Immersive Fantasy Writing using Role Playing and Augmented Reality Apps Print E-mail
By Cathy Oxley (with special thanks to Anne Weaver, Melinda Egan and Sue Miles)   
For three years the teacher-librarians from four neighbouring schools had developed and refined a creative writing workshop, the Spring Hill Young Writers (SHYW) Workshop, exploring ways of enhancing creative writing with an author in a collaborative setting. Evidence-based practice involved monitoring student involvement and engagement, and seeking feedback from them and the author through the use of survey tools. This allowed improvements to be made each year.
 
In 2015 the idea of incorporating gamification and a shared online adventure quest was explored. One of the teacher-librarians undertook a significant amount of research into various role based games and online fantasy games, and some of her research can be seen here: https://readingpower.wordpress.com/2014/12/15/draft-immersive-fantasy-writing-quest/ 
 
Students and colleagues were asked for suggestions of multi-player role-playing games which might be useful for the workshop. Those suggested by students were either too young and unappealing, too violent and not G/PG rated or did not involve a band of avatars working together to survive a malevolent force. Other concerns with online games were: how long it would take to learn them; the difficulty of organising all students in a group to be online together; difficulties with setting up the groups to meet each other in the time frame; problems with parental consent and; concerns over possible gaming addiction. In the end, online gaming was rejected as an unsuitable option.
 
Based on research and ideas from other teachers using experiential learning activities and augmented reality apps, planning took a new direction when it was decided to develop a series of physical and sensory challenges and immersive role-playing to provide a more authentic base from which to write. The aim of this workshop then became an investigation into whether simulating some aspects of a fantasy quest would improve student writing. By using augmented reality apps, game theory, sensory activities, various mobile technologies and collaborative team challenges, it was hoped that students’ imaginations would fill in the gaps – that the Roma Street Parklands really would become the Land of Remorse, a land where dragons, monsters and fearsome spiders lurked along with an abandoned castle, where quicksand and minefields could trap unwary heroes, where armour and weapons needed to be chosen carefully, and where guessing the answers to riddles could mean the difference between life and death.

Overview of the workshop

The four teacher-librarians from two girls’ schools and two boys’ schools each selected eight Year 8 students to participate in this creative fantasy-writing workshop. The intention was to utilise the Roma Street Parklands adjacent to the street on which three of the schools are located, and eight activity stations were planned for the students to rotate around in groups of four. A map of the ‘Land of Remorse’ was drawn up, which included each of the activities stations: the Armoury, the Field of Doom, the Stone Table, the Epic Citadel, the Cursed Quicksand, the Fiendish Forest, the Eerie Escarpment and the Tunnel of Terror. Each activity would focus on a different sensation – touch, smell, hearing, sight – as well as incorporating different augmented and virtual reality iPad apps at as many of the activity stations as applicable. Local fantasy author, Kirilee Barker (author of The Book of Days), was invited to participate as the Supreme Sorceress. In costume on each of the days, she gave instructions, helped with challenges and taught creative writing skills.
 
On the first afternoon the students were allocated a team, with one student from each school in each team. Each student chose a special character strength from the Choosing Bowl, which they then were expected to incorporate into their story. They were given writing journals and a coloured bandana to denote their team. Team names were taken from fantasy stories: Hermione, Aslan, Atreyu, Eragon, Dumbledore, Gandalf, Excalibur and Artemis. Team problem-solving games were played as ice-breakers.
 
The following day each team completed a number of physical role-playing and team-building challenges on their quest to free their village from a monstrous evil (see Table 1). At each challenge they were also given time to write about their feelings, reactions and teamwork issues as they developed their setting, characters and storyline (see Table 2). A number of augmented reality apps on iPads were incorporated into the activities: Aurasma was used for accessing riddle clues; Anomaly was used in conjunction with the Anomaly book (http://www.experienceanomaly.com/anomaly) for viewing monsters and battles; Dragons! enabled students to see fire-breathing dragons flying above them; and Real Scary Spiders allowed students to make huge virtual spiders crawl over their team members. For developing the setting the virtual castle app, Epic Citadel, was used. These activities were meant to be held in the Roma Street Parklands, the ‘Land of Remorse’ but, due to heavy rain, they had to be relocated to the All Hallows Library instead. While this was disappointing and not the original intention, it did show that a parklands was not necessary for the activities to occur.
 
On the third day of the workshop the students worked with the author to structure their ideas and to craft them into a short story. Some time was allowed for the students to work together as a group to plan their shared story structure and setting. A wiki was set up so that the author, teacher-librarians and students in each group could share common ideas, communicate with each other and read each other’s stories. Students were given a further opportunity one afternoon to meet face-to-face, plan, write and edit and, on a final presentation afternoon, the author awarded prizes for the best individual and group stories.
 
Participating in this creative writing workshop provided an authentic experience to enrich students’ writing and also deepened their understanding of the complex physical and emotional factors involved in the hero’s quest.

