STORIES, STONES AND BONES
With support from The Heritage Lottery Fund and Creative Scotland children from Staffin, Kilmuir and Portree Primary Schools have successfully taken part in the Stories, Stones and Bones project over the course of 2017-18.
The project began with informal guided visits to sites of historical and palaeontological significance such as Rudha nam Bràithrean, An Corran, Duntulm Castle and bay, ruined township at Rigg, Staffin Dinosaur Museum, and Ellishadder Broch – for senior Gaelic and English Medium classes at all three schools. The trips were led by local historian and palaeontologist Dugie Ross.
Creative writing sessions with DS Murray
DS Murray held writing sessions with each of the classes involved, engaging the children in further dialogue about the sites and stories prior to building a stories and poems designed to be the inspiration for a short animated film. To the right is a story created by Henri Bullen entitled Footsteps Through The Trotternish Peninsula.
Cèilidhs, involving local songs and stories suitably linked to the subject matters, were organised in the schools with volunteers from the local community engaging the children in further activities and again creating the opportunity for Generations Working Together.
The children had been introduced to archaeological features in the landscape, such as the ruins of Duntulm Castle, the dolerite formations of the Kilt Rock and the world-famous brontosaurus footprints under the guidance of Dugie Ross. To further build the children’s understanding the ceilidhs introduced the tradition of ‘beul aithris’ (oral tradition), where stories are passed from one generation to the next in an informal and relaxed social setting. In preperation for these ceilidhs the children were asked to prepare suitable questions, based on their learning experience, for the local seanachies (storytellers).
This aspect of the project worked so well that Bun-sgoil Ghàidhlig Phort Rìgh and Portree Primary School plan to engage the seanachies each year and continue the dialogue as part of the Curriculum for Excellence
As the children developed their story boards, working with the author Donald S Murray, they focused on a specific detail that they had learnt on their field trips. From that process came creative writing, which developed their literacy skills and gave expression to their understanding of the local history. These ideas were then further developed into pictures and sculptures which were expressive and of a high standard across the age group. If was at this stage that a decision was made collectivly that digital films could be produced instead of a booklet as was originally intended.
Eilidh Rankin at Canan Graphic Services liaised with freelance animator Iain Craig to develop a a lesson plan for the teachers to integrate into the school programme over a period of time. The children loved the idea of learning about digital animation and developed ideas which ranged from tales of time-travel and giants, an animation on the German war spies who were based at the Diatomite works at Lealt and one class opting for a location much more closer to home – Portree’s nature walk.
Iain Craig completed stop-motion animation sessions, mostly over the course of a full day for each class, while some smaller or younger classes opted for two half-day sessions instead, turning their storyboards into educational and creative short films.
The children had a great experience, with one teacher writing:
“Taing airson seo a chur air dòigh dhuinn. Chòrd na cèilidhean agus an t-seisean le Iain ris a h-uile sgoilear, ach bha na gillean gu h-àraidh air am beò-ghlacadh leis an stop-motion animation! Bha tòrr beachdan aca fhèin agus tha sinn a’ tòiseachadh air fiolmaichean beag eile a dhèanamh leis gu bheil na sgilean againn a-nise. Taing mhòr do Lorraine agus Iain.”
“Many thanks for organising this for us. The cèilidh and Iain’s sessions were a treat, and the boys especially were transfixed with the stop-motion sessions! They had loads of ideas, and we’re going to start making more short class films now that we know how. Many thanks to Lorraine and Iain.”
Local Artists Lorraine Nolan and James Newton Adams engaged with each of the classes developing props, and characters for use in their animations. Most classes worked separately while Kilmuir school opted for their Gaelic and English Medium 4-7s to work together on a bi-lingual story.
The children had great fun according to their teachers. Of course it would have been easier for everyone had there not been the delay in October and November and the project had kept all of its’ momentum. In hindsight, it would have been better to allow more time for the final art and animation sessions and have fewer classes taking part, however the short ‘taster’ sessions enabled us to reach many more children and teachers, and many of them realised Stop-motion animation was something they could incorporate into lessons more often. Kilmuir and Staffin Schools already have great community ties, but the project has enabled Portree to form links with people they would otherwise not have thought to contact who can come and visit both Portree schools in future.