Piloting The Round Square Heroes of Discovery
Posted: 12 April 2023
by Rachael Westgarth, Chief Executive
This time last week we were tidying away the plasticine, marshmallows and glitter in Oxford (UK), at the end of a fun and colourful workshop to launch our new pilot programme: The Round Square Heroes of Discovery.
It was a momentous event, not only because of the spectacular talent for painting, Lego construction and puppet-making brought by the Teachers, Curriculum Directors and school Heads who attended, but also because it was one of our last-remaining COVID-stalled projects to reignite, and it feels cathartic… it feels optimistic… it feels…. Joyful.
And joyful is the right word for the Round Square Heroes of Discovery, a team of cartoon superheroes who bring the twelve attributes of the RS Discovery Framework to life for younger children from K-8, through Early and Primary Years.
Last week our workshop participants were educators from 35 schools around the world, travelling from Brazil, Canada, Kenya, the USA, Pakistan, Rwanda, Bermuda, UAE, Australia, India, Armenia, Togo, Romania and around the UK.
In Oxford they met each other, and shared good practice. They also met Compassionate Carlos, Problem Solving Papri, Self-Aware Simba, Courageous Collette, and Teamwork Tama. They found the RS Discovery of “Commitment to Sustainability” embodied in Sustainability Suki, and “Appreciation for Diversity” brought to life by Diversity Dani. They spent time with Inquisitive Indu, Tenacious Tino, Responsible Rami, Communication Cara and Inventive Idris.
Over the course of three days, we introduced the programme concept and creative process, before breaking into four baraza groups, each taking a deep dive with three of the Hero characters. As our breakout groups discovered, each Hero is introduced to students through a set of illustrated “Hero Cards”, followed by three stories and associated activities that explain their character through learning-by-doing across five sessions.
So Inventive Idris experiments with mixing paint, and builds a new invention to solve a problem, whilst Problem Solving Papri works with her friends to find a route out of a maze, and figures out a way of crossing a stream. Sustainability Suki enlists the help of her friends to clear rubbish from a stream, and is wise about waste and recycling, whilst Responsible Rami learns about road safety and owns up when she causes a “crash-bang-wallop”. Inquisitive Indu experiments with paper aeroplanes and uses questioning to discover dinosaurs, whilst Tenacious Tino shares his favourite poem about Jetti the Yeti, who, because she keeps trying, eventually learns to hop.
Each character has three stories and an optional pick-and-mix of activities that flow from those stories. We’ve purposefully gone old-skool with the activities, e.g. working in teams and pairs to build bridges, make marshmallow towers, vote with their feet (literally), bug-hunt, role-play road safety (with homemade car-costumes), plan a performance, conduct a taste test, experiment with paper aeroplanes, make posters, mix paints, make jigsaws and play card games themed around the RS Heroes… and much, much more.
Whilst learning-by-doing was the always the intention, the old-skool approach has become even more important post-pandemic. During last week’s workshop, as we played with Communication Cara’s emoji dice and made Courageous Collette’s Feelings Monsters from plasticine (both activities looking at emotions through facial expressions and visual clues), we heard about the negative impact that a lack of social interaction, mask-wearing, and lockdown falling in early years, has had on those now in the first stages of Primary School. Remedial action is needed, and is already underway in many schools. The RS Heroes of Discovery will hopefully contribute to these efforts as a framework for character-building through interactive play.
Each breakout group at the Workshop explored the programme materials and practiced a range of activities for three of the Hero characters, before regrouping for a show-and-tell to present their creative work and explain their Heroes to the rest of the Workshop participants. During the breakouts, new friendships and collaborative partnerships were formed over plasticine-modelling, cardboard-car-construction, and speaker-shaker-making. Our presenters returned to the main hall with fun and games to share, ending the day on a high with some amazingly creative role play, poetry, and even a song about Compassionate Carlos!.
On the final day, we got down into the detail, starting to look at curriculum integration, and incubating some collaborations around STEM and the Arts. The breakouts reshuffled to allow for targeted networking between educators with similar roles/ pupil ages, and the workshop concluded with discussions on how to get started on piloting back at school.
Schools taking part in the pilot will be testing out the stories and activities provided, and at the same time, experimenting with integrating the Heroes across their core curriculum, and making new connections. The aim is to use the RS Heroes to draw-out, and make tangible, the character-development opportunities in every subject and co-curricular activity.
As is the case with most Round Square initiatives, the creation of our team of Heroes was the work of many, with input from numerous teachers in classrooms across the world. This ensures that it is a truly global initiative, that includes an international mix of perspectives, principles and practices.
Storylines have been bouncing around the Round Square network for a few years now, and potential activities shared and refined on a collaborative writing platform. Development was put on hold as we reconfigured Round Square’s programming during the height of the Pandemic. Even then, we already had our first intrepid explorers, at Westfield School in the UK, who started out pre-pandemic with just the 12 illustrations, a general idea of each character’s traits, and hope in their hearts… And their results are already remarkable.
Presenting at the Workshop, Neil Walker, Head of Westfield, shared film clips of his pupils explaining the RS Heroes of Discovery in their school, and talked about the positive impact the characters are having on school culture and pupils’ understanding, attitude, and approach to their own personal development. He also shared examples of integration with activities, including a creative writing exercise in which Year 6 students imagined the Heroes into the plotlines of some of Shakespeare’s plays, and considered how differently they would have unfolded. As one pupil explained, Communication Cara would have prevented the tragedy of Romeo and Juliet by making sure that every message arrived intact and on time.
At the other extreme on the timeline, arrivals day for our workshop was day 1 of piloting at The Millennium School, Dubai, and on our final day, Millennium’s Head of Primary, Shruti Narang, shared her teachers’ first experiences, along with some beautiful puppets and props that her team had crafted as teaching tools, and a poem she had written during the workshop, to introduce the Heroes to her students.
As last week’s workshop ended, and with the writing (nearly) complete, the baton has passed to the next team – our pioneers from the workshop, whose pilots are about to take the programme off the page and into their classrooms. THANK YOU to everyone who joined us for last week’s workshop, and made it such a fun and rewarding experience.
It is going to be a joy to watch, and share progress, as the programme pilots unfold!