The Sea Company

Wednesday, November 01, 2006


This was a drama session done before the children wrote newspaper reports about a memorable salvage. They were very interested to find out that the company had a past but decided that we were relatively new and had only been going for 5 years. I modelled reminiscing ‘do you remember the time when we salvaged that Viking ship ..?’ there was a bit of an awkward silence at first but then a lone voice piped up ‘yes, we found all those gold necklaces ..’ it was as if a floodgate had been opened – so many ideas that we had to quickly sort ourselves into smaller groups to continue reminiscing!

The groups were then given a pro-forma to fill in, one person scribing, the rest negotiating and agreeing on details such as ‘age of wreck’, ‘name of ship’, ‘how many people on board’ etc. I collected the sheets and we pieced together bits of information from them all to create a profile of one specific wreck from the past. This turned out to be a 250 year old wreck called ‘The Golden Galleon, carrying 100 passengers, all of whom survived. Items on board included a cargo of gold and personal items belonging to passengers and crew.

I reminded the children that the divers had been commissioned by a museum to find as many items as possible and also to look for evidence about how the ship sank. The children then went into role as divers (we had previously found out quite a lot about divers’ jobs, skills and equipment for our company display.) We worked in teams, using pre-agreed signals for communicating as well as our two way radios, diving down to the wreck and bringing up objects. Back at HQ the divers drew pictures of objects they had salvaged and of clues they had found. Each salvaged object was carefully drawn, noting one significant detail – some of these were poignant – a mirror with broken glass, a child’s toy with a child’s fingerprint still on it, an old book with someone’s name inside. I asked the children to imagine they were the person who had owned the object and to place themselves on the ship before it sank with their object. I then questioned them about who they were / why they were on the ship. The children decided they wanted to draw the people who owned the objects, so we found some information books showing people from around that time to find out what they might have looked like.

A shark’s tooth had been found embedded in the woodwork, so we came to the conclusion that a shark attack had sunk the ship! We then used ‘forum theatre’ to recreate the most dramatic moment from that dive: a team of small divers miming the action while the rest of the class, in a circle around them, directed the action. Again, the ominous presence of sharks was felt – one of the diving team was attacked but was rescued by the rest of the team. I must admit this session began to veer towards ‘Tom and Jerry’ cartoon silliness with gratuitous violence after starting off in quite an atmospheric way. I did stop the action at one point and, out of role, we discussed whether we wanted the action to be silly and funny or serious – quite a few votes for silly and funny – fair enough – but actually the majority wanted it to be serious. We also had to decide whether we would accept any of out team dying in the drama – again the consensus was no, but I didn’t feel I’d dealt with these issues in the best way. Food for thought!


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