I managed to squeeze in a school visit to Bredhurst Primary in Gillingham at the beginning of October but now with current restrictions these events have become rare.
I was aware of the need to make the visit Covid-compliant. Due to class bubbles a whole-school assembly was out of the question so instead I produced a mini version of my talk in video form (see below) in order to give some insight into my practice. It had the happy consequence of my being greeted by children on the day who seemed to know me already.
The card for the workshops was pre-packaged and then only handed out by the teaching staff. During the workshops, I did my usual thing, but at a distance, teachers did all the close up checking and helping. I made more of the demo part of the session where I turn a pop-up mechanism into a finished 3D spread using the children’s story ideas. And I made sure everyone had all the information they needed to finish the group pop-up books after I had moved on to the next class.
The school felt surprisingly normal but they had clearly put in many important measures to keep everyone safe – no sharing of equipment (I had to keep reminding myself not to borrow scissors or gluesticks), staggered playtimes and hand sanitiser everywhere. I also had to exit the building and make my way around the outside of the school to get from class to class.
It’s not clear when things will go back to normal but it’s been an opportunity to explore new ways of interacting with schools. Things like Zoom, for example, seem to work well and will be a useful addition going forward, especially for schools further afield. However, it can never replace the wonderful feeling of interacting live with the children that I experienced at Bredhurst and all the other schools I’ve visited in the past.
I celebrated World Book Day with the children of Annemount School in Hampstead Garden Suburb. A few of the children dressed up as characters from the Big Match and one boy, Rafael, completed his costume with a ‘book cabinet’ for guessing the book. The box opened to reveal mini pictures of all of my books.
I couldn’t believe the work that Rafael and his family put into this – two days I’m told. He wanted to give the box to me to take away at the end of the day (with his Mum’s permission, of course) – it now takes pride of place on my studio wall.
Back from Budapest where I spent time working with the kids and staff at the British International School. I was helped by the school’s wonderful librarian who acted as my wing-woman for the entire 3 days and made sure everything ran to schedule.
After my initial school talk, I ran a series of workshops with all classes where I showed the children how to make their own pop-up books.
A pattern for the sessions emerged fairly early on when I matched each class to a mechanism, guiding them through the process so they all had a completed pop-up framework ready to go. Following a discussion about their storyboard ideas – the blank storyboards were sent ahead of my arrival – I used some of their material to demonstrate how to convert mechanism into fully illustrated 3D scene. Some of the images show these, others show the children’s work-in-progress.
The school places huge importance on reading and runs several initiatives to encourage the love of books. At a certain point each day, everyone drops everything to read for five minutes. The doors were also being decorated as book covers while I was there – check out the Detective Paws ‘door cover’.
I was asked to briefly address the prize winners of the GDN and CO-Gas Safety competition in Committee Room 10 at the House of Commons on Tuesday. I’ve been involved with the judging of this for many years – my way of giving something back to the charity CO-Gas Safety for their support and help after we suffered from the effects of low level CO exposure in 2003.
Up to now, it’s been run as a poster competition for primary school children. The Gas Distribution Networks have taken over the project and under new rules, it can involve any form of creative expression to highlight the dangers of CO – so pick what you’re good at. It’s now also divided into KS1 and KS2.
I was back in Stopsley Primary last Friday to see Y4’s finished pop-up books and to talk to the parents about the 2 day project. After learning a number of basic techniques on day 1 and sharing them between classes, the children went on to develop these in their own individual ways to produce books combining text, images and pop-ups.
I felt they had achieved a fantastic result and there were plenty of examples of where the children had experimented, come up with original ideas and managed to figure things out for themselves.
One girl inverted the large V fold to create a parallel plane on which to stick a palm tree – hard to explain but it makes sense if you look at the picture (last one) – and I’m not quite sure how she figured this out. One boy created an arch based on the vertical V fold which probably would have been too complicated to teach to that age group in the first place. Unfortunately, no picture for that one but the point is they were able to come up with their own designs and techniques using what they’d been shown on the first day – very impressive!
Also worthwhile mentioning the wonderful teachers who took part in this, in particular, Jason Sutch who co-ordinated the project.
First school of the year tomorrow at Stopsley Primary in Luton for a 2 and a half day project in pop-up book design.
Day 1 will consist of learning the basics. Each of the 3 Year 4 classes will learn techniques which they will then share between them before my next visit. Images show the ‘manual’ I’ll be leaving to guide them and to show the starting point for day 2 when we develop the books further.
I was back at Britannia Village Primary School last Monday for Day 2 of our paper (cardboard) engineering project. As Year 6 set off for France with their giant pop-up constructions, Year 5s (3 classes) stepped up to the plate to start work on a pop-up reinterpretation of Alice in Wonderland set in London.
I was impressed by the way they took inspiration from Boxpark in Shoreditch, the surrounding streets and graffiti they photographed. I gave them guidance with the construction of the main framework and worked with a small team to get it in place and glued, while the rest of the children got to work on the other smaller components. They were given broad instructions for the painting of the structures but apart than that they were completely free to bring their own ideas to the final surface decoration.
Also very gratifying to see how all the teachers had used what they learnt in the initial inset session to help their pupils create small-scale pop-up pieces before my arrival.
Back-to-back schools last week for the week of World Book Day. A lot of advance planning is always required for these but the enthusiasm of the kids and their eagerness to dive in and get creative always make it all worthwhile. This year’s schools were St. Pauls in Friern Barnet, All Saints in Fulham, Coppermill Primary in Walthamstow and St. Pauls and All Hallows in Tottenham. Here’s the montage: