Earlier this year, WCN launched our first UNESCO Creative Leaders programme; offering volunteer-training to university students and young adults. Our Creative Leaders will be reporting back to us on a regular basis with blogs about the projects they have undertaken. To kick things off, Amy Palmer reports on her experience running a 'Lynx in Thetford Forest' prose workshop with North Walsham High School.

The Lynx project promotes the powerful influence of creative writing in changing attitudes and the importance of young people’s voices in contributing to the debate on issues such as the rewilding of the Lynx. Ultimately, the workshop is about appreciating different perspectives and allows students to express points of view through a short creative writing exercise. 

In March, I participated in two sessions at North Walsham High School and in both classes all students were thoroughly engaged in the topic of the Lynx in Thetford Forest. In particular the character profile cards seemed to really capture the student’s imagination and they created some fantastic pieces from their chosen character’s perspective, ranging from biological scientists to local farmers. The creative pieces took the form of speeches, diary entries, letters and even in the form of speech bubbles, articulating a conversation between two voices. In future sessions, it might be useful to start with an activity that introduces the topic of ‘perspectives’ and demonstrates how an image, for example, can be seen or interpreted in many different ways.

During the session, one of the tasks carried out was the weighing up of the ‘pros and cons’ of the re-introduction of the Lynx. The students were given a fact sheet to discuss what they thought about each point, which allowed for the understanding of ‘perspectives’ to develop. To enhance this task, it might be interesting to use cards labelled with ‘pros and cons’ and ask students to arrange them into groups. At the end of the workshop, the students had the chance to comment on what they had learned from the session. It was great to hear some thoughts on the different character profiles and also some of the problems they had to overcome when forming an argument for their characters.  I think it could be useful to extend this reflection to allow some students the opportunity to read their work aloud to the rest of the group, or perhaps ask a group of students to perform their pieces in a mini discussion. 

I personally valued the opportunity to develop my confidence and experience in working with young people and in education. I was impressed with the enthusiasm and detail that the students put in to the workshop; it made my experience even more enjoyable. I am looking forward to bringing together some of the creative pieces written by the students to incorporate them in to the Norfolk Festival of Nature (October 2016). 

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