It has been a truly inspiring 1st week for the Discover Children's Story Centre's (@discover_story) summer school. Inspired by a CP project I worked on years ago with John O'leary and Laura Frankland we decided to create a series of "character interventions" for the participants. Amazingly Laura was able to work on the project and we set about planning an early start at the summer school so that she could hide away before the arrival of any of the children. On wednesday Laura (dressed as Julie, The protagonist from Frank Cottrell Boyce's 'The Unforgotten Coat') came bursting into my session- she was looking for two missing Mongolian boys and wanted to know if we'd seen them! All the adults in the room acted ("acted") surprised as she questioned the children about these two boys. the children hadn't seen them! She then left as quickly a she had come and the children were left perplexed, excited and thrilled 'who was that crazy lady' they asked and those who had already read the book exclaimed 'She's from the book!' – we found that she had left behind some white disposable lab coats. We searched Cottrell Boyce's book for clues about Julie and wrote our ideas in crayon on the coats.
As soon as all the children were dressed in their decorated, written upon coats i told them that i had eard a rumour! Apparently a Yurt had been discovered in the school! A yurt very similar to the one in the story.
We took our white coats and searched for the Yurt – it was in the school gym (of course :)) and proved the perfect place to share the ideas and thoughts that decorated our coats.
On thursday I received a phone call in class which I answered (loudly) a boy in a fur coat had been seen in the school grounds- we investigated and to the children's delight, from the first floor balcony we spied a boy downstairs. He (laura) was in a thick heavy fur coat playing with some strange items! – I sent the children back to class stating that i had to go an make sure he was ok only to return with his fur coat and his strange items (the boy had run off leaving them behind) We discussed the items – why did he have them? What were they used for? Who was he? The children drew the objects in their personal journals and wrote about them- I should add at this point that all these children are here because they struggle with reading and writing and already in this first week we've seen them volunteering to read, chomping-at-the-bit to write and proudly sharing their work.
Yesterday the children got another surprise they got to speak with one of the most challenging characters from the book- (spoiler alert) 'The demon that makes things disappear' aka The Immigration Officer! The children had no qualms in totally dobbing on the two mysterious boys giving the Immigration Officer details of everything that had transpired over the last few days. Once our very officious Immigration Officer left the children had a go at becoming characters from the book and hot seated each other. it was amazing how much of they story they knew, we have not actually sat down and read the group, their knowledge of the story is almost entirely from flicking through, reading the odd extract, looking at the pictures an talking about each others discoveries. Their relationship with the book has been active and inventive and yet… they are reading! I'm going to be away from the summer school for a couple of weeks to teach english, go perform at The Wilderness Festival and to make some final changes to some up coming poetry collections but I cannot wait to return to the final week of the summer school to see how the children have changed and how much they remember.