Responding to Art Through Heuristic Play

Gallery Oldham have recently worked with Nic Found (Director of Creative Learning) and Sally Thornley (Play Therapist) of Kingfisher Special School to help children engage with the exhibition ARTIST ROOMS: Richard Long. Pupils explored and responded to Richard Long’s artwork in a workshop using heuristic play in the gallery and Education Suite.

Heuristic play is child-led activity; children have the freedom to self-explore whilst facilitators are encouraged to be present with the child and follow their lead. It empowers children to create, not to ‘copy’, but to be led by their own desire to investigate and explore.

For the land art of Richard Long, heuristic play involved pupils exploring natural resources such as slate, water, wood, stone, earth and sand. Objects that were sculptural, textured, colourful and reflective extended the range of materials and themes used in Long’s work and allowed the children to explore elements of art for example light, form and shape.

During the workshop, pupils experimented with balance and sculpture in the gallery using stones and slate, as well as their bodies through making several poses alongside their friends. The Education Suite became a Heuristic Play Space, where areas were created to invite the children to explore and play with the variety of resources available to them. In doing so, they developed a felt response to the Richard Long exhibition.

The project has been a positive experience for both Kingfisher staff, children and Gallery Oldham, and an opportunity for children and staff to work in a different style. Heuristic play will be developed at Kingfisher in response to the work with the gallery, and Gallery Oldham now has a wonderful collection of natural objects and sensory resources available for future learning opportunities. Nic and Sally have also developed a guide for the gallery staff to use and share with other schools.

If you would like to view this guide and book a space at Gallery Oldham for your pupils to explore the resources, please contact Sophie Watt on or 0161 770 5431.

Please enjoy the film below.

The specified gallery is trashed.

Film: Luke Thornley
Text: Nic Found, Sally Thornley, Sophie Watt

Find out more about ARTIST ROOMS.