliver the curriculum, both for in-class teaching and for those boys who are at home accessing lessons remotely.

“When the School reopened in September 2020 and later in March 2021, social distancing measures meant we couldn’t have boys huddled together around a teacher during a demonstration. But with pupils accessing the videos in-class using their Surface devices, we can keep them safe but also stimulated and engaged, and they can go at their own pace.

“We have such diversity among our boys that we needed to create different options, so that if a pupil was isolating or at home for any reason, they could still enjoy the lesson regardless of what equipment they had to hand. For example, if they only had access to a biro, there was a different video option to cater for that, so the lessons were fully inclusive and every boy could take part.

“It’s been so successful that we are planning to install big screens in the Art rooms to use videos within lessons beyond Covid restrictions.

“Art and Design plays an important role in a child’s overall development. We all know the value of creativity, problem-solving and seeking alternate solutions. Visual literacy, communication and our ability to access information has rapidly developed in the electronic age, and teaching pupils how to research, assimilate and explore their academic ideas in a wide range of media is of great value. I’m so proud that, out of the most challenging circumstances, pupils have enjoyed lessons with less limitations than one would have thought. Plus, we’ve created a teaching resource that everyone can now access and benefit from.’’