Before the group arrived I investigated using the sunlight streaming in the windows as our light source but unfortunately this was not a success as it was falling into the room too low and we knew it would fall yet lower as the morning progressed. The time I normally spend on blacking out the windows was spent on this however so the photographs are not a success. However the shadow images were bright enough for the children to enjoy. If I decide to use natural light as a source again I might try it with a mirror to control its placement.
So I took out the Overhead projector again but placed it high on a set of shelves, to discourage interaction with it, as I wanted us to have a different focus this week and to use it only as a light source. When the group arrived I had chairs arranged just inside the door facing the screen, lit from behind by the OVP and I began the session by making a shadow puppet in front of them, with it disappearing and its shadow reappearing behind the screen to discuss with them its creation. I referenced their “Giant” puppets from the previous week, reminding them how we had cut out the eyes, mouths etc so that they could be seen in the shadows, but suggesting we would work smaller this week, and instead of using our own bodies would make bodies for the puppets. I had strips of card ready to facilitate the adding of arms and legs, and we looked at some of the found materials such as scouring pads, and plastic packaging and what shadows they created and what they might be for their characters. This worked quite well with the children and special assistants and teachers taking in the technical information while enjoying and playing along with the performance. It helped everybody focus on the demonstration, and also established clearly which side the puppet needed to be on to create a shadow. At this stage some of the second, older group, were ready with ideas for what they wanted to make – one of the girls declared she was going to make sleeping beauty, and one of the boys told us he would make a “Gorrilla Dude”.
We then moved to the worktables, wheeling the materials table I had used for the demo with us (I love the way the furniture in the school is all on wheels and so flexible) and the children set about drawing onto card which the adults helped them cut out, and collaging on the mixed materials available to them and which they were familiar with from the previous weeks.
I encouraged the children to keep testing their puppet’s shadow as they created it, by holding it behind the screen and peering around the front as I had done in the demonstration. This meant the puppets were performing almost from the beginning. One boy had a long chat with his puppet alone at the screen while the rest of the group were busy making and there were times of real contented focus with everyone making. As the puppets were finished the children began to play with the puppets and interact with them. A lot of them liked to pop them up over the top of the screen too, where, for the audience, the sudden appearance of “full colour” was also very satisfying.
While I was trying to photograph the puppets one of the boys became very determinedly absorbed in having his own photograph taken presenting himself in various poses and with props, so we did a little of this too.
Next week is the final week for these groups before we move onto the same number of sessions with two senior groups. So we will attempt to focus more on performance and to attempt to use some kind of musical or story framework to bring the various elements together. We hope to use the hall if we can, as it is much darker and roomier.
Materials and equipment as previous weeks but with the addition of hole punches and split pins, and prepared strips of card to add moving joints.