Inquiry questions to be explored

  • Would the inclusion of experiential learning - physical and sensory activities focusing on touch, taste, smell, sight and hearing - improve students’ writing by making this a more authentic experience?
  • Would the inclusion of team-building and problem-solving games help students to become more cohesive in their groups?
  • Would changing the focus of the workshop from creative writing to a fantasy hero’s quest engage the students more and further improve their writing?

Significant influences

Five factors influenced the development of the 2015 SHYW workshop in its current format:

1. Past SHYW workshops  

From a shared interest in the ability of collaborative writing to improve students’ engagement and writing, the Spring Hill Young Writers workshop was born. This involved eight Year 8 students each from two inner city boys’ schools and two inner city girls’ schools. Joined by a road called Boundary Street the motto, aptly, was Pushing the Boundaries. The initial three years of the workshop involved the 32 students working together in groups of four (one from each school) to create and write a shared story with the same four characters, the same plot and the same setting, but with each story told from a different character’s point of view. Author, Brian Falkner, worked with the group for these three years, and developed a valuable rapport with the students across the four days where he was involved with them. (Information from these workshops can be found here: http://www.slideshare.net/ASLAonline/collaborative-writing-9583106)

2. Year 8 Fantasy Adventure Writing Camp

In 2013, Lyndell Sellars and Peter MacGregor won the Queensland School Library Association’s Brian Bahnisch Award for their innovative Year 8 Fantasy Adventure Writing Camp, a joint initiative of Malanda SHS and Tinaroo Environmental Education Centre:
 
Our aim is to create a fantasy setting on the banks of the Lake of Mirrors and to stage a quest designed to inspire young creative writers. Integration of outdoor experiences and physical challenges (canoeing, hiking, raft building, high ropes) with iPad technology and explicit teaching of writing techniques result in an enriched learning experience to extend students with a passion for writing. The writing process is further enhanced by a creative writing workshop hosted by a guest fantasy author, (Karen Healey 2011 and Michael Pryor 2012, 2013 and 2014). The culmination of the program is the student presentation of a piece of writing inspired by their experience (https://tinarooeec.eq.edu.au/Programsandactivities/Ourprogramsandactivities/Pages/Year-8-Fantasy-Writers-Camp.aspx).
 
Based on the success of their work, it was decided to add in an extra physical role-playing dimension to the SHYW workshop, hypothesising that this would encourage the students to write even more creatively. The four teacher-librarians met each week for 10 weeks, planning and developing each of the eight activities to be included. These were to replace the writing day normally held on the second day of the workshop; however, writing was still planned for that day and the students were given journals with prompt questions and space for notes at each activity.

3. Band of Heroes Fantasy Blog



In 2012 Elizabeth Chase, working for the NSW Department of Education and Training, developed the Band of Heroes fantasy 
writing activites, a five week unit which became a source of inspiration and helped to shape the SHYW 2015 workshop.
 
Elizabeth’s Band of Heroes are:
  • Complex: The problems faced by the heroes are complex. The real world backdrop may be implied, not stated: Environmental, social, political, personal, class and economic issues compete for human attention in the 21C.
  • Collaborative: The problems require a group solution.
  • Contextual: The place, people and problems are specific, not universal. eg The place is conjured up with great care and is very evocative. 
  • Champions: Different heroes come into focus in different episodes/chapters. Point of view is critical to conveying their journeys. The heroes are flawed and have specific strengths – in combination the band of heroes is strong. The heroes are often home town. Sometimes, they share characteristics with the outsider hero – there is not a complete disjunction.
Their mission, over 10 levels, is to save a magical world from evil:
Level 1 – Pulled to a new world

Level 2 – New world setting

Level 3 – Meet the band & wise one explains quest


Level 4 – Magical strength
Level 5 – Weapon & band plans a group attack on the evil ruler


Level 6 – Individual battle with evil minion

Level 7 – Magical helper activates magical strength


Level 8 – Battle scene, combined strengths of band, evil ruler destroyed


Level 9 – Quest object gained, celebrations in kingdom, new ruler chosen

Level 10 – Farewell by band members, return home or stay

.
 

4. Tim Ryland’s work with the iPad app Epic Citadel

Tim Ryland is an extremely gifted and inspirational teacher, who encourages literacy and creative writing through the activities he helps teachers to develop with online games. He is known for his use of the Myst series of games to promote literacy and inspire creativity; he has also helped to design creative writing units of work using the app Epic Citadel. Tim comments:
 
I've always coupled this work on King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. I'm sure the chronology doesn't match entirely but it works well regardless! 
Recently I coupled this with Myst and a few other games-based learning activities over a five month period. I also took some baseline and summative data on attainment and attitudes towards writing. My plan was to see if I could get the boys in Y6 to radically improve both of these. It worked. Hugely. 

(Read more at: http://www.gamesrichclassroom.blogspot.co.uk/2014/04/epic-results-with-citadel-planning.html.)

