My workshops centred round my children's biographies.

I like children to participate, not just listen. So in all my sessions they have to DO something--discuss, imagine, act, and write. So usually they will need pencils and something to lean on. The activities range from map making to writing their own little booklets.  

David Livingstone


Suitable for Years 3-7 (content will vary according to age)

This is really a workshop about biography and about Victorians--Livingstone being so quintessentially a man of his age. It deals with the super confident Victorian mindset and attitudes then towards the unknown African continent (which was rather like the moon for them). Also: how Livingstone was one of the first celebrities, and how being a great man doesn't necessarily make you a nice person. Much on the vagaries of African exploration: how Mrs Livingstone decorated their mud hut with cow dung, how the little Livingstones survived (or didn't!) their treks across the Kalahari desert, about Livingstone being attacked by driver ants and mauled by a lion and deafened with quinine and tortured with bowel problems. And how useless he was as a missionary and why. The children will write notes about Livingstone and also fill in maps (they have to chart his trips). There is also a short guessing game. This session takes about an hour.



Isambard Kingdom Brunel


Years 3-7 Another larger than life Victorian. For this the children also make little books. We start with his precocious childhood, then go on to the Thames tunnel, and the railways and finally the disastrous ships. The children have a mini competition to try and draw a perfect circle (Brunel could do so from the age of 4). The children are also asked to devise a machine for removing the coin that was stuck in Brunel's bronchi. About 55 minutes.


Alexander Selkirk



This is best for years 3 and 4 (though other ages are possible). This is a map-making workshop, based around the book I did on Selkirk, who was the real man behind Robinson Crusoe and was abandoned on the Juan Fernandez Islands off Chile for 4 years in the early 1700s. I talk a bit about Selkirk's terrible experiences and how he survived and how he went on to become famous after his rescue. I show them early maps--which are often wildly inaccurate but do give greater scope in other, less technical respects. I then give them copies of the 18th map of Selkirk's island but this is only an outline--all the wonderful sea monsters and other paraphernalia of the early map have been blanked out. They then fill in the missing bits. We then compare their versions with the original map. This takes about 50 minutes.