Sensory silver

On our visit to the Silver of the stars collection pupils were unable to touch the pieces but I enabled individuals to communicate preferences by laying cardboard silver stars on the table beside their favourites.  We also took silver foil to shape and hold, thus keeping everyone’s hands busy!

Back in school we developed a series of sensory lessons using a collection of metallic objects such as stainless steel cups, jugs and utensils.  This encouraged active learning and engagement through experimentation by looking, feeling, drinking, pouring, holding, stacking, making metallic sounds, problem solving with spouts, handles, and stability, deciding what the vessels could contain, noticing reflections and using the collection for role play.

The lessons then extended to altering the objects by adding decoration in the form of stickers which encouraged fine motor skills and decision making which took the shape of the chosen object into consideration.

A joint project was developed with another class teacher where metal pots and pans were hung outside as percussion instruments.  This class also went on to construct a fountain which, although it was not durable in the long term, provided enjoyment and success when pupils poured water in the top and watched it flow down.


Pupils were fascinated by the cold shiny surfaces and developed different ways of reacting with them.  This provided valuable information for how to proceed with the project.  As we are a special school, the pupils are largely non verbal but I saw one pupil act out pouring, drinking and sharing cups with his support assistant.  This was the first time he had done this.

Gaining the support of another teacher was encouraging and rewarding as we were able to give a group of pupils more time to form a personal response and to relate the work to other areas of the curriculum.

As an art specialist I was able to put considerable thought in to how to make what was a sophisticated design project accessible and meaningful to children and young people with additional support needs.  I was able to unpick what the creative design process is and to reach its core.

This approach of starting in a sensory way, taking time to understand the properties of the materials and to experience the textures, shapes and function first hand could be transferrable as a good starting point in mainstream nurseries and schools.

Next Steps

The sensory approach could become part of a core way of introducing and teaching design.  It could be extend to the areas of architecture, product design, communication, fashion & textiles.

It would be fun, challenging and increase real understanding of how things work and how they could be improved.

This relates directly to the aims of the Education Scotland document ‘Creativity Across Learning 3-18’.