It’s been an intense three weeks but we’ve reached the end – 21 classes in 12 schools have built 126 “Broads in a Box” Models and I’ve had the unenviable task of choosing 2 from each class to take to the Show Case on 30th June at Red Oak Primary School! The Show Case is open to the public so please come and see what the students, who have been a part of the Water, Mills and Marshes programme, have learnt about the Broads National Park from the Road Shows and Experience Days. It’s from 10.30 – 11.30am on Saturday 30th June and it’s here the winning models will be announced.
What I’ve loved about the last three weeks is how very perceptive, funny and imaginative the students can be with their models – the team’s character certainly comes out and gets expressed in the final product. Current affairs appear in the models in surprising ways. Prince Harry and Meghan Markle appeared in one model. Apparently, having their honeymoon in a rowing boat on the Broads. Another model had a pub with a massive flatscreen TV showing the 2018 Football World Cup to attract customers! Then there’s the business minded groups advertising their wares on signs and bill boards and asking: “If our businesses make money can we build more things on our models with the money we’ve generated?” Their imaginations having dropped them straight into the world they hoped to create.
Despite having the same list of objects to choose from and make, the variety of designs and different materials used has been astonishing. Windmills with sails that turn or hotels with balconies and red carpets looking a lot like the castles in a Walt Disney fairy tale – I’d stay a night there no matter the cost! Some models are firmly colour co-ordinated, all red or all grey, others make use of the entire colour spectrum in one go! Don’t think the competitive drive is just limited to the students, the teachers were equally as invested – popping between classes to make sure the others weren’t producing better models or following my progress round the schools on Twitter so they had some idea of what the competition would be like and could make sure materials were available to surpass what they had seen!
Some children gravitated towards spending all their efforts making the power boats and buildings whilst other’s loved the tiny details (cups on the tables, cupboards in the house, flowers round the buildings). One student, used two cylinders to make a turning windmill rather than the rather common place pin through sails method! And one group produced a very naturalistic Broad with lovely red and white windmills!
Team Work. Now that definitely deserves a mention. It’s possible to spot a winning team from the outset – focused, determined to win, united along whichever vision they’ve decided upon and away they go each with a specific role and playing to their strengths. A very coherent, well designed model usually results. Other teams may have a rockier start, or entire day, but most work out how to deal with their disagreements, differences of opinion or sheer refusal to change what they’ve made or how they’ve made it; often getting sorted in time to make great models. Others realise rapidly it may never work so decide early on to leave the group or form smaller groups with better chances of doing well. The calmness and acceptance with which the genuine slackers in the group are carried along by the harder working members amazes me – I would have gone nuts if they were my team mates! Not to say we didn’t have some volatile moments but I challenge any group of 6 adults to work together for a whole day to make a model from rubbish and glue and not fall out at some point over something.
One of the best things for me about the Project Day was seeing how much information and knowledge the students had retained from their Experience Days. Water, Mills and Marshes hopes to create a strong Sense of Place within the communities that live and work in and around the Broads National Park. This sense of place is incredibly important to give people an understanding of where they come from and the local history and landscapes that make it special. Considering at the start, during our Road Shows, the knowledge of local wildlife was incredibly limited with claims, when asked, that sharks, crocodiles, piranhas and kangaroos all live in the Broads National Park, it was a delight to hear and see the information they’d heard being used in their model making. There aren’t many places in the UK where it’s possible to see otters, Chinese water deer, snakes, fen raft spiders, caddis fly larvae, water voles, marsh harriers and bitterns right on your doorstep!