Continuing Open the Book through the pandemic

Published: 20th July 2021

Open the Book logoBefore the pandemic, an Open the Book team, made up of seven people from the churches of St Gabriel, Hanley Swan and St James, Welland, were visiting their two local primary schools on a monthly basis, to tell and act out bible stories with help from the children. When Covid-19 meant this was no longer possible, the team came up with the idea of using wooden pegs, made into human figures, to tell the Bible stories instead. The figures for each scene were filmed and edited into short videos that were sent to the schools.

Steve and Kathy Gray ordered a supply of pegs and got creative! Kathy said: “Steve was responsible for painting the heads and faces while I have been using pipe cleaners for arms and all kinds of scrap materials for the clothes, including socks, old shirts and ribbons. We now have whole ‘families’ of different characters stored in egg boxes, waiting to be used again in new stories!”

The team was keen to ensure that they were still seen and recognised by the children, so they record the stories on Zoom, with an introduction from the Revd Linda Bedford and the cast all waving and saying hello. The camera then cuts to the different scenes filmed with the peg figures. Revd Linda concludes each story with a pause for thought and a prayer.

“We are lucky that John Martin, the churchwarden from St James, has expertise in IT and can help us to put it all together,” said Steve. “Once we’ve recorded the voices for the whole story on Zoom, Kathy and I film the peg characters while replaying the soundtrack so that we get the timings right. Our characters don’t move too much, although we do sometimes introduce movement using fishing wire or attach a stick covered in green material to a peg person. We film the scenes in front of a green screen made from an old puzzle mat, then Kathy finds backgrounds on the internet which are inserted behind the peg people in the edit.”

The team have now produced nine different episodes which have been sent to the schools to be used in their classroom assemblies or for whenever is appropriate.

As Steve said, “We’ve had super feedback from the schools – they’ve really loved them. In fact, we’re slightly worried they might prefer the peg people to us going back in! We’ve also really enjoyed creating the peg figures and filming the stories. It has been great fun filming peg versions of Jonah and the whale and Daniel in the lions’ den and rather safer than trying to carry a giant whale or a lion into schools! 

This has been a very important way to maintain links with our schools during a difficult and demanding time for many. However, we are all very much looking forward to going back into the schools when we can, as we have missed seeing the children’s reactions to our Bible stories.’

Hanley Swan Primary School children have been creating a very special garden, based on Psalm 23, to link with the Bible Society Psalm 23 garden being created for the Chelsea Flower Show. The children have said how much they will value a quiet place in these demanding times, away from the noise and bustle of the playground. The school garden will be officially opened in September and the team are looking forward to being involved in this.

Page last updated: 20th July 2021 10:34 AM
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