Monday, 27 July 2015

Make and Take a Carp Kite: Family Activities

We have many beautifully crafted kites that can be found on the first floor of the Pitt Rivers Museum. In our education handling collection we have one of my favourite types of kite, carp kites. 

Japanese Carp Kite from the Education handling collection © Pitt Rivers Museum

What I like most about the carp kite is not only how colourful and great they look blowing in the wind, but also the story of why they were created and how they are used in Japan.

Carp kites are traditionally flown in Japan to celebrate a yearly national holiday called Children’s Day (Kodomo Nohi). It used to be known as Boy’s day until 1948 when it was changed to make it a celebration of boys and girls. In 2015 Children’s day fell on 5th May and we celebrated in the museum by making carp kites with under 5s.

The tradition is that kites are hung outside the home to honour children, usually one for each child. The kites are based on Koi carp fish, which are known to swim upstream so they represent determination and strength. Parents fly these kites outside their home in the hope that their children will grow up to be brave, strong and dedicated like the carp. 

Handmade Carp Kite © Pitt Rivers Museum

Why not try making your own carp kite to fly inside or outside your home! Find instructions here. 

Carly Smith-Huggins, Family Education Officer 

Thursday, 16 July 2015

CPD Event for Primary School Teachers: From Stone Age to Iron Age

Calling all Oxford primary teachers! Have you been asked to teach Changes in Britain from the Stone Age to the Iron Age for the first time and don't know where to start? Or even if you gave it a go last year but want some ideas to liven it up this year, then Kim Biddulph of Schools Prehistory is running an afternoon workshop at the Pitt Rivers Museum on 22nd September from 1.00 - 4.30 pm.

Getting to grips with a Neolithic Axe during a training day
© Schools Prehistory

Kim has been a museum educator for fifteen years, and has worked in schools, museums and heritage sites. Her specialism is in the prehistory of Britain so she will run through a timeline and an overview of the major changes that happened during this period, to help you think about planning a block of work as well as bring in lots of handling objects to help you get the feel of the period. She'll get you to try out some activities that could help bring the topic to life in school, like making your own pigment or making replica Bronze Age axes out of chocolate. Kim has been working with us to develop a new workshop that will be available to book after October half-term, and you get to see a sneaky peek at all our fab resources.

For only £40 for the afternoon, with a free 2-metre timeline and booklet of information, resources and links thrown in for free, you can't afford to miss it!

Handling Palaeolithic handaxes at the Bucks County Museum © Schools Prehistory

Thursday, 2 July 2015

Phillip Pullman draws a crowd at Bookfeast

Philip Pullman was one of 23 authors to talk at the Bookfeast Festival, jointly hosted for the fifth year by the Pitt Rivers, the Oxford University Museum of Natural History and The Ashmolean.  Over 1,968 children from 27 Oxfordshire primary schools participated in these author events, focussing on the festival theme of 'Once Upon a Place - Places, Spaces and Setting in Children's Stories'.

Philip Pullman signing books at Bookfeast © Pitt Rivers Museum

Top tips were given by Pullman to an audience of 300 pupils as to how to create a compelling setting. He explained how you have to help the reader see something in their mind's eye and how you can use details to make things stand out. When an illustrator came and made sketches in the Pitt Rivers Museum for his Dark Materials trilogy details picked up on were the roof brackets and joists. He encouraged pupils to understand how authors have to suggest things with words - if you read something how do you know where you are? - is it indoors? - what light is there? - is it a small or big room?

 Pullman talks about Pitt Rivers as an inspirational setting © Pitt Rivers Museum

Pupils were then given the opportunity to develop their own sensational settings in creative writing trails around the Museums, led by OUMC Education Officers. Key Stage 2 pupils explored a range of genres as they transformed the Museums into settings for a fantasy, action adventure, and spooky story. These ideas could be developed into a story setting for an opening paragraph and entered into the Bookfeast competition. Key Stage 1 pupils created picture book pages of adventures in a range of settings from underwater to the jungle.

A fantastic line-up of authors explained how they got inspiration for both their settings and characters.  Matt Brown, author of Compton Valance: The Most Powerful Boy in the Universe, explained how village names on road signs and maps give him inspiration for character names. Elen Caldecott, creator of The Marsh Road Mysteries: Diamonds and Daggers, explained how a specific London street well known to her inspired her setting and story.

Gary Northfield introduces Julius Zebra © Pitt Rivers Museum

Illustrators also gave tips on how to create evocative settings and characters.  Gary Northfield got pupils recreating Julius Zebra from the world of the Roman Colosseum.  Meanwhile Carnegie Winner Tanya Landman enchanted younger pupils with her Jetsam and Flotsam dolls.

Jetsam and Flotsam come to the Pitt Rivers! © Pitt Rivers Museum

Thank you to everyone who helped make this such a fantastic festival  - it was a great partnership project between the charity Bookfeast, authors and Museum staff as to how central places, spaces and settings are to successful creative writing.  Now watch out for the winning entries of the Bookfeast competition!