Sightlines Initiative

promoting creative and reflective practice in early childhood education


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The Drama of Sound

Since 2003 we have been developing projects and working in collaboration with schools, in order to research the ways in which we can develop reflective pedagogy, paying particular attention to the potential of musicality as a language of expresssion. Much of this work has been supported by Youth Music, and has resulted in the publications 'Movement Languages in Early Childhood Education',  'The Sounds of Leaping', 'The Drama of Sound', and a Self-evaluation Tool (see below 'Ask Yourself Good Questions). Extracts from The Drama of Sound are viewable here.

In the project 'The Drama of Sound Kendal we worked with a nursery school and a primary school to develop the ideas and practice which we explored in the earlier work. A narrative 'Dogs, Bones & Dancing' from this two-year project is available free online HERE.

Through all the projects, we aimed to

  • enable young children to become competent, enthused and empowered to use music as a way of expressing their ideas and communicating with one another.
  • encourage young children to respond to sound and to see the language of music as a tool for interpreting and understanding the world.
  • encourage parents to develop enthusiasm for participating in musical activities with their children, and to understand the importance of music as a way for children to express themselves.
  • enable early years educators to develop high levels of competence in working with children's musical ideas

dos 6Our intent was for:
children to develop understandings of the expressive qualities of musical sounds and acquire skills equipping them to use music as a communicative tool; the children exploring musical ideas using a wide variety of instruments and materials, their bodies and their voices;

a positive impact on the children's confidence, self-esteem, and their ability to communicate with others;

the adults to explore and draw out key interests and dispositions of the children, creating new opportunities and contexts for musical exploration and expression; 

Each group worked towards a co-constructed composition to be shared and celebrated at the end of the project. Parents were encouraged to exchange knowledge, thoughts and ideas as the work progressed, and were kept informed of the children's work through letters, meetings and project sharing sessions.

The learning of the children and the adults was made visible to a wider audience through professional development activities such as meetings, project celebration events and conferences.


Review and Development Projectdrama of sound flute

Are you interested in developing creative music practice with young children?

We are inviting educators, musicians and others working in early childhood education to review and take part in professional development, building on the approach outlined in our 'Drama of Sound' project work.

The Drama of Sound DVD explores ways of working with children's creativity and imagination through music and dance, within a culture of collaborative, reflective practice. Sections of the film are available to watch free online.  

The DVD with additional CPD materials is available to buy from our online store.

We would like to work with people interested in the Drama of Sound to find out about the effectiveness of the DVD and other CPD materials, and to support further professional development.


Ask yourself Good Questions!
DOs GQ ingredients

Here is a self-evaluation tool developed to help you consider how you are currently working with musiclity. The questions buil in order to indicate the areas in which where you may want to be developing your practice, in a holistic way. Click the picture to the right to go to it.

This is a new tool for us: we would very much appreciate your feedback and advice on its usebility and usefulness.

Please email your comments to learning[at], with the Subject 'Drama of Sound Good Questions Tool'.

  • supporting new groups who are working with the Drama of Sound material to develop their work
  • raising awareness of the Drama of Sound CPD materials, and associated UK projects
  • reviewing the effectiveness of the DVD as a professional development tool and developing additional support materials.

A project exploring musicality as an expressive language in early childhood education (Feb-July 2010)

Early Learning in Natureimg 3930

A four year action research project (2009-14), funded by the Big Lottery Fund’s Changing Space Programme, focusing upon early learning in the natural environment. The ‘Early Learning in Nature’ project works in each year with a small number of early years groups
who regularly visit and become familiar with their very own ‘wild place’, engaging in exciting, imaginative and elemental learning. The project is designed to give children with limited access to natural environments sustained opportunities for engaging with nature. It provides
a sound basis for respect, understanding and stewardship of the natural world, as well as a rich resource for social and cognitive growth. Read More


The Drama of Sound

Exploring musicality as an expressive language in early childhood education. Supported by Youth Music, we are currently working with Kendal Nursery School and St Thomas's Primary School, Kendal, in an exciting exploration of music, listening, meaning-making and creative pedagogy. Educators and children are working in collaboration with a musician and a mentor from Sightlines Initiative. To find out more about becoming involved in this project, please click here

The ‘Early Learning in Nature’ project (2009- 2014) works in each year with a small number of early years groups who regularly visit and become familiar with their very own ‘wild place’, engaging in exciting, imaginative and elemental learning.
The project is designed to give children with limited access to natural environments sustained opportunities for engaging with nature. It provides a sound basis for respect, understanding and stewardship of the natural world, as well as a rich resource for social and cognitive growth.
A specially equipped bus provides the children and their educators with transport from early years settings-nursery, school or playgroup – to a place of natural interest.  The bus is equipped with seats, storage, materials, tables, toilets, outdoor clothing and I.T. equipment. It offers a unique base from which to work, and make woodland sites accessible and viable environments for early years’ groups.
An arts practitioner and educator/ environmentalist work in partnership with the children’s usual educators, introducing, accompanying and exploring with them in the selected wild place. We work together ‘in the wild’ but also importantly in the ‘home base’ environment where learning can be significantly built upon.  Our pedagogic principles are based on supporting children’s enquiries, and all the adults involved - the children’s educators and the project staff -  work closely together in seeing and responding to the fascinations of the special place.

Key Elements of the project

Site Visits
Each early years group of up to thirty children will have one woodland visit per week  for two terms,  to a ‘wild place’ within reach of their home base in the specially equipped bus.
Follow-up visits
On alternate weeks the project team - of creative enabler and environmental educator- will work with the children and staff back at their setting to develop the outdoor experiences.
The staff team will be supported by regular input from a critical friend who will help unpick and analyse the learning experiences of the group
The educators will have termly opportunities to reflect on the ‘Woodland Experience’ with the other participating groups. There are also opportunities for experience sessions for other groups to broaden the experiences.

To find out more about the project, or to work with us to design a bespoke project for your setting please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Action research projects with children aged 0-3 years

 Playful Beginningsplayful beginnings 1

A creativity project focussing upon creating an Environment of Enquiry for very young children and their parents.
The Playful Beginnings project was set up in 2007 with funding from Easington & Horden Sure Start, District of Easington Council, and Northern Cultural Skills Partnership. The initiative, which was run over spring and summer of 2007 created a community of projects in which artists and educators combined their skills and expertise to engage with young children’s explorations of their worlds.

More information on Playful Beginnings

Playful Beginnings Evaluation


Henshaw Cabin Parent and Toddler Group
‘Creative Environments Project’henshaw cabin

A project to establish and develop a learning environment for Under
3’s in which children are viewed as strong, rich and competent learners with the right to an environment and experiences that reflect these beliefs.

More information on Henshaw Cabin Parent and Toddler Group 

Henshaw Cabin Evaluation

Everyday Freedoms

under 3s 2

An Early Years Outdoor project funded by Newcastle Neighbourhood Renewal and SureStart Newcastle and Fossway.

During Spring and Summer of 2007, the children from Wharrier St. Playgroup spent one session each week at Ouseburn Farm with their educators and an artist-photographer team. The interests and fascinations that emerged there were supported back at playgroup by the project team and the children’s usual educators, shaping the learning and play that occurred there.

Slideshow of the Everyday Freedoms Project