Megan Dowsett is a creative consultant working in museums, galleries and the arts, an illustrator who is finding her voice through personal and local projects, and a parent to two young beings who can't help but influence her creative journey.

Through the name Norris and the Flamingo, she shares the sense of adventure that runs through all of life, wherever we are on our journey. A sense of imagination, of possibility and discovery, for children and adults alike.

28 March 2020

Begin with a Story: Mrs Armitage on Wheels

20200323_110720 This week, an entire nation of parents suddenly began home schooling, with no notice, training or research, a wide range of backgrounds, an enormous range (and number) of children, varying input from schools and a vast selection of attitudes as to how we would approach it, while continuing with our day-jobs at the same time. And as the first week came to an end, I'll bet our attitudes have changed significantly. I salute us all! Golly, wasn't that exhausting.

20200328_130208 And fun.  I'm absolutely broken by this, but I can't help it - as a creative person who's sat at a desk for the last few years, the ideas are suddenly pouring out faster than I can keep up with.  That, too is exhausting.  Our kids are thrilled that finally their parents are willing to play school with them all day, every day.  From 8.30 each morning, Bean and Feets, aged 3 and 6, are trailing me with their book bags and a selection of cuddly toys, asking how many minutes until we start, while I try to shower, wash up, and work out what we're going to do in literacy.

20200325_120743 This is what happened this week.  I want to share it because I'm proud, because much of it was fun, and because I couldn't cope with the plethora of activities, resources and videos that arrived in my WhatsApp inbox.  If I needed anything, it was one coherent set of stuff I could do with minimal resources and no preparation, that would take me across a few days and provide a loose but creative structure.  So, just in case, amidst all the noise, this is of any use to you too ... here it is, in brief.

We decided to start with a story.  We chose Mrs Armitage on Wheels by Quentin Blake, but a number of other stories with similar themes would offer the same activities.  Mrs Armitage is an eccentric, an inventor, an engineer.  She adds more and more items to her bike, to make it ever better, until it collapses under the weight.  Ever the optimist, she abandons the bike and, on the last page, decides to try roller skates.

20200323_115049 We asked ourselves, what would you add to your roller skates?  We wrote the next page of the story, then took junk modelling outside.  The idea was to embellish Feets' roller skates and Bean's balance bike.  Naturally, Feets decided instead to make her own roller skate from scratch.  She is not as optimistic (yet) as Mrs Armitage.  There were many tears of frustration.

Alphabet Feets read the book to Bean and me.  Then she drew her invented roller skate and labelled it (Bean drew a rainbow).  This time, we took the tool box outside, and explored it.  Feets created each letter of the alphabet.  Bean made a bouquet from screw drivers.  I hid the handsaw and the WD40, and nobody injured themselves.  Miracle.

20200325_115023[1] Thinking back to Mrs Armitage's bike, we watched a little (not very good) video about the parts of a bike and planned labels that we could attach to our own bike (meaning, Feets told me the parts of the bike and I wrote them down).  Then we took a few tools (about 10) from the tool box, trays, paint and old cereal packets outside and had a go at printing with the tools.  Spanners and the ends of Ikea bolts worked well.  The best bit was washing up afterwards.

20200326_124038 Feets wrote her own label for the parts of her bike, underlining the title and writing a line underneath to explain what each part is for.  I drew dots for Bean to go over, to write a few labels for her bike.  She lost interest after two labels, but I figured two was already a pretty good effort!  For creative time, we took our instruments (mostly shakers, lets face it) outside and had a go at a music session.  The nursery rhymes made Bean very happy and I felt guilty for not pitching things enough at her level.  Ah well, guilt is a constant in parenting.

20200327_104556 I tasked Feets to dress up as Mrs Armitage and Bean to dress up as an Alien (her favourite current book has aliens in it).  Feets errupted into cacophonies of misery because we don't have a green top suitable for Mrs Armitage, before we agreed to carry on the activity without dressing up.  20 minutes later we made it outside, got out the bikes, and attached the labels made yesterday to the relevant parts of the bike.  Then Bean and I emerged from behind a rock, pretending to be aliens, and asked Mrs Armitage (Feets) to explain what this 'thing' was and how it works.  Which she did happily, thank goodness.

20200327_135105 This week, Mr Liam did maths in the afternoon.  He labelled everything in the bike shed with a price, took down his (very full) bowl of spare cash and opened a shop, calculating totals on the shed door with chalk.  He and Feets took it in turns to be shopkeepers.  Half way through the week there was a sale and everything was half price.  Bean was able to choose her items and play with them, a freedom she sorely needed.

Golly.  Can we possibly do this again next week?  And the next?