Activities for kids: Thinking INSIDE the box

boxofwhispers-3dI’m posting my latest activity for all of us kids big and small stuck at home and trying to remain creative! I call this activity Thinking INSIDE the box.

I started delivering this activity to kids in my creative writing workshops after the publication of Kendra Kandlestar and the Box of Whispers, one of my most popular books. In that book, a young Een goes in search of a mystical container that holds something all-too precious to her societ

There are many wonderful myths and stories of enchanted vessels. One’s that pop to mind are Pandora’s box, Urashima Tarō’s box, and Aladdin’s lamp all come to mind, and can help provide extra inspiration to the young creators in your house.

What you will need:

  • Paper
  • Drawing supplies
  • The handouts (below)

Bonus:

  • Any kind of wooden are cardboard box
  • Paint and brushes

There are a few different ways to approach this activity. For younger kids, I like to use this very simple handout, which allows them to take a pre-drawn box and simply concentrate on the design, patterns, and colors.

WS-My box

Here are a few examples of student projects:

elc-box30

elc-box32

A box holding all the magic of the sea.

 

For older students, I prefer this brainstorming sheet, which allows them to freeform doodles shapes and designs for boxes, and also prompts them to consider more deeply some of the story-telling aspects of their box.

WS-Think Inside the box - brainstorming

Here are some examples of past boxes designed

cwc_circus_box00

cwc_circus_box04

cbis_box08

Maker-space opportunities

If you have craft containers knocking about your house, wooden or even cardboard, then you can turn your box design into a three-dimensional model. The fun part of this, of course, is that you can FILL the magical container with items!

In my time as a creativity teacher, my students have made quite a few boxes . . .

cbis_box02

familystories2016-memorybox-casten

familystories2016-memorybox-fiona

familystories2016-memorybox-andrew

familystories2016-memorybox-avary

montgomerybox-23

box_eyes

cwc_circus_box05

And here is my model of a box . . . the Box of Whispers. It is pretty big and not only served as a great prop for when I was touring this book, but also as storage for same said books!

Een Museum - Box of Whispers

Writing prompt

In terms of writing, this project provides the platform for an epic tale—I’ve had many students take this prompt and dive into the telling of a character in search of a mythical box (perhaps after it has been stolen)!

However, I always tell teachers that a good bite-sized project is to have students write the single scene in which a character first discovers the box. This avoids students having to dwell or worry about what I call “plot paralysis”—becoming so consumed with a plot that they forget to think about character development and description. By removing overall story plot as a factor to consider, students can just focus on a character in the magical moment of discovery.

(Also, I’m just a little exhausted of trying to convince my students that they don’t have to start a story with the long boring sequence of invents that involves their characters waking up in the morning to the sun shining through the window, brushing their teeth, running downstairs to eat breakfast, running to the bus, running to school, running home after school . . . and THEN they actually something important to the plot starts! If you’re a teacher, you KNOW what I’m talking about!)

Have fun with this project. Stay safe, stay well, and stay tuned . . .

Activities for kids: Who is this mouse?

I’m posting my latest activity for all of us kids big and small stuck at home and trying to remain creative! I call this activity costume makes the character! Simply print out the handout below and imagine what this little mouse does in its life. Then decorate it accordingly!

WS-clothes make the character

Is it a knight?

A princess?

A cat keeper?

The possibilities are endless, of course, and I highly recommend printing out a few of the sheets to make as many jobs as you like! I’ve done this activity several times at schools in Canada, the US, Korea, and Thailand—no matter where I’ve been, kids love this story starter.

And it IS a story starter, because you can write a story about how this mouse achieved its dream job. Or, if you do multiple mice, you can write a story about how this mouse had to change its jobs throughout his life.

Here are some of the mice from the past occasions where I’ve led this activity at schools.

Costume a character

Mice.

mice03

Mice

Coffee Mouse

By the way, the one above is one of my all-time favorite mice: COFFEE MOUSE!

Have fun and, in the meantime, stay safe, stay well, and stay tuned . . .

The cogs of inspiration

Halloween is one of my favorite times of years. After all, a significant part of my writing process involves building things, so October turns into a sort of two-for-one deal.

The only problem is that October is also usually my busiest times of years. This October, I toured schools for a literacy organization, did an outreach program at school, spoke at the Vancouver Writers’ Fest, and then went to the Surrey International Writers’ Conference to meet with some agents and editors—all in the two weeks leading up to Halloween. Which is all to say that I crammed my costume and model building into an intensive three-day period leading up to Halloween.

We had bought my wife a very cool steampunk costume earlier this year, so I decided I would match her outfit by going as a steampunk pirate. This involved buying some clothes (I went to a very cool store in Vancouver called Venus and Mars) and then building and modifying a few items, such as an eye patch, hat, belt, and key.

Here’s the eyepatch:

steampunkeyepatch

And the details I added to my belt:

steampunkbelt

The hat was very tricky, mostly because it involved sewing (which is NOT my strength).

steampunkpiratehat

steampunkpiratehatdetail

The piece de resistance, however, was the pirate key. This actually turned out to be the biggest part of the project. It began with a bunch of parts:

key_01

And then playing puzzle-maker as I experimented with how I wanted to fit them together:

key_02

At last, I ended up with this:

key_03

The neatest part about building the key is that it inspired me to go back and rewrite a scene in one of the projects I’m currently working on—which is why I love building things. It’s a way to use a different part of my brain, a way to generate ideas for my stories. This key isn’t exactly like the one that I ended up describing in my book, but it’s close. (I have a feeling, I’ll be building another key in the near future . . .)

Oh, and here’s the photos of Marcie and I in our final steampunk costumes.

steampunklee steampunkmarcie

How important is your creative space?

 

 

I have always lectured my students on the importance of having a personal creative space, a place where they can insulate themselves from the outside world and concentrate on their creative projects.

For me, that place is my in-home studio (unless I’m on the road; then it’s wherever I can find it). However, when I first moved into my studio, I was so busy that I just threw everything into it—desks, drawing table, shelves . . . all the functional things without worrying about the decor. And here I am, week after week, imploring my students to be more creative. Then one of my students, during a Skype consultation, pointed out just how bland my studio wall was. She was right!

So, this year, I finally rolled up my sleeves and began redesigning the wall of my studio. It’s still  work in progress, so when it’s completely done, I’ll post detailed photos of it. However, here is a glimpse of it, so far:

studiowall

It’s only taken six months! What I thought would be  a simple coat of paint and picture hangers turned into an epic project to have some custom-made shelves built, plus to contract a local furniture store to build me a trunk using an old door from India.

trunkdoor

 

Now, at last, the wall is in working shape. Not only has it been great for my personal creativity, but I’ve found it’s really improved my Skype calls with schools. Now, instead of seeing a white wall stuck with a scattering of sketches (which might sound interesting, but they are impossible to see on a webcam) they see many of the objects and pictures that fuel my imagination.

As I say, there are still some missing pieces . . . but I feel like I’ve crossed an ocean, and now all I need to do is bring the ship to shore.