Blog: Lucas Chih-Peng Kao on Immerse Summer Project at St Ninian's Primary School

21 October 2022

Ellen, Lucas and Connel holding a thank you card from pupils
Ellen, Lucas and Connel holding a thank you card from pupils

At our first meeting, me, Ellen and Connel were all keen with the idea of making a library together with the class, filled with new books made by them. We were interested in collective poems, making stories and using sound to tell a story.

The beginning of Day 1 is always the scariest, we have to try our best to remember everyone’s names, impress them while they are trying to get a sense of you. Luckily Mrs. Clive was very helpful and helped us settle in while keeping the class focused.

To start planting the idea of bookmaking, we asked the class what is their favourite book in the warm up. Harry Potter & Diary of a Wimpy Kid were among the favourites.

Ellen led the class to write poems, letting them explore their own feelings on happiness and sadness, and then made up a surprise poem, there was a lot of laughter and surprise!

We then introduced the concept of a book form to the class, by folding an A4 paper in half, you would end up with a book with 4 pages: a front cover, 2 pages and a back. We asked them each to come up with a title and draw the front cover, and to draw their own author’s portrait at the back. We also asked them to think of who they want to dedicate the book to.

The children's books

Day 2 was about story making. Together with the class, we came up with the character Chick the chicken nugget, who is having a difficult time waking up to school, and his best friend Steve, a clown fish comes to get him. And we let the class takes the lead of where the story is going, not limiting and shooting down any ideas. So they all get to improvise and take ownership of the story and the character.

We then split them into smaller groups and keep playing the game on a smaller scale, stimulating their creativity and making characters.

By the time we let them make their books, they already had plenty of ideas of the content and the cover. We asked them to think about what goes on each page and how does the story moves from one page to another, how to use text/drawing to tell a story. Some of them started designing different elements of the book on scrap paper before transferring it to the final book, investing their own time and creativity.

We then dedicated a bit of time at the end for them to share their books to the class, many eager and proud to read out what they had wrote out loud and some helping to read their friend’s books.

By the end of day 2, there were 34 new books in the library, 16 poetry books about feelings and 18 different stories based on characters they created.

Books from day 2

For day 3 we want to explore sound as a storytelling tool, and we firstly took the class outside, asking them to make a sound each during the warm up and then later close their eyes and pointing to different sound sources they hear.

We then split the class into 3 groups, each group created a soundscape of a place for other groups to guess. With my group, it was Home, and we created sound of motorcycle passing, eating lollipop, sawing machine, watching Peppa Pig and singing the theme tune, follow by sounds of brushing teeth and sleeping. It was fun for the children to guess what other groups were doing and also being part of the group to perform for each other.

Then we went back to the class, we played an audio clip from animated film without the video and let them identify all the different sounds they can hear. Then we played the same clip again with video and it was a huge surprise for them to find out how their imagination plays with them.

We were keen to expand the library to also non-physical book and decided to make an audio book. Ellen led the class to re-tell their own version of Little Red Riding Hood and it was easy after Day 2.

A list of possible sound effects

On Day 4, we finished recording the class audio book first before making the final book. To inspire them, Ellen led a writing exercise based on their important or favourite objects in their life, which ranged from their phone, PS5, to their bracelet, trophy and laser pen.

We then asked them what book they want to see in the library or what is missing, before letting them getting on making their final book for the library. It was moving to see how much effort and research each of them dedicated to their book, their focus and creativity pours out and you can get a glimpse into the individuality of each person: some are writers, some are illustrators, some are collaborators, some are deep thinkers, and some are innovators who find unexpected ways to tell their story. There was a book for babies, leaflets about earth, fun facts about animals, a book for their froggy, football adventures and many more.

Again we had a sharing at the end, so everyone could see each other’s work. It was also good to see how their confidence had grown in the last 4 days.

By the end of Day 4, we had made 57 unique physical books and 1 audio book with the class.

Books made by the children

I want to say a huge thanks to Fiona and Anna at Imaginate for giving me this opportunity to work at St. Ninian’s and co-lead with Ellen with the assistance of Connel. It was a dream team as we all have different practice and skills and can also hold our own as facilitators. We were able to delegate tasks, lead groups and communicate clearly. And a huge thanks to the P6 class for their wonderful creativity and openness and to Shona Clive their teacher for the support.

This is my 3rd immerse residency, the 1st one was all online during the lockdown, the 2nd one was outdoor in school and the 3rd one in school. I had certainly learned a lot as a facilitator and understand how to work with children, how to create a safe space and hand over creative responsibility to them, to let them felt empowered during the process and have fun.

When designing the activities or sessions, I often ask myself if I would enjoy these activities myself if I am their age. Some advice I remembered clearly from another experienced facilitator artist Julia is something like this: “When we go into a school as artists, we should offer the class something different from what they will experience daily in school. We are there to do things differently.”