5. Augmented Libraries Teacher-Librarian Network Day

Attendance by some of the SHYW teacher-librarians at an Augmented Reality workshop, run by The Learning Hub at Meridian State College, was instrumental in the investigation of many different free augmented reality apps and the subsequent inclusion of some of them in the workshop activities. Those included were Aurasma, Real Scary Spiders, Dragons! and Anomaly.  

Analysis and reflections

Problems with the 2015 SHYW workshop

  • Rain – Due to torrential rain in the early morning, the Land of Remorse activities had to be relocated to a school library. At first some students didn’t know where they were going as the map had to be re-drawn to suit the library; some activities were not in the same sequence. There was some confusion early in the day as one group stayed in the same activity for an hour instead of moving on after half an hour. This meant they then had to catch up at lunch time.
  • The journals were given out on the first afternoon but then collected again in case the students forgot to bring them the following morning. In retrospect this was a mistake, as the students did not have a chance to read through the journals when they were enthusiastic and had time. In the confusion and disappointment of the relocation the following morning, there was not enough time for the students to look in detail at their journals to see what they had to do. Additionally, some activities were so involved that there was not enough time left for completing their journal entries.
  • Some activities were perceived by some students as inferior to others. Student feedback: 

i. “I’d like less technology like the spiders and epic citadel that really didn’t help our writing.”
ii. “The tunnel of terror was, personally, quite pointless and didn’t help.” 
iii. “Some of the activities such as tunnel of terror, cursed quicksand, field of doom weren’t as effective as they weren’t as relevant.”     

  • Maybe the library assistants hadn’t been prepared properly about the need for metacognition related to experiential learning and didn’t give as much time as the teacher-librarians did to making the students reflect on how each activity could be incorporated into their stories. Student feedback: 
iv. “The contemplation and discussion sessions were very good.”
v. “More analysing – which character would be strongest to defend against this obstacle and which character strengths would be most useful.”
  • There was not as much time for students to write together. Maybe the students should have stayed on after they completed the physical activities so they could go through their journals together, answering all of the questions and making notes, talking to their group members and beginning to plan their group story.
  • On the writing day, the author had prepared four very helpful writing activity sessions with ideas for developing characters, storyline, setting and descriptive writing. However, the students were very keen to write their own stories and they only had two hours or less after lunch to do this. There was a noticeable drop in input on the wiki pages compared to the last time this workshop was run. Group homepages were generally better than individual pages, maybe because this was modelled on that day.  Student feedback: 
vi. 12 out of 21 students said they would like more time on the third day to plan with their groups and write their stories.
  • There were too many writing activity sessions one after the other. In the past these were spread out at the beginning of each session over two writing days and then the students had time to write. Possibly next time the author could give an activity about setting or descriptive writing, then give the students time to write in their own journals/ on the wiki after this. Group planning time on the second afternoon would also have helped.

Experiential Learning Activities – did they help?

Definitions:
 
Experiential learning is authentic, first-hand, sensory-based learning. Experiential activities explore, touch, listen to, watch, move things, dissemble and reassemble. Learning consists of grasping an experience and then transforming it into an application or result (Kolb, 1983, quoted in Behrendt and Franklin).
 
In its simplest form, experiential learning means learning from experience or learning by doing. Experiential education first immerses learners in an experience and then encourages reflection about the experience to develop new skills, new attitudes, or new ways of thinking (Lewis and Williams, 1994, p. 5, quoted in Schwartz)
(http://www.ryerson.ca/content/dam/lt/resources/handouts/ExperientialLearningReport.pdf).
 
One of the aims of the workshop was to investigate whether the experiential learning activities would be transferred into the students’ own stories. This was never stated as a requirement; the students could set their fantasy story in any location or time period. However, many of them chose to incorporate aspects of their quest in the Land of Remorse into their stories. 
 
By far the favourite activity was the Armoury, where the students were able to try on armour and practice jousting and javelin throwing. 16 out of 31 students mentioned the Armoury in their feedback and how much they enjoyed it. Student feedback:
 
vii. “I liked the armoury because it was immersive and really helped character development. It gave me a great feeling on how the weapons and armour would feel and which would suit my character the most.”
viii. “I think the armoury will help me with my writing because it will help me understand the preparations needed for a quest.”
 
There were many other favourable comments about the activities. Student feedback:
 
ix. “The stone table is a pivotal moment in the story.”
x. “The Epic Citadel will be our Sorcery Academy.”
xi. “The activity contained writing a paragraph about dragons and this is an idea that can be put into any story.”
xii. “I think it helped me get in the mood and see how my character could escape from danger and how she could help her group.”
 
It was also satisfying to see that some students appreciated the teamwork games. Student feedback:
 
xiii. “It showed the importance of teamwork and communication while enjoying a fun challenge.”
xiv. “It will help me to understand better how to write about working as a team.”
xv. “I liked it because we got to work well as a team.”
xvi. “I really enjoyed it as it was great fun to have your partner as your ‘eyes’. It was fun to put your complete trust in your partner so that you could survive the challenge.”
xvii. “I think the Cursed Quicksand will help the most as I will be able to write about the teamwork involved, and I will be able to write about the growing fear as each lilypad was lost.”
 
