Sci-Fi Convention: World Book Day 2017

planet

Image credit: Belle Deesse

To give a bit of context, I work at a truly wonderful, secondary school called Wilmington Academy, a non-selective school in North-West Kent, and part of the Leigh Academies Trust. The school had gone into ‘Special Measures’ in 2009, but with hard work and perseverance, the school was able to rise from the ashes in 2012, when we were rated as a ‘Good’ school during our Ofsted Inspection that year. The majority of our students are male, as there are more schools for girls in the area than boys. We also have a higher number of students with SEN needs than the national average , while also seeing anywhere from 1/4 to 1/3 of each year group behind in their chronologically reading ages. Our students struggle with literacy, numeracy, the use of thinking skills, and developing a self-sufficient work ethic. But like most things worth accomplishing, it is not impossible.

For the last four years, Wilmington Academy has produced a World Book Day Festival to celebrate all things literacy. After last year’s successful Tri-Wizard Tournament and 2014’s Hunger Games Festival, it was a challenge to think of what could possibly compete; however, the trick was to not choose a book series, but focus on which kind of genre could engage the highest number of our students.

Enter Science-Fiction – one of the most beloved genres in the known universe. With the recent releases of the new ‘Star Wars’ films and the ensuing release of new canonical literature, the reboot of ‘Star Trek’, and the continued popularity of ‘Doctor Who’ on our screens, there was little reason not to make this our central theme. But the nature of these two week events has been to promote competition, creative thinking, craftsmanship, problem solving, and collaboration. How were we going to do that?

An Inter-Galactic Congress of course. Our school is divided into three distinct colleges with 14 tutor groups (form groups) in each. They receive 30 minutes each day to work on SMSC related tasks, so they are the perfect vehicle for this kind of project and the main source of delivery for our World Book Day Festivals.

The premise was simple: each college would become their own galaxy, and be invited to an Inter-Galactic Congress by the High Chancellor of the Inter-Galactic Senate (our Headteacher). The purpose is to share technology, write galactic law, resolve inter-species conflict, and have a bit of fun in the process. There would be 20 challenges: 10 group challenges that would allow students to work collaboratively and 10 individual challenges that would give individual students the chance to shine. The challenges included creating a planet, an apex species, short films, designing spacecraft, and taking part in a Senate hearing on a newly discovered planet on our borders. Full details of the challenges can be found here:

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The convention then had to be promoted across the academy and in assemblies to really get a buzz going. For this I enlisted the help of a great website called  ‘Star Wars Intro Creator’ to create an original ‘Star Wars’ Intro crawl for our event:

And to keep the convention in the students’ minds we also created posters involving their favourite Science-Fiction universes:

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halo poster.jpgstar wars poster.jpgdoctor who poster.jpgstar trek poster.jpg

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We also made a resource for students to use to brainstorm, research, and draft their competition entries.

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One of the other key factors that makes these events so successful is that we use them as opportunities for extra-curricular experiences. Each year we have invited in a published author or artist. For the last two years we have had the amazing Sara Grant and  Marcus Alexander run creative writing workshops with our students. This year we chose the amazing William Gallagher, one of the playwrights for the iconic ‘Doctor Who’ series and a published author to do scriptwriting with our students on World Book Day.

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The convention will run from Monday 20th February to Friday 3rd March. Regular updates will be made to this blog post to include student work, special events, and community involvement in the convention.

Have an amazing World Book Day 2017!

Review of ‘Horns’ by Joe Hill

Horns

After the grief suffered after the murder of his soulmate, Ig Perrish finds himself recovering from one of the worst hangovers of his life. There are the usual signs: migraines, muscle pain. Yet unlike the other times he finds himself also addressing the issue of two tiny horns protruding from his forehead. Along with this he seems to have developed some unusual powers. Suddenly his world becomes instantly clearer as well as unrecognisable in a second, so he does what any man would do; he goes in search of his lost love’s killer.

‘Horns’ is a powerful modern allegory of the struggle between good and evil. It asks questions of faith, love, sex, devotion, while also placing extraordinary events in characters and places that could not seem more mundane and accessible. We are encouraged to hate the menagerie of characters that flank Ig; his horn playing and charismatic brother Terry; his mysterious and elusive nemesis Lee; and his ethereal love Merrin. All are broken and fallible in their own way, but somehow redeemable. Their resurrections and falls are heartbreaking and never cliche.

The book is also rife with religious symbolism. The ideal of theology as a construct within the mind is expanded into a construct of our entire being; mind, body, and soul. A far more dynamic interpretation in my opinion.

In short, I loved this book. It reads easily with excellent pace. If I’d had the energy and time I would have read it in one sitting. Its conclusion may confuse some readers, but remember that it is open to interpretation by design. Enjoy!