If you haven’t got a Room 13 already then your school needs one.
We know how much the arts contribute to children’s learning and wellbeing. Yet we don’t always make time for it or give it the high profile it deserves. What is the earth without art? An earth without art is just ‘eh’.
Well, Room 13 is all about art and giving it the space to breathe and inspire. It is a creative hub where children can do amazing things.
Room 13 can sound quite ominous but far from it. This is a door you want to walk through and spend time in. It might sound like the sort of place you get sent to when you are all out of luck but it is the polar opposite.
This is a place of venture and adventure, enterprise and creativity. It is a place that promotes trust, freedom and autonomy.
The idea behind Room 13 started in 1994 with children at Caol Primary School, a Scottish primary school situated in the village of Caol on the shores of Loch Linnhe. They established their own art studio in one of the school’s spare classrooms – Room 13.
The children ran the studio as a business, raising funds to buy art materials and employed a professional Artist in Residence to work with them. Now Room 13 is a model of excellence and something other schools have created. It is now a worldwide network of creative studios and a thriving community of young artists and entrepreneurial thinkers. Caol Primary say,
Anything can happen in Room 13! Over the years, our young artists have produced drawings, paintings, photographs, films, collages, sculptures, poetry, dance, drama, music, sound, performance and much, much more. We have philosophical debates, cut hard-nosed business deals, and welcome guests from around the globe, and around the corner. Being part of a community is one of the most important things that we seek to promote in Room 13.
The clearest articulation of what Room 13 looks like can be found in Mike Fairclough’s superb book Playing with Fire: Embracing Risk and Danger in Schools. Mike is the headteacher at Wise Rise Junior School in Eastbourne where there is a thriving Room 13.
Another source well worth inspecting is the case study report by NESTA. This explains everything you need to know.
A Room 13 is no ordinary room because it is a democratically run studio and run by a management team of children aged between 8 and 11. Every Room 13 is different and there is no prescribed learning agenda or template. In essence, a Room 13 teaches ‘hands on’ skills in art and business and the young artists form an independent self-determining community. It illustrates that children can do things beyond the limited beliefs of their teachers and be resourceful, ambitious and successful.
Caol Primary School’s Room 13 is an extraordinary achievement that embraces artists of all ages and is a magnificent example of how creativity and learning can transform lives.