Most groups used some aspects of the activities and locations in their shared story details on their wiki homepages:
 
Group 1 Dumbledore
Characters and Traits
Determined – Carlos
Humble – Mattias
Wise – Evanlyn
Enthusiastic – Grace
 
Plot
“We might like go into a maze where one of us is blindfolded or we have had a potion that makes us blind for like the entire maze, then we might come across a cross road where a stone table is set with all these riddles.”
 
 
Group 2 Excalibur
Plot
  • Sorcery School finds out its students' elemental powers, looking for the four who have the powers of fire, water, air and earth to go on a quest.
  • 4 main characters are found to possess these elemental powers and are chosen for the quest to the Land of Remorse.
  • They go into forest and encounter Nixies (evil faeries).
  • Nixies try to lure them into a trap but they refuse and start to walk away. Nixies begin chase. 
  • They encounter a swamp and quickly cross over via magical lily pads.
  • They manage to escape forest and continue onto their next obstacle. 

 

Group 3 Gandalf

Plot
  • Amity, Eldrid and Maple meet at swamp.
  • We get through the swamp and meet Sly.
  • We find a note addressed to us saying we have to get to the Epic Citadel via the Stone Table.
  • We go to the Stone Table and figure out the riddles.
  • Xander falls unconscious (we think he’s dead) and Amity goes blind as a result of the poison.
  • Amity keeps seeing a weird dark angel even though she’s blind.
  • We carry on to the Fields of Doom where Eldrid and Maple have to tell Amity where to go.
  • Finally, we get to the Epic Citadel where we meet Xander who is actually alive and tells us we’ve walked into a trap (set by the weird dark angel). He also has a dragon.
  • Amity disappears looking for the angel and is suddenly not blind by finding an antidote for the poison she drank.
  • The angel ambushes us and tries to kill us but we use our awesome powers and our dragon to defeat it.
  • The people who abandoned the citadel are so grateful they make us general rulers. 
Weapons
  • Maple Hartley – Longsword and shield
  • Amity Irons – short sword
  • Eldrid Lymp – dual tomahawk
  • Sly – dagger

 

Group 4 Aslan

Character Strength 
 
Lionel - risk taker
 
Student Writing
 
"I barreled through the wreckage of a wagon and up constricting alleyways, dodged around a labyrinth of streets and ducked into a dimly lit avenue. Pausing for breath, I twisted as I heard the sound of pursuit on the densely packed cobblestone. Two girls barreled around the corner, eyes rapidly widening as they focused on my silhouetted figure, flickering in the red light of the flames in my palm. I didn’t blame them. I was tall and well built, with arms hardened and strengthened by hours of sword fighting."
 
 
Group 5 Atreyu

Plot
  • Meet at the funeral, find a portal which takes us to the epic citadel. 
  • We find the armoury, we escape, we travel through the fiendish forest to get to the evil guy. 
  • We have to get past the stone table, and then we defeat the evil guy. 
  • The setting is Earth first and then Land of Remorse.
  • We arrive at the Citadel and locate an armory. Here the local blacksmith makes weapons for us. 
  • The blacksmith also tells us that dragons have been sighted in caves in the middle of the fiendish forest.
  • We travel through the Fiendish Forest. During our time there we come across challenges such as: Spiders, Barbarians. 
  • Finally we reach the cave and battle with the dragon. We kill it and take the tooth.
Group 5 also included their character strengths in their story:
"Four children: Jono, Edmund, Emma, Libby. They are offspring to 4 senior officers in a secret Order. From birth they have been raised to one day step into the place of their parents. Being descendants of the Secret Order, they were born with special powers; Endurance, Honesty, Persuasion, Intelligence. One day, their parents tell them that they need to create a magic potion, and they have all the ingredients except for a dragons tooth. The potion is supposedly to heal the head of the organisation, Ezra Ordure."
 
 
Group 7 Hermione 

Setting
  • Citadel of Malevolence and Agony Keep
  • Sinister Swamp/ Cursed Quicksand
  • Fiendish Forest 
  • Blazing Battlefield (against the Evil Creature)  
Plot
 
The story is set in the vast world of Alanguish. The world includes many castles and strongholds, as well as mystical areas. These include the steel tower, stone fort, castle paladin, citadel of malevolence, and agony keep. These are occupied not only by the good forces of Alanguish, such as the iron heart paladins and the rangers of gold, but also the forces of evil, such as the dark archers of agony keep and the lancers of doom.
 
 
Group 8 Artemis
Student Writing
 
"Tristan – Fights with a hand axe and rounded shield, with a Kukri knife sheathed on his belt. All the blades are Damascus Steel.  His shield bash can send enemies flying, and a strike from the edge of his shield will break the nose and teeth of anyone in his way."

Conclusion

As part of the deconstruction process for this workshop, it is always interesting to reflect on how much more could be achieved if there was a longer period of time allocated for the workshop.
 
