Blaine-like bear with a sore belly

12th December 2003 at 00:00
It was a feat of unprecedented endurance: existing without food for 44 days, one individual aimed to test the limits of survival.

And, when Barnaby Blaine emerged from his box, it was to international adulation and a range of public-speaking invitations.

Barnaby, at first sight an unexceptional cuddly toy bear, had previously been known only for doing guard duties outside the head's office, at Anson primary, Brent, north London.

But, when magician David Blaine famously embarked on his 44-day starvation stunt in a Perspex box above the Thames, Simon Pile, who teaches Years 3 and 4 decided that his pupils should have their own, bear-sized version to observe.

Barnaby was placed in a cardboard box with no access to honey, nuts or other snacks. Each day, a picture was posted on the web, as he completed a task set by pupils. At their request, Barnaby's time in confinement was spent reading, doing maths homework and standing on his head.

As word of Barnaby's stunt spread, he received emails from pupils across Britain, as well as from Hong Kong. Since emerging, Barnaby has been invited to speak at a creativity conference for 50 Brent heads. Fans include a schools inspector and a creativity consultant for the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority.

"Creativity can be taught," said Mr Pile. "My pupils are becoming more creative in their own work, because of the stimulus in class. And it's an important exercise in empathy. We ask pupils to think about how Barnaby Blaine felt going into the box, and how he would feel coming out."

Barnaby has continued matching David Blaine's feats. Where the magician stood on a column, Barnaby will stand on a birdtable, so visiting wildlife can be observed. And, while the star stood in a block of ice, the bear will stand in a block of bread, enabling pupils to see what happens to bread over time. This week, he was buried alive for seven days.

Pupils seem unworried by the effects of such trials on Barnaby's health.

Nine-year-old Keanu Foster said: "He wants to get famous, so he wouldn't cheat, or lie to people watching him. And he won't be scared. He'll be happy."

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