Read more about our Imagination Pod Residencies which took place in 2018

2018 saw the launch of our early years Imagination Pod residency. Our Imagination Pods are a set of portable learning resources designed to bridge the gap between formal and informal learning. The pods were developed with students from TreeHouse School for children with autism and we have continued to work closely with professionals and children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND). They have become very popular in special educational schools and mainstream schools alike.

We currently have four Pods, each with a different focus. The Sound Muddle Pod enables children to experiment and play with sound, the Looking and Exploring Pod gives children tools to discover new spaces and places across a range of environments, the Immersive Spaces Pod allows children to create their own dens. There is also a Pod focused on activities with under-fives. The Imagination Lab and Pod programme is under huge demand; we are always seeking feedback from our beneficiaries and testing new ways of working. Between 2016 and 2018, we have worked with 2,576 children and 1,022 parents through this programme, 30% of which were children with SEND.

A number of local schools who we have developed strong relationships with through our Lab Learn programme requested that we offer sessions at the Lab for early years (Reception Year). Our first Early Years Residency took place on 20 March 2018, we welcomed classes from two schools from the Borough of Lambeth: Christ Church Primary School and Heathbrook Primary School. Both schools had been to previous Lab Learns with older students and were eager for their younger students (aged 3-5) to visit the Lab to play, imagine and explore in unique ways.

Using our “Looking and Exploring” Imagination Pod and puppet, Bird, we encouraged participants to imagine New Worlds: Big and Small. The Lab was divided into two sections, with one area dedicated to Making Spaces and Marshmallow Building and the other designed to encourage Exploration of the Senses: sight, touch and smell. The groups were divided, with one group constructing a new home for Bird with tape, chip paper and fabric, and exploring mini structures with mini marshmallows, toothpicks, straws and play dough. Simultaneously, the other group explored the senses through digital microscopes, kinetic sand, calico printing with leaves, mixing play dough with a variety of herbs, and creating scents with aromatic oils and water.

Across the two sessions we welcomed 75 children and 30 accompanying teachers and parents. While working with early years brings new challenges, the iOi Experience and Learning team are incredibly excited to develop our programmes and adapt them to younger children. We had a huge demand for early years sessions and we hope to do more of these workshops in the future, as the feedback has been extremely positive.