Making Waves with Northumberland Schoolchildren

I was recently invited to help a group of schoolchildren make waves with their writing as part of a project inspired by water.

Twenty Year 6 pupils from Newminster Middle School in Morpeth, Northumberland, worked on the Rivers Poetry Project with Northumberland Archives.

The project was funded by Historic England and was designed to get the children thinking about the River Wansbeck and in particular, its history of flooding.

Taking inspiration from the river

They enjoyed a walk along the river with senior archivist Jo March and project officer Megan Wilson, from Northumberland Archives.

As well as taking in sensory stops, they also looked at documents, photographs and maps, including reports of flooding in 1967 and 2008.

They then worked with poet and researcher John Challis, who used a number of poems, including one of his own about the Thames, as prompts for children to write their own.

John said: “It was a pleasure to be a part of the project. I thought the group was really wonderful and wrote some brilliant, imaginative poems.”

Writing in ripples and waves

It was my job to show them how they might present their poems – using a style of calligraphy called Akim Script and some home-made ‘wavy’ rulers.

I spent an afternoon with them, showing them how to craft the letters with a fineliner before moving on to words and sentences.

I was absolutely thrilled when Jo sent me the final report and some images of the work the children created.

Calligraphy also featured heavily in the ‘five-finger feedback’ the children gave on what they liked/disliked, what they took away with them and what they’d like to do more of.

Jo said: “The children responded well to the project. Many enjoyed the walk and the calligraphy rated highly as something the children would take away with them.”

Megan added: “The project was a resounding success – the students were engaged throughout, they produced and performed an amazing array of poems, and the school have already requested that we deliver the project again next year.

“An aspect I thought worked particularly well was that the teacher took part in all the activities, encouraging the enthusiasm of the children.

“In my opinion, this was one of our best projects. Bringing in John and Angela as poetry and calligraphy experts complemented and enhanced the activities that Jo and I delivered.”

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