Setting no limits- creating a book week display for Champions Read!

My journey towards our book week display started with the chance discovery in mid-2011 of a Sydney 2000 Torch Relay banner and an official flag from the Olympic and Paralympic games in the Library storeroom among a collection of flags used for my school’s annual multicultural day. The torch relay banner originally hung from a light pole along the route of the torch relay.

 While Sydney 2000 only feels a few years ago to us and we remember the excitement of the best Olympic Games ever, the year 7 students I am currently teaching were born in 2000 and they have limited knowledge about the games of the new millennium.

When the 2012 book week theme Champions Read was announced at the end of 2011, I realised that I could use the flags and banner I had found and if I could assemble a number of related souvenirs by contacting people I knew who had volunteered at past Olympics and asking if they would be willing to contribute to the display. I was able to borrow 3 volunteer uniforms (one from 2000 and two uniforms from Athens 2004) as well as mascots from the Athens Paralympic games. The uniforms became the central part of my display and I planned to display the uniforms on mannequins in front of the torch relay banner in a similar style to how fashion outlets position their mannequins in front of a banner of the brand.

As a result of reaching out to people connected to the Paralympic community, I was introduced to a member of my school’s local community who was willing to loan to a school a selection from his vast collection of Olympic and Paralympic memorabilia including 3 Olympic and Paralympic torches. Even being able to ask to display 3 real torches in the school library was an opportunity not to be missed! I also made drawings of what I thought the display could look like to show the community member when I was negotiating the loan of the torches. He was even able to make suggestions of other objects he was willing to loan the school for the display based on those drawings.

Once term 1 of 2012 was underway, it was time to start constructing the mannequins for the volunteer uniforms. Due to issues of storage space and budget, I decided not to purchase shop mannequins but to construct them out of PVC pipe and newspaper, using a technique I use to construct puppets. The PVC pipes acts as the skeleton of the mannequins and the pieces are joined using plumbing fittings and wood screws. I used scrunched balls of newspaper to simulate muscles with layers of newspaper on top acting as the skin. Once we no longer need the mannequins they can be easily broken down and recycled but having the rigid skeleton helps them endure through our term-long book week display. I also encouraged students to help me construct the mannequins at recess and lunchtimes, teaching them an alternative method of creating paper mache sculptures that did not involve balloons and tiny pieces of newspaper using a technique that I had learned from www.gourmetpapermache.com.

The third part of the whole display is the London 2012 pictograms and the book week race track. I adapted the Olympic and Paralympic pictograms from www.london2012.com and cut each icon out of adhesive vinyl and applied them to the windows of the library. I also adapted the main Olympic and Paralympic logo but I added to it the words book week and Champions Read using the font of London 2012. I also used the London 2012 font to make race bibs for the nominated books in the race to be named as book of the year and arranged the books on an orange tablecloth to make a race track.

Now that the display is complete, the most common question I am being asked by students is “those are models/ replicas aren’t they?” when they are looking at the torches or helping me take them in and out of the display cabinet at the beginning and end of each day for safekeeping. The students are genuinely astonished when I tell them that they are real and the sense of pride and excitement that I can see in their face when they are holding the torch seems to carry with them the whole day.  The display is encouraging students to ask probing questions about the Olympics and Paralympics and to make connections between the news and images of London 2012 with the objects in the Library.