Ted's teaching tips

17th March 2000 at 00:00
(Photograph) - How to use The big picture

This brilliant, whirling image could be the inspiration for a painting, a story, a design and technology project, or a bit of folk history. Most towns and villages have seen them and they have survived desperate economic crises, so what timeless appeal keeps them alive?

Funfairs Why do many people enjoy rides, such as this flying roundabout and the London Eye? How did funfairs originate (often as entertainment alongside trade fairs, where people sold animals, produce and tools)? Do you enjoy rides, or do you get nausea? What causes motion or travel sickness (conflicting messages from the eye and the balance system in the inner ear)?

Gypsies and travellers. Not many fairground workers are true Romany gypsies, but where do gypsies come from (originally India, later from the Balkans, France, Spain)? Why do people choose to travel (searching for food, employment, trade, sometimes escaping persecution, perhaps just a desire to explore fresh places)?

Design and technology Making a carousel is a challenge, as "spinning" can be notoriously difficult to manage. Try balancing a shaft (for example, a dowel rod) on a marble or ball bearing held on a firm base in a little hole (try it with and without lubricant). What about the canopy (what material? which shape - circular, hexagonal?) and the "seats" (fixed farm or zoo animals, little cars, or whirling mini-buckets on string or strong thread)? How will it rotate? By hand is simple, but gears offer the real challenge. (For a wooden merry-go-round, see Easy-to-make learning toys by John Coxon, Cassell, now out of print).

Writing Write about a visit to a fairground in which you find a ride you have never seen before. Who owns it? What does it look like (colours, shapes, features)? Why is it different from all the other rides? Describe something mysterious about it. See if you can produce an unexpected ending.

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