Three of the significant factors which shaped the 2015 SHYW workshop took place over a much longer time period:
a. Year 8 Fantasy Adventure Writing Camp – 1 week
b. Band of Heroes Quest – 5 weeks
c. Tim Rylands’ unit using Epic Citadel – 5 months
 
Having one group begin at each of the activity stations and then rotate each half hour was exciting and engaging for the students, but did not always allow time to tap into ideas that shape learning and lead to mature story-writing – e.g. Which of the heroes in the group would dominate or struggle at each activity, due to their character strengths and weaknesses? Would the characters admit that a particular challenge might make them feel confronted or fearful? Would the characters find it difficult to get along with everyone in the group, particularly if they had strong personality traits?
 
Overall, however, there were many successful elements in the workshop this year, some of which were sourced from other teachers. While the ideas from Lyndell Sellars and Peter MacGregor gave an insight into the potential of immersive experiential activities to promote creative writing, there was never an intention to copy exactly what they had done. The SHYW workshop has always entailed students working in groups of four, developing a shared plot, setting and characters, and then writing the story from the perspective of one of those characters. Similarly, while the Band of Heroes activities gave excellent guidance for developing a hero’s quest, this activity was purely online and did not suit the needs of the SHYW workshop. Tim Ryland’s work with Myst and Epic Citadel was influential in the development of the Epic Citadel activity and the word walls in the student journals, but this activity was just one of eight half hour sessions, rather than a ten week unit. However, all of these ideas had an important influence on shaping the direction of this year’s workshop.
 
The added dimension to the workshop of a physical quest with a group of fellow travellers (albeit strangers) was a very engaging strategy, particularly for boys who love to be moving and physically active. Being able to move between activities and to physically hold items or solve problems as a group was a successful bonding and unifying experience. Having to rely on your team-mate while blindfolded was also highly effective in teaching the value of accurate communication. The getting-to-know you activities that the author brought to the first afternoon were a very effective fun way of making the students interact and appreciate the value of communication – e.g. untangling a human knot. The Supreme Sorceress, dressed in costume over the course of the workshop, helped to cement the fantasy setting and time period for the students.
 
While each activity was excellent and highly worthy in its own right, the students considered some as inferior simply because of the strength of competing activities in the quest. It was like offering the students Disneyland and asking them to compare attractions. The addition of a whole day of physical activities meant that there was far less time than in the past for sitting and writing. While each activity station was meant to allow time for writing in the student’s journals, some stations had lengthy activities and so the students did not have time to write. Some of the activity supervisors did not encourage group reflection and journal writing. Student feedback was that they thought it would be more useful to reduce the number of activities but to spend more time on each. The journals very clearly stated that students were to write about their emotions and feelings at each of the activities. However there was not much evidence of this in their stories. Maybe they thought it was irrelevant, or maybe they did not realise this was an important aspect of character development.  
 
Including the augmented reality (AR) apps added a dimension that would not have been possible in earlier years. Many of the students had smart phones with them and effortlessly used these as well as the iPads to engage in the AR activities. Some students strategised and worked out that they could scan the AR images in their journals ahead of each station to collect the magical power prize first. Their ability to navigate games quickly and easily was also underestimated. Some finished exploring the castle and controlling the spiders very quickly and were keen to move on immediately to the next activity; they were impatient when made to stay and discuss and write in their journals. While the teacher-librarians thought these apps were very engaging, the students did not always agree. Being used to highly detailed and interactive computer games, some found the AR apps a little boring.
 
While there was no doubt that the students were learning, focused, engaged and having fun, the pivotal questions remained: Was there enough depth in each activity for them to assimilate the experiences into their own writing? While the students loved the activities, was this capitalised on this for their learning? Did they write any differently to how they had previously?  
 
Student comments say it all: “It gave us a world to explore and really got me thinking about possible stories and explanations and how best to describe them.” “I liked it because it was extremely realistic.”
 
Just another example of libraries making learning real.

References

Behrendt, M. & Franklin, T. (2014) ‘A Review of Research on School Field Trips and Their Value in Education’ in International Journal of Environmental & Science Education, 6 (3), pp. 235-245. doi:10.12973/ijese.2014.213a
 
Schwartz, M. (n.d.). ‘Best Practices in Experiential Learning’ in The Learning and Teaching Office. Accessed at: http://www.ryerson.ca/content/dam/lt/resources/handouts/ExperientialLearningReport.pdf.

Additional Resources

Website containing all resources used and videos showing student reflections:
 
Activities for the Year 8 Fantasy Adventure Writing Camp by Lyndall Sellars and Peter MacGregor:
 
Activities for the Band of Heroes unit
:
 
Activities from Tim Rylands’ units using Myst and Epic Citadel:
Tim's story of The Pickpocket, recorded over images from Epic Citadel.
 
Youtube clip of Tim encouraging creative writing with Myst Exile
 
Other Myst teaching ideas
 
Example of use of Epic Citadel in the classroom – Digital Teacher
 
Porchester School’s activities using Epic Citadel
 
Previous SHYW workshop details
 
Editor's Note
This article was first presented at the International Association of School Librarianship Annual Conference, this year held in Maastricht, The Netherlands, in July 2015. It is reprinted here with permission. 
 
