This week, Dear Santa opened in our Patrick Studio and we’ve welcomed lots of lovely schools groups to enjoy the show. Our Learning and Participation team have been working with our HEN Schools ahead of the students seeing the show and have told us a little more about their special festive projects.

“Our project for Key Stage One children this term is responding to the visiting show Dear Santa, based on the popular children’s book by Rod Campbell. In the story, Santa is wrapping up some presents, but can’t decide what to send- the ball is too bouncy, the tiger mask is too scary, paints are too messy, and so on!

Children have taken part in digital storytelling, a reindeer making craft workshop and weekly sessions with their Learning and Participation (L&P) Artist in school. At the end of this term, they will visit the theatre, watch the show, and meet Santa himself! In most cases, the children have worked with their L&P Artist to create a performance for parents, school staff and other students.”

Alice – Learning & Participation Artist

“I have been working on a Dear Santa project with two of my schools, Greenholm Primary School and Shireland Technology Primary, with students from Reception and Year One. My aim in these workshops was to bring the magic of Christmas into the classroom after a difficult and disrupted period. Although not all children celebrate Christmas, I wanted my workshops to be positive spaces that encouraged creative play, bravery and excitement for everyone.

We built our own sleighs to travel to the North Pole, saw a range of different winter animals and even created our own grottos. My favourite grotto created by a child was filled with kangaroos because, why not?! We practiced our acting skills by turning ourselves into Christmas characters, such as Santa Claus, Rudolph, a cheeky Elf and even one of Mrs Claus’ cookies! These carefully designed activities encourage growth in imagination, social skills and creativity, things that lacked for most children in lockdown.

To really build the students confidence I wanted to finish the project with a performance. I created a ‘Dear Santa’ song with lyrics inspired by Campbell’s story which celebrated giving and receiving gifts. We worked on this song across the half term and discussed actions to match the song and emotions that we feel when we give or receive any type of gift. These performances were filmed and shared with families and other children within the schools.

Of course, the ultimate reviews of the sessions should come from the children themselves who have experienced these workshops!”

“I love going to the Hippodrome at school it’s fun and we play games” Reception child 

“I like pretending to open my presents” Reception child 

“I like it when my friends sing the song”- Reception Child

“The children really enjoyed using their imagination during the hippodrome workshop and thoroughly enjoyed singing and performing the Dear Santa song” Class Teacher

 Eleanor – Learning & Participation Artist

“In my schools, Montgomery Primary Academy and Allens Croft Primary School, I also decided to write a Christmas song based on the story for the students to perform at the end of term. The learning of the song has been accompanied by a series of magical adventures to The North Pole (with a little help from some Fairy Dust!) We’ve met animals who live there, created a machine in Santa’s workshop with our bodies, role-played Santa giving presents to children, trudged through some very cold snow and generally explored the idea of Christmas and the story of the show.

For my Reception students, this is their first experience of Drama workshops, and seeing the show will, for most of them, be their first experience of live theatre. Workshops have had a massive focus on building basic listening skills, confidence, and introducing them to the idea of creative play. In Drama, we are pretending just like they do on the playground, but in a more structured way! Their concentration and memory is developing, copying dance and learning song words. We’ve also recorded a performance of their song for their families to enjoy.

For Year 2 students, it’s been a case of re-capping basic skills that they couldn’t use or develop during lockdown and home-schooling. These children have learned to perform with more expression, and will be sharing their work digitally with their wider school community.

These performances are a major achievement and a milestone in arts education for children to whom the concepts of theatre and performance are relatively new. We look forward to seeing audience reactions when they see the recorded show in the final week of term!”