Yes, I have secured an artists’ residency in a school. Sounds very posh, doesn’t it? But I actually just filled in a form and the good people at Creative Ireland, Waterford Council and the Waterford Teachers’ Centre decided to give me money to work in a school. All joking aside, this is a huge honour for me. I have always wanted to work on a longer writing project, because it gives the participants scope to express their creativity and produce a solid body of work.
Starting the Residency
Before I could start the residency, I completed a course at the Waterford Teachers’ Centre with the other artists who had been awarded bursaries and with teachers who wanted to bring the artists into their schools. It was the start of the summer, and we wandered through a park rubbing paper against stone. We built bridges with plasticine and moulded hands out of plaster. And we learned how to work together and to combine our strengths, so that we could create great arts projects together.
Then when the school year began, I got an email from the Waterford Teachers’ Centre telling me I had been assigned to a school and would be working with a whopping total of three teachers. Two of them teach second class, with children aged seven and eight. The other teaches an infant class, and that will be new territory for me.
I had a highly productive meeting with these teachers. We hatched up plans for a project that would involve a treasure hunt and time travel. It would be based on the idea of a quest narrative, the idea of going out and searching for something value, only to discover that the real value lies inside yourself.
We also agreed on our timetable. I’m doing 10 one-hour classes with one set of children in the run up the Christmas. Then after Christmas, I’ll work with the two other teachers concurrently, the ten hours going to one teacher and eight hours going to the second teacher, the teacher of the infant class.
Searching for Treasure
For the first few sessions, I’ll introduce them to storytelling techniques and we’ll get to know each other. Then we’ll put together all the elements of the quest – the characters, the treasure, the enemies who will try to thwart them, and the elements of time travel. Towards the end, things will get really exciting. The children will go on their quest, their treasure hunt through the school, and find the treasure.
The whole point of a project like this is to make sure works of art come from it, so the children have something to show for their efforts and they can feel a real sense of achievement. In this case, it’ll be the stories they write about their quest, and a display wall showing all the clues they came up with. Above all, they will discover that words have great power, and that they have the power to use them. And they’ll discover that using words can be great fun.
If you want to find out more about my workshops, including the work I do with communities, visit the Writing Workshops page on my website.