Celebrating the offbeat

Off-the-wall ideas can raise essential funds for Afghan schools, as Ted Wragg reports

Glory be to God for dappled things," wrote Gerard Manley Hopkins in his poem "Pied Beauty". He might equally have written "dotty things", as unusual and offbeat ideas are well worth celebrating, especially when they involve developing children's imagination and raising money for a good cause.

We can learn a lot from some of the schemes dreamed up by schools to help children in Afghanistan. Many have been amazing in the way that they have combined education, charity and sheer fun. Infant school pupils at Sawbridgeworth in Hertford-shire raised pound;325 in a sponsored bounce on an inflatable castle.

The cultural festival held by pupils at Fulwood High School in Lancashire - which included Indian drumming lessons - not only brought in pound;500, but was so enjoyable it became part of the school's mainstream timetable. Rhuna Martin and her music students collected pound;800 by holding a sponsored cello practice by playing every single day for 12 weeks. I bet that improved their musicianship!

So here are three challenges. First, can you dream up something that starts off as a charitable effort, but ends up as a regular feature in the school, like the cultural festival in Fulwood?

What about t'ai chi, the oriental form of exercise that ensures Chinese people remain more supple in their later life than we do? Ken Mackle Primary School in Leeds tried that. Healthier eating, a new foreign language, aspects of the arts, a "good behaviour" programme - all these offer possibilities.

Second, what ingenious variation on the sponsored event can teachers and children think up? I had never heard of a sponsored bounce before. Skills that benefit from practice, like cello playing, can be a good source of inspiration. Sponsors then pay so much for each hour the children put in.

You may need to specify a reasonable limit on the total time children spend on the practice, for example 10 hours. Sponsored reading is popular, but what about sports skills (keeping up the ball, individually or in pairs; tennis volleying to each other, or keeping the shuttlecock going in badminton)?

Third, can you devise any interesting variations on the "unusual dress" theme? The most common is a "non uniform" day, which children love, but Sunnyside Preparatory School raised pound;100 by letting pupils dress up as their favourite fictional characters. How about Matilda, Oliver Twist, a couple of Cinderellas (before and during the ball), the Iron Man, or popular television characters such as the Power Rangers or Bugs Bunny?

Eleven-year-old Rehana Browne of South Hampstead not only raised pound;200 for Afghan children, but has also collected for flood and earthquake victims and for the elderly. What amazing children we have in our schools.

For more ideas and suggestions for fundraising activities for the appeal, visit www.tes.co.ukafghanistanIf you don't have access to the web, ask for copies of the ideas from UNICEF on 0870 606 3377.We want to publicise what schools are doing to help, so please let us know what you are doing.Email: afghanappeal@tes.co.ukFax: 0207 782 3205 Ted Wragg is professor of education at Exeter University

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