A Sunderland SOLE

It was a pleasure to welcome a primary school from Sunderland for a visit to Room 13 recently. The school is interested in SOLE and the work of Professor Mitra and asked to work with us in our Room 13 space to try it out.

The group were year 4 students.

They were asked the question “why do artists draw themselves?” by ‘granny’ Liz and “why do bees buzz?”

They seemed to enjoy the questions and really got stuck in. Thanks to granny Liz for her help too.

Some of our EngineHeads were able to join the primary students. In fact they led the SOLE, they asked the question and helped with the feedback at the end. Well done guys, you were amazing!

Also during the day the students got chance to see our gallery space and the work of local artist Norman Cornish.

Image courtesy of Norman Cormish http://www.normancornish.com

Here are a few thoughts from the young people:
“Really good lesson”
“I like to work with my friends”
“Very interesting and different. An enjoyable way to learn”
And One girl put a sign up in the room saying “Room 13 strictly no adults”!



It has been very interesting since we launched our Room 13 School in the Cloud space on 13th February 2014, to see which subjects in curriculum time have been using it. It has surprised me that every subject (I think except history but they have a session booked soon) have used SOLE in Room 13! Even those subjects that were not sure how it could work for them have been in to explore SOLE and some have been in lots.

One of the subjects that has been running with SOLEs a lot lately, after a bit of time to think about how within their subject, has been Math.

We are going to try a little experiment and work with two year 8 groups who are covering 3d shapes and 2d plans in their next topic. One group will do their normal lessons to explore the topic and the other will use SOLE. It will be interesting to see what happens. We are still working out the exact question but hope to have a “granny” who is also an architect (our lovely friend Christoph at Design by Kiosk) to ask the question and to be to hand during the SOLE!

Wonder what we’ll discover…


EngineHeads and Grannies

The EngineHeads decided to contact Granny Catherine this week to interview her about her role and how the different groups have been responding. Read some of their interview here:

What made you decide to become a ‘Granny’?

“My sister was a ‘granny’ in India and I decided to get involved. I have worked with a school in Columbia and a school in India. I really enjoy working with you at Greenfield.”

Have you enjoyed working in Room 13?

“I love it! I’m not mad about the name ‘granny’ because I am already a granny for my grandchildren and I know what that means. I love doing the work with you.”

What would you like to be called?

“Just Catherine. Or maybe I could have nick name like ‘wiki Catherine’ or ‘Catherine question’. My grandchildren call me ‘Granny Wales’ because I’m from Wales.”


Do you prefer the teacher to ask a question or do you like asking the questions?

“I like picking the questions, it’s easier to get enthusiastic about the topic. Sometimes you get teachers who are not as used to SOLE and it helps I think if I ask the question then.”

What difference does it make when the teacher is in the room?

“It restricts what the children do. If any grown ups are there it can affect it. The children behave differently without the teacher. For the first 2-5 minutes it can be a bit ‘lord of the flies’ like and children can act a bit silly and use mobile phones for example but then they get over that very quickly. They seem to be more imaginative without the teacher there telling them the answers beforehand.”

Have you got any suggestions about how we could improve SOLEs here or get more teachers and students involved?

“You need to have the right ‘granny’s’ involved. Ideally you would call up a granny when you need one but that is not practical as we are not always around. I see the granny as another resource.”

Do you think final outcome is better from students with or without teachers involved?

“The work is often more imaginative without a teacher. I’m not a total believer that you should work everything out on your own as that can take a long time but you do need to learn how to find things about for yourself. Once you have the skills to do this well and interrogate google and have discussion without the teacher you can learn anything.”

Catherine asked the EngineHeads a few questions:

Have you all had a ‘granny’ session and what difference does it make?