Cathy Oxley has worked as a teacher librarian for 30 years in both primary and secondary schools, and loves empowering students with Web 2.0 tools to enable rich, collaborative learning experiences for both research and reading. Since 2009 she has been Director of Information Services at Brisbane Grammar School, a large day and boarding school with 1700 boys in Years 5 to 12. She is currently President of the Brisbane School Library Association.
 
 

Table 1:   Activities for Each Day of the Workshop

 
DAY 1 – Meet the author and learn about the quest
Tuesday 31 March 3.30 - 5.30pm at Brisbane Girls Grammar School
  • Author, Kirilee Barker, author of The Book of Days, will meet with the 8 students from each school (BGS, BGGS, All Hallows, Terrace). 
  • The quest and workshop will be explained and journals given out. 
  • Students will be divided into teams of four, with one from each school in each group. (Group names: Hermione, Aslan, Atreyu, Eragon, Dumbledore, Gandalf, Excalibur, Artemis) Coloured bandanas will be given to denote team members.
  • Students will be allocated a special character strength that will help them to complete their quest. 
  • Kirilee will be the Supreme Sorceress – Students will choose their character strengths from a Choosing Bowl.
  • Individual character and physical strengths will be written on a badge which students wear so that others in their group know their powers.
  • For homework, students will develop their Character Profiles in their journals.
DAY 2 - Fantasy Writing  Quest Activities
Wednesday 1 April  9.00am - 2.45pm in the Roma St Parklands
 
     Activity stations – each group of 4 begins at a different station, then they rotate clockwise, using the map. 
     A staff member will supervise each station.

  • At each activity, students in a group of 4 scan a QR or Aurasma code to collect information or part of a riddle. 
  • Students will rotate around different physical activities and solve the puzzle/ riddles
  • Students will be involved in teamwork activities (selected from school Physical Education programs) and problem solving with other 
characters on the quest
  • At each activity, students will have time to write about the challenges, their teamwork and their emotions to assist writing a story in 
first person. Students will develop a rich list of adjectives, nouns, verbs, sentences, imagery and phrases. 
DAY 3 - Fantasy Writing Workshop 
Thursday 2 April  9.00am - 2.45pm at Brisbane Grammar School
  • Kirilee Barker will work all day with the students to take their notes and thoughts from the previous day’s immersive challenges and construct them into a first person fantasy narrative.  She will help them to develop their characters and add depth and flair to their storytelling. 
  • Students will transfer their notes and stories to the wiki so everyone has access to them. Peer feedback will be given via the comments section of the wiki.
  • Students will complete a survey about the experience and whether or not they think it has helped their creative writing process.
DAY 4 - Fantasy Writing Afternoon
Thursday 23 April 3.30 – 5.30pm at Brisbane Grammar School

  • Students will meet again with their other team members to further refine the details of their quest and continue editing their stories.
  • Peer editing partners will be assigned.
DAY 5 – Final presentation afternoon
Thursday 14 May 3.30 – 5.30pm at BGGS
  • The author will present awards for the best individual and group stories, and students will give their reflections of the experience.
 

Table 2: Activities and Journal Entries

 
Location at Roma St Parklands Description Journal Entry Story
1. Armoury (Gazebo) Try on armour - chain-mail helmet, sword, fur cloak, velvet dress, leather boots, linen clothes. Choose the special weapon your character will use. 
 What it would be like to wear/carry this through a forest or climb a mountain? What preparations need to be made for a quest? How does it feel to be on this quest? What are your initial reactions to those accompanying you?
 Characterisation
2. Field of Doom (St Andrews Corner) Play Minefield game blindfolded on upper lawn. Setting looks beautiful, but is dangerous. Why? How would it feel at night on the quest or when entering areas where visibility is limited? http://www.wilderdom.com/games/descriptions/Minefield.html
 Relationships/teamwork/trust/relying on others, danger, feelings? Develop characterisation and setting
3. Stone Table (Walkway) Smell different foods to detect which ones have been 'poisoned'. Challenge - Solve a riddle to determine which foods are acceptable/correct – the rest are poisonous. YouTube clip from Lord of the Rings – Gollum and Bilbo tell riddles to each other
 What happens here? Comment on the tension and drama Develop the plot
4. Epic Citadel (Under Walkway) Sit beside beautiful stone wall /cobblestones under walkway to CC Place and explore Epic Citadel app  What is this place? Why are you here? Who lives here? What does it feel like/look like? Friendly or eerie? Why is it deserted? Develop the setting
5. Cursed Quicksand 
(Lake Precinct) Play Hot Chocolate River game on lake lawn. The team has to cross a swamp of quicksand on magic lilly pads - will only float if you’re touching them, otherwise they will disappear. http://www.ultimatecampresource.com/site/camp-activity/hot-chocolate-river.html
 Reflect on strategies being used to develop eamwork. Develop the plot
6. Fiendish Forest (Fern Gully) Use the Anomaly app and book to see and hear monsters and creatures emerging from the book and fighting battles. What does your story sound like? Describe what happens when the monsters attack. What emotions are depicted by the noises around you? Develop descriptive writing
7. Eerie Escarpment (Lookout) Use the Dragons! app on iPads to watch dragons flying around the room and breathing fire.
 Listen to an excerpt from Matthew Reilly's book The Great Zoo of China where dragons are attacking the cable car. How do your special powers and those of the group help you fight off dragons/monsters? Develop plot and characterisation
8. Tunnel of Terror (Spider Webs) Use the Real Scary Spiders app to create augmented reality spiders. Imagine this as any type of monster, something that creeps up on you unawares and could attack you at any moment. How will your team conquer the monster? What emotions do you feel? Develop setting and characterisation
9. Blazing Battlefield (Celebration Lawn) The entire group must band together to defeat a fearsome evil. Play poison ball/dodgeball game as an entire group http://www.teachingideas.co.uk/pe/dodgeball.htm How did everyone work together? How did you feel trying to dodge the poison balls? Develop characterisation and plot
 
