This Sunday I’m taking ‘Timmy the Turbine’ on an adventure to meet families at Duddingston Festival. Soon after that on the 19th June he’s off to the Royal Highland Show to meet primary one and primary two children.
Timmy The Turbine is a nursery science show, story and workshop aimed at children age three to six years. The description for the Royal Highland Show Programme will hopefully explain what it’s all about:
Wind is wonderful and we’ve got plenty of it in Scotland! How can we use it to make things go?
Help Timmy the Turbine to find the perfect home in our interactive story with Nibbles the red squirrel, Honker the barnacle goose and Mr Haggis. Find out more about where they live and why Timmy can’t stay with them.
Measure how long Timmy’s arms are compared to yours. Sing the Timmy song. Learn the Timmy Rhyme and don’t forget the actions. Create your own mini Timmy and decide where he should go.
If that wasn’t enough to wet your windy whistle – Timmy himself (the mascot) will make an appearance…
I wanted to invite you along to meet him with your family this weekend at Duddingston Festival (or at the Royal Highland show in a few weeks if you’re a school). Details are:
Sunday 25th May, 1.15pm to 1.45pm Duddingston Festival Edinburgh. We’ll be in the BB Commemorative Garden if it’s sunny. If not we’ll be in the Miller Hall.
Thursday 19th June, Royal Highland Show, all day schools event (book your class in here).
Duddingston Festival is a lovely wee community festival. Most of the performers are coming for free and all the events are free too (by donation). You can see John Hegley‘s Children’s show (the amazing famous poet) right after Timmy finishes.
Where Did Timmy Begin?
Timmy the Turbine started life as a story written by Jay Butler, Managing Director of Renewable Energy Company vento ludens. Vento ludens approached me to ask if I could to put together a proposal to take Timmy’s story and create a nursery workshop based around it.
I loved the story, especially that it was so well balanced – it helped highlight some of the problems of trying to locate a wind turbine as well as the benefits of wind power. For example Timmy gets in the way of migrating geese and he makes people’s TV aerials go fuzzy.
I worked on a proposal for the project which included:
- a shortened version of the blurb above
- ideas for an interactive science show
- a fun way to simplify and present story
- a song
- a rhyme
- a take home sheet
- a craft
- a plan to pilot the workshop in two Edinburgh Nurseries.
I pitched the proposal to Vento Ludens and was delighted to get commissioned. After that came the bit I really love. Writing and creating all the different interactive elements to make the story and the science behind the story fun, memorable and engaging for 3 to 6 year olds.
I researched the curriculum for excellence and checked which areas of science are covered for Early Years (3 – 6 years) to make sure I was writing something relevant and using the correct terms. I simplified the story and added some memorable phrases to help the children to join in for example Timmy says “Hi, my name is Timmy and I’m looking for a home” each time he meets a new character.
I commissioned Julia Holland (my lovely sister) to create a set of felt book characters, I was so excited when they arrived:
I commissioned Edinburgh Sketcher to create four big story images to be used for recapping the story. Here’s one of nibbles the red squirrel in the pine forest: I asked the Edinburgh Sketcher to create line drawing versions for the story so we could put them together to make a take-home colouring sheet to stick on their fridge with a Timmy fridge magnet: Once I was happy with a prototype Timmy fridge magnet, I cut out lots of little Timmy’s:
I worked on the characters to give them unique personalities. The squirrel is bossy, the resident is a bit like Billy Conolly (but no swearing). I watched YouTube videos to perfect my Russian accent. I discovered Honker the barnacle goose migrates to Iceland or Russia so I needed to get the right voice! I should point out that my Russian accent is still fairly bad.
I built a model wind turbine and the cat, as always, got in the way:
I wrote a script and lesson plan and I practiced the show with a run order:
We piloted Timmy the Turbine in Edinburgh in two different corner house day nurseries. Photographer Chris Scott came along to capture the action at the first nursery. There were 29 children aged four and five.
This was a big group and I felt a bit nervous knowing it was my first performance. There were six nursery staff, two vento ludens staff members and a photographer all watching too - that’s more scary for me than the children. Thankfully, as soon as I got started I forgot about the grownups and had a really lovely time with the children.
They discovered how wind can make things go:
Nibbles the red squirrel threw nuts and squirted water:
We told the story using the felt characters as props:
We chatted about what they remembered using the beautiful Edinburgh Sketcher pictures:
We had fun singing Timmy’s song and doing the Timmy the Turbine Rhyme:
Even the grown ups joined in!
After 45 minute of carpet time I told them it was time for the craft and they didn’t move. One boy put his hand up and said “Does that mean you’re going?” I explained we would be going soon because another nursery needed to hear Timmy’s story. The boy said “Ohhhh” in a very sad voice and hung his head. I explained that if I didn’t go, they wouldn’t get to meet a very special guest… Timmy himself:
The children decorated their Timmy the Turbine fridge magnets and once they’d finished we helped them to stick on pegs:
I listened to some of their conversations and was really chuffed to hear them talking about Timmy’s story:
Making it Better
There were a few things that came up during the first workshop that could be improved. That’s why it it’s useful to do a pilot, to try things and make it better.
For example I discovered the children weren’t too clear as to why Timmy couldn’t stay with Honker the goose. I asked them about it using the Edinburgh Sketcher pictures during the recap. Clearly I’d lost them somewhere, probably due to my Russian accent and the description of geese flying “Ve fly in a vee”.
So the second time around I made it really clear. The goose said “I vill bonk my head on your vings” multiple times to Timmy who said “Do you mean you’ll bonk your head on my blades?” “Yes, zat iz vhat I said. I vill bonk my head on your vings” and so on.
In the second workshop during the recap, they all remembered why Timmy couldn’t stay with honker the goose. The change had worked. Nibbles the squirrel was helping with the recap, she bonked her head on the picture several times with glee due to her being very pleased they had remembered - this made them all laugh a bit too much (naughty nibbles got carried away).
The second session was with a smaller group of 15 children aged 2 – 4. They were younger children so I shortened the workshop but they were still engaged for half an hour of carpet time. After the carpet time they drew Timmy on the Timmy Take Home sheet.
Overall we were really pleased with how it all went, especially with how well engaged the children were. The combination of different types of activities seemed to hold their attention.
Here are a few of the nursery teacher comments:
They really enjoyed taking part in the story and I think it made them really feel part of it.
I thought it was a good story that covered different elements of the curriculum for excellence
It was really fun and informative. You managed to hold their attention for the whole length of time.
I’m sure they will be talking about Timmy for a while!
We also asked the teachers if the children could remember it after the event and if the parents had any feedback. Here’s what they said:
They were telling their parents all about the story and in particular the squirrel! Parents said they thought it was great that you guys had been in and done the story etc with the children. We have heard groups of children discuss it with each other.
I’m excited to see how Timmy gets on with family audiences this Sunday in Duddingston Festival and then with school children in June, at the Royal Highland Show.
Read about Timmy the Turbine on the vento ludens website.
Massive thanks to everyone at vento ludens, to Jay for writing the story and huge hurrah for Susanne Mueller - for all your hard work, creativity and enthusiasm and for getting inside the Timmy suit with a smile.
Thanks to Julia Holland and the Edinburgh Sketcher for creating such lovely resources.
Thanks to staff, children and parents at the Corner House Day Nursery for being part of out pilot.
Thanks to our photographer, Chris Scott for all the lovely photographs.