Portals between worlds: A study of the experiences of seven groups of children aged 7-11 years from six different primary schools in Wales making music outdoors

There has been increasing interest in the educational value of outdoor learning around the world and in the United Kingdom (UK). This is reflected in the statutory curricula of each country. At present, however, there has been little research into the potential of music-making in the outdoors.

This study investigated how changing the physical location of learners’ music making, to outdoor environments, impacted on children aged 7-11 years. Seven classes of children and their teachers, from six different primary schools, created music for a ceremonial performance in various outdoor locations in Wales. These activities were video-recorded and after their musical performances, the children were interviewed using video-stimulated reflective dialogue (VSRD) in semi-structured interviews. Their teachers also took part in semi-structured interviews, but without the use of VSRD. The resultant iterative analysis of data revealed four overlapping and interwoven themes: freedom, emotion, senses and agency.

In addition, the interviews revealed that the combination of the setting (including the ritual structure of the activity), the move from the school setting and the four themes (emotion, senses, freedom, agency) contribute to create a ‘vortex’ effect, potentially drawing the children into a state of liminality and peak experience, before achieving a state of calm focus. All of these factors are summed up in a tentative model of the impact of music-making outdoors with children aged 7-11 years.