Zom B English and Art Collaborative Project, Part 3

Over recent months, English teacher Catherine Wylie has been running a collaborative project with colleagues Karen and Douglas in the Art department, exploring character using Darren Shan's Zom B and the art work of Joseph Cornell. Read part 1 and part 2 of Catherine's blogs to find out about how the project came about. In this, her third and final blog, Catherine tells us how the pupils got on creating their Joseph Cornell inspired character boxes, in preparation for a presentation to teachers later in the month.

“Welcome to my world,” said Karen Flood as I walked into her art room with the S1 Project class. We were going to construct the boxes that would represent B from the novel Zom-B.

The previous week the class had already been working on their boxes but we were not happy as so little thought was put into them. We decided that the first issue was class size, so the class was split into two. They were shown examples of boxes that had been done by other people – one was done as a portrait of Karen by her friend and another was a piece of work by an S6 pupil. Seeing actual examples helped to make everything clear. All the work that was done to the construction had to have a reason and that reason had to be based on the text.

Some groups chose to cover the box in torn tissue paper – “B is torn between her father and what she believes to be right,” that group explained. Another group chose to cover their box in black and white paper representing the racism element of the text. Others chose to paint their box or to have doors that opened into what represented her mind. Their ideas evolved and they kept going back to the text. An old typewriter, an exotic object to them, was used to type words that they felt were pertinent and that they could use as part of their construction.

One of the features of Cornell’s work is the juxtaposition of three dimensional objects and cut-outs. The pupils had to start to think about how they would make representations of the objects they wanted, or how they could acquire them. I had a shopping list that included: fangs, a baby’s head, a small bottle of blood. “Don’t worry Mrs Wylie, you can buy lips at Tesco!” Natalie assured me. Somehow I missed that aisle! With each request they had to explain why they wanted it. Some objects were successfully sourced: ancient Barbies – or rather their body parts  – were pressed into service, fangs were made using plasticine, as were a sofa and a beer bottle. One tiny bottle filled with red paint I was asked to smash, “You see Mrs Wylie, B is shattered by everything that happens,” I was told. Another group thought of her as fragile and found a sticker from a parcel to say so. Two boys carefully made curtains so that the audience could look through a window into the front room of B’s house.

One group found images of owls and created cartoon strips. Moss, twigs and other natural objects were incorporated by other groups.

Writing this suggests that it was all easy. On the contrary: The two periods I had allocated were not enough and the project seemed endless. The school has forty minute periods and when an art lesson has only one period in a week, time is precious. During the first five minutes the pupils have to be reminded about what they are doing. They have to pick up the threads of their ideas and work to develop them and then they have to tidy up in the last ten minutes. I gained a new respect for Karen and Douglas, whose energy was boundless and whose time management impeccable.

And then this week it has all come together. We feel as if we are really beginning to have a number of art objects. The hot glue gun solved so many problems with the assembly of the interiors. The word, “Smart!” is being used by the pupils about their own work. They are curious about the work of other groups in the class and the way the text has been interpreted. The discussions are now between groups – but also with the fear that their work will be copied or their ideas stolen! There is the feeling that they want a grand unveiling!

The prospect of presenting the boxes to an adult audience on the Tuesday 14 May during a CPD session on the project has also spurred them on. The thought that Scottish Book Trust is coming to town adds a frisson to their excitement. Now it is all go. The final touches to their boxes are being done at lunchtimes. They are preparing their presentations next week.

The CPD session, Welcome to our world! Alva Academy English and Art collaboration is on 14 May from 4pm until 6pm in the Conference Room at Alva Academy. To book free places please email heather.collins@scottishbooktrust.com

Be afraid. Be very afraid as you see into the mind of a teenage girl turned Zom-B.


To find out all you need to know about Catherine's project and to download our free Darren Shan resources and watch his Authors Live event on demand, visit our Case Study Package page.

Catherine Wylie

Catherine Wylie is an English teacher at Alva Academy in Clackmannanshire. She coordinated a collaborative project between the English and Art departments based on Authors Live: Darren Shan, as part of Scottish Book Trust's Teacher Ambassador Programme.