Using their heads

24th October 2003 at 01:00
With very little time left before our annual open afternoon we decided to mount a Tudor display in the school foyer. Learning support assistant Michaela Rusz, our "artistic director" Cathy Durham and I opted for a Tudor scene.

We had recently visited Kentwell Hall, a Tudor mansion in Long Melford, Suffolk. The children and staff dressed in authentic Tudor costume for a day of Tudor re-enactment. The inspiration for our display came from the Great Hall, where paintings of Henry VIII and his six wives hang. We decided to make three-dimensional portraits, starting with papier mache masks. My class of 33 mixed-ability children began researching portraits of Henry's wives. We used a wide selection of reference books and a few useful websites. Could they believe all sources of information? Did Hans Holbein paint a true picture? Did Henry VIII look that regal? Was Anne of Cleves really that unattractive?

The children split into groups and chose who they would like to portray.

Much discussion and teamwork took place in deciding who would do what and what each Queen would wear. Then we "dressed" the 3D frames.

For our open afternoon some children dressed in authentic costume and welcomed visitors with Tudor greetings, such as "Good day MistressSire", "Fare thee well" and "May God give thee gud day". Tudor biscuits were served along with an occasional burst of "Greensleeves".

This term we contacted the local art gallery, the Beecroft, about displaying the portraits in their annual schools' exhibition. The work received a "Highly Commended" award and the deputy mayor gave the children a certificate at a special showing. The project taught the children many cross-curricular skills, such as Damp;T, making hanging pocketscup strings and, in geography, what London looked like in the 16th century. They learned life-skills, too, such as decision-making, compromising and working together as a team, as well as showing a level of creativity of which we feel very proud.

Gill McWilliams, historygeography co-ordinator, Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Primary School, Essex

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