 

Examples of how students used the activities in their stories

Chrissie (Aslan) – Cursed Quicksand 
 
I got a few steps across and then I stopped.  It was like the ground had become concrete and had molded around my legs, I couldn’t move. I called out immediately, yelling to the others for help. I knew what this was . . . It was called Quicksand and there was only one way of surviving it . . . But I didn’t know it.
 
I turned at the shouts of others and saw them wading towards me, I opened my mouth to cry out, but it was too late. James was starting to sink, while Lionel was already up to his neck. Virgo was nowhere to be seen.
“Virgo!” I cried
 
“Here!” said a muffled voice off to my right. I could just make out a small head popping out of the water. I looked around in desperation, while myself trying to keep my shoulders above the surface.
 
As the cries of my friends grew louder James shouted for calm. “Everyone lie flat on your back, relax. Our feet will rise. Once everyone is on the surface of the sand, wait till I tell you how we are going to get across to the land.” Taking deep breaths, we all shared a nervous glance before gradually lowering ourselves onto the surface. As soon as my back and head touched the quicksand, my feet began to rise slowly. I turned my head carefully and saw expressions of relief on my fellow questionairs faces. It was working!
 
Once everyone was safe from sinking further James said: “OK, good job! We’ve made it this far! Now, turn your head carefully and see the lily pads next to you. Find the nearest one and start edging yourself closer to it. If I am not mistaken, you will find that each one has a silver sheen to it. That means they have been enchanted not to sink in quicksand. I want you to slide onto the lily pads until your whole body is on a line of them.” Everyone cautiously nodded and began edging toward the lily pads nearest to them, sliding across the quicksand.
 
“Now, stand up on the lily pads, be careful to balance,” continued James.
 
“WHAT!” cried Virgo, “Are you crazy?”
 
“Just trust me!” James called. I watched as Virgo took a deep breath and started to raise herself up. Reassured she was doing fine, I started to push myself up off the lily pads. I was soon standing.
 
“OK, now, grab up all the other lily pads and balance on the two you are still on. Great! Now, use your lily pads as stepping stones to get across to the other side!” James instructed one last time as I picked up my lily pads.
 
After 5 tense minutes we were all across safely still holding our lily pads. 
 
 
James (Aslan) – Epic Citadel
 
The path stretched before me. It was built on a narrow natural bridge, perhaps 20 meters wide. The one thing that was spectacular about it was the fact that the below the bridge was 200 meters of open space. Below a raging river flowed. From my vantage point it looked like a stream trickling past, but I knew better.
 
I started to trek up the path as the birds squawked from the trees. I watched a log float down the river until it emptied into the sea. Even from here I could hear the crash of the waves rumbling up the cliffs. As I rounded a bend in the road, the object of my adventure came into view, Greywood Keep. 
 
The Keep stood proudly atop the cliff; at its front was a gargantuan stone tower with a gaping gateway in the front. The portcullis lay strewn across the path, teetering as if at any time the hulking structure could slide and find a watery grave 200 metres below. I picked my way around the portcullis as I studied the path. To my surprise I found many burn marks across the path. There had obviously been a battle here.
 
As I entered the gate I looked around at the houses there, it looked as if nothing had been disturbed, washing was still on washing lines, toys were left in the street, some doors were even left open. I felt like an intruder disturbing the stillness of the air.
 
 
Oliver (Gandalf) – Swamp with Lilly pads, Epic Citadel and Dragon
 
Eldred stared at the parchment blankly and brought his gaze to the swamp. From the ten years he had lived in this treacherous place, not once did he even attempt to cross it’s bubbling acid surface which would kill one in an instant. Abruptly the greyhound spotted some kind of insect and chased it ferociously, ducking underneath stray branches and twigs, and Maple only managed a muffled yell before the dog tumbled into the swamp . . . or onto it.
 