“Yes, it makes a bit of difference- there’s always someone to rely on for a question”
“Yes, it’s a bit awkward sometimes though cos you don’t know the person very well to talk to, but when one group has spoken it’s easier for the others to speak.”
“Having a granny instead of teacher is helpful. Less restrictive you can ask them things you might not ask a teacher.”
“It would be interesting to have no teacher in the room at all at the beginning and end and just the granny.”

Finally Lucy M said:
“Catherine, you said you were from Wales? Popty ping!!” (The group burst out laughing and brought a video up on the screen!)


“Wow, yes that means microwave in Welsh.”

“I know what we can call you, we can call you granny ping?!”

“That is good. It is ‘mamgu ping’ in Welsh.”

“There- it’s been decided.”

Thank you to the lovely Catherine (aka mamgu ping!) and to the wonderful EngineHeads for this interview.

Out of school SOLEs

As well as the many SOLE sessions that have been explored in the curriculum we have had an increasing number of out of school opportunities taking place!

We have been running some STEM (STEAM even Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Maths) sessions. The group have been working together with us on many projects one of which has been working with Hitachi and Shepherd who are building a superb large railway factory in Newton Aycliffe. They carried out SOLE sessions exploring how you make a railway factory and the kinds of skills and jobs you need as well as the impact this can have on a community.


STEM have then carried on working with us to create the giant faery king puppet for our Cutting Loose carnival celebration http://www.greenfield-arts.co.uk/projects/14-project-3. They are doing SOLEs about insects and spiders before they design, engineer and create a huge moveable puppet.


We have also had primary aged children doing SOLE after school about our environment and the animals that live in it and we have had several drop in sessions for young people using the space.

The EngineHeads have some cool ideas such as games night and film club for Room 13 too. I’m really keen to see how young people want to self organise the use of the space outside of the curriculum when they get chance to opt into SOLEs in their own time.

Busy, busy, busy!

“Granny” Catherine

It has been a pleasure working with the wonderful Catherine Carr (and her sister Liz) since we launched Room 13-School in the Cloud in Feb 2014 and to begin to explore together in more detail the role of the granny in UK school’s in SOLE here at Greenfield.

We had a bit of break through with a particular SOLE session recently with some year 5 students. It was a great session!

Catherine asked the question and introduced it from the very start which had an interesting affect upon how the students interacted with her and in fact with each other in the room. It seemed to me very positive and helped to engage them, they appeared more confident in their self organising quickly and they focused on the question right from the word go.


The students were very keen to speak to Catherine after she had initially asked the question (is it possible to time travel?) and they were keen to discuss their first ideas about the topic with her immediately before they researched. The whole group spoke collectively at times to Catherine and there were also a number of ‘lead’ speakers in the room.

Catherine helped with the feedback at the end of the session and helped them pose more questions which was fascinating.

Their findings were superb. They discussed some scientific concepts about the speed of light, ageing and progress in certain technologies as well as designing and creating rockets and portals with all sorts of clever design features too!


In this instance Catherine was used much more as a sounding board and as a resource to discuss ideas than in previous sessions.

Very interesting. More investigations into how ‘granny’s’ help develop learning within SOLE to come…

Staff enquiry

Since September 2013, Greenfield staff have been exploring a number of different enquiry areas. A group of staff chose to examine SOLE and independent and collaborative learning.

This group have been using Room 13 and paying particular notice to how this has engaged students. They have been considering how this work impacts on their learning and observing lots of interesting things. But more on this to come…

Just before the end of May, we had a whole school market place event, where each group shared a little of what they have been doing and what they have been finding out.

Our group ran a mini SOLE session about SOLE

Group feedback at the end of the mini SOLE session included:

Is it self organised or Negotiated learning ?
Principles can be applied elsewhere and back in the classroom
It improves research skills
It nurtures curiosity and allows it to be thoroughly explored
We are inspiring British children ‘slum dog style’
Important as it is pupil led and meets the needs of pupils
SOLES can be an area open before and after school for children to do what they want
It is the future of learning
It’s leaving it to the students