We worked with William Shrewsbury Primary School in Burton-upon-Trent to use dramatic intervention and roleplay to stimulate storytelling and creative writing.
Janice and Dunn went into school in role as NASA scientists to tell children of suspected UFO activity in the area. We asked the children if they had seen anything. Of course they had! So we set up a ‘hotline’ for information including an email address to which they could send any new ‘information’.
A few weeks later, children arrived at school to find a spaceship had crashed into their playground. The spaceship was specially designed by professional propmaker Rachel Denning to be colourful and friendly. We didn’t want the children to be too scared!
We covered the school in sticky footprints, sometimes one, sometimes four in a cluster, sometimes upside down or on the wall to keep the children guessing about what the ‘aliens’ looked like.
Every week we returned to school with new stimulus. We dug up ‘alien artefacts’ in the school yard. We played sound recordings of the aliens and told the children they were hiding in school but too scared to reveal themselves. So children practised how to greet an extraterrestrial in a friendly manner.
The teachers continued the theme throughout the week, supporting children to write and draw their imaginative responses. They made interstellar communication devices, models of aliens and told many stories.
Eventually we took two actors in full mask and costume into school for a day we shall never forget. The aliens were scared at first of the children, so were greeted gently and led into assembly, where they proceeded to discover chairs for the first time by standing on their heads. The aliens went from class to class ‘discovering life on Earth’. Discovering sellotape was especially hilarious. The children became their teachers and tried to help the aliens understand their lives and school.
Finally the children learned that the aliens needed new stories for their planet, which had run out of imagination. One week later, after NASA had discovered how to return the aliens to their planet, the children threw a goodbye party for the aliens and sent them off with a box full of stories.
This project was a joy from beginning to end. The teachers provided many of the ideas for intervention and together we spent many hours in detailed planning sessions. The project had full support of teaching staff and the head, and we feel that this contributed to its enormous success. It really did stimulate writing and storytelling in the classroom.
This project was made possible by the Arts Council’s Creative Partnerships scheme.