Each of the three's eyes widened, staring at the dog as it collapsed on one of the massive lilly pads covered in moss and mould. It whimpered nervously, realising that it hadn’t died yet, and attempted to jump onto the land. It missed, claws digging deep into the grass as it fell backwards in a wild action. As the greyhound submerged lower and lower into the oozing liquid it continued to howl and contort in agony as its body dissolved.  Maple sobbed and took a step back, into Amity’s warming arms. Eldred took a step forward and stared at the swamp in pure amazement. If the lilly pad had supported the dog, why wouldn’t it support them?
 
“If you want to travel to the 'stone table' most efficiently, get on the lilly pads and enter into the forest,” he instructed and turned to search for herbs. Amity and Maple stared at each other curiously.
 
“Can you come with us?” Maple pleaded “you’re the only one who knows your way around, we’d probably die in the first few minutes”. They were wrong - Eldred hadn’t left this part of Remorse. Although they would most likely fall victim to the horrid creatures beyond this swamp, if Eldred let them he wouldn’t be able to live with himself. Ignoring every part of him that was yelling and disagreeing with his choice, heart pumping, Eldred took one step onto the lillypad and signalled for the others.
 
“Let’s go . . .”
 
Eldred stumbled to the gates, clutching onto his swollen leg whilst guiding Amity by strict instructions as she was blind. Any unwanted step could lead to fatality. Maple trailed behind. The threatening steel arches separated and screeched – grinding against the cobblestone. They continued onwards into the empty citadel, towers and turrets luring over them – Eldred felt the dark angel present. Eldred noticed the lit candles in each home and the fresh, soaked rags on washing lines, the civilians had just evacuated in the last hour. Nearing the keep where the angel would most likely be, a roar erupted in the air, followed by the cheerful laugh of Xander. Eldred whipped around and gasped as he stared into the deadly eyes of a dragon.
 
 
Alexis (Gandalf) – Epic Citadel and Dragon
 
The four arrived at The Epic Citadel to hear church bells ringing. It kept ringing and ringing and ringing. The paths were empty, lamps lit and most food stalls had steam coming out of their pots. It was almost as if- everyone left everything and disappeared. They stuck together, weapons in hand, looking left to right. Then there was that horrifying, piercing scream. A girl’s, most likely.
 
“What was that?” Eldred gasped. A figure hiding in the shadows lurked around the archways of a building. It snarled viciously. The dragon sprang into action and with one blow knocked the building down, and the stone crumbled into smithereens. The creature was terrifying, half-human with black bat-like wings, shark’s teeth, black, merciless eyes and nails so sharp that it could rip apart pure diamond. The two fantasy monsters fought, each tearing flesh from each other's bodies. Minutes later, the dragon was down, bleeding a sliver kind of blood and crying out for help. 
 
Xander launched into action. He charged towards the angel and stabbed it harshly with his sword. But it was no use. The angel seemed to laugh as it smashed Xander with his claws. An inch away from his head, Maple aimed for the monstrous hand and pulled the bowstring. This time the angel called out in agony, and fell to its knees. Amity and Eldred attacked at the same time, ripping the angel apart. Slimy, dark blood oozed out of its abnormal body parts. Maple, Amity, Eldred and Xander yelled in victory and glory, waving their gory weapons around; The Epic Citadel had been saved.
 
 
Angus (Artemis) – Weapons
 
A monster charged at Tristan’s shield. He raised it and delivered a strike to the enemy’s neck with the edge of his shield, collapsing its windpipe and sending it crashing to the ground. He struck with his axe, burying the steel in between the enemy’s horns, sending a fine mist of blood into the air around the wound. 
 
Tasting the enemy’s blood on his breath, a frenzy overcame him, sweeping away any thoughts of self-preservation and safety, only leaving a mad blood-lust that could only be sated by the destruction of all enemies. Flinging away his shield, which decapitated a monster, he drew his wickedly curved Kukri knife from his belt and charged forward, his limbs becoming a blur of steel, cutting through any monster in his path, sending innards dropping onto the grassy field which was littered with fallen bodies of monsters.
 
 
Matthew (Atreyu) – Fiendish Forest
 
To caverns old, and dungeons deep

Lies a fiery beast, in silent sleep

Spawned within, its daemon seed

Beware thou seeker, resist the greed

For filled with gold, the dragon’s keep

Take heed however, it won’t come cheap

Stab its heart, or yourself be slayed,

Pierced only by immortal blade.
 
It was just past midnight and the distant shriek of a Copse-Fowl pierced the eerie silence. This was the third night in a row it had come. It was dark and our torches illuminated disturbing shadows. Trunks and branches twisted into limbs, claws and demented faces. Some unknown force seemed to leer over us and although I couldn’t see it, I felt its cold appraising glare. 
 
I drew courage from the presence of our leader, Libby. Spears of moonlight penetrated through the dense foliage and bathed her features in an uncanny half-light. Her shield, Aegis, shimmered a shade of silver much like that which it was embellished with. Emblazoned on its centre was a fearsome dragon with dagger-like fangs. If that was what they looked like, then I did not look forward to meeting one in the flesh.