Paper Zoo Summer School

We’ve been very busy doing lots of fun things over the past few weeks, inspired by our fabulous exhibition Gilded Beasts. As well as a big exciting programme of Family Fun activities we also ran two Summer Schools. We worked in collaboration with Marie at the Natural History Centre to deliver “Paper Zoo”, a three morning Summer School for children aged 7-11 years old. Take a look at the pictures below to see what our Paper Zoo participants got up to while they were here.

Day 1

After getting to know each other with a few games we visited the Gallery to discover a bit about the Aberdeen Bestiary, the book which the whole exhibition centres around. It is a medieval manuscript full of beautiful illustration of animals, both real and mythical. We had a trail worksheet to help us find out as much as possible about the book and how it was made. If you visit the exhibition you can find one of these in the Gallery and do it yourself.

Then it was back down to the Learning Room for more animal-themed games. We played a very special game of Port and Starboard to get us thinking about how animals move, where they live and how they sound.

We challenged the participants to draw an animal by listening to their partners’ descriptions of it. This ended up with quite a few funny looking creatures and helped us understand why some of the animals in the Bestiary look so different from how we know they look in real life. The monks who illustrated the book probably hadn’t seen the animals before and were only going on descriptions they received from other people.

After a well earned break we made up our own weird and wonderful mythical monsters complete with fact sheets and drawings.

And just before we all escaped for lunch we folded, bound and decorated our own sketchbooks in preparation for the next day.

Day 2

For day 2 we changed venue and went up to the Zoology building, where we worked with the Natural History collections find out factual information about some of the indigenous animals in the Bestiary. First of all we visited the Zoology Museum where Marie gave us a trail to help us find the largest animal and the smallest animal, the scariest and the funniest-looking creatures and much more.

Then we went to the Natural History Centre, a large room filled with handling collections of stuffed animals. We looked through microscopes at the structure of skin, hair and feathers.

We also had a look around the Natural History Centre and got to touch some of the animals. We had to be careful to stroke them from head to tail, as the fur or feathers might fall out if brushed the wrong way.

After a quick break we got out the sketchbooks and did some drawing practice before choosing an animal to draw for the rest of the day. It was important to observe not only the outline of the different animals but also their distinguishing features such as beaks, claws, markings and textures. The information gathered on Day 2 was important for creating the final entries for our new Aberdeen Bestiary.

Day 3

This was a busy day of games and hard work creating our entries for the new Bestiary. The room was divided into three tables of scribes, illuminators and illustrators and everybody got a chance to do all the activities. We wrote with feather quills and ink, drew final versions of the animal illustrations and did some more research on the factual and mythological information for each animal.

Lastly we displayed all the summer school work on the Gallery wall for parents and family to see.

The next stage will be to turn all the calligraphy, illustrations and facts into a book.

Our Summer Schools are over now but we still have 3 weeks of Family Fun to go. Check out our Family Fun poster for further details. Groups are recommended to contact us to arrange a workshop.

Posted by: Lynsey & Sarah

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