Last December, we were very privileged to have been invited to another brilliant creative writing workshop run by Monsters Under The Bed!
I have to say that I was really impressed by how hard Lead Trainer Leroy Lam worked to organise a completely immersive experience for the kids, even teaming up other homegrown companies like KIT SABERS and SaberMach to provide the appropriate props for the workshop.
When we received an email inviting all initiates of the Knights of Inspiration to the Arts House to join in the fight against Emperor Banal, J really started to get fired up. Imagine how excited he was after watching the following video, designed to introduce the workshop trainers (all of whom are professional, published writers!)
We also received a little worksheet, with some basic guidelines as to what to expect as well as some exercises to help prepare them for the workshop. From the worksheet, I could see that this workshop mainly revolved around world-building, that is, creating a fictional universe that is established enough to allow a reader to suspend their disbelief and become fully engaged with the story.
As with all other Imagination and Knowledge (INK) workshops, INK to the Void took place over three days. On the first day, after a short briefing, all the kids were divided into groups according to age and ability. J was in a group of 6-7 year old kids, all boys with bloodthirsty instincts, and introduced to their two trainers. I was pleased to see that there would be at least two trainers managing each group, which allowed for more individual attention.
The kids were each given a series of activities and worksheets encouraging kids to think out of the box and invent their own science fiction worlds populated with creatures adapted to life on other planets. The trainers then guided each child into thinking critically about how their imaginary creatures would have evolved to surviving in an alien planet’s climate and atmosphere. They then awarded credits based on the degree of inventiveness and detail of each child’s work.
Credits earned during each activity could be exchanged for real-world equipment such as blasters, shields and health packs at the INK to the Void trading post. It was worth it just to see the looks on the boys’ faces as walked into the trading post and caught sight of the vast array of shiny new blasters!
I found out later that each of the blasters started off as fancy water guns purchased from Daiso and elaborately decorated with metallic paints. The trainers even took special care to make sure that no two blasters were exactly alike!
After the first set of writing exercises, the trainers took the various groups for an adventure walk around the Arts House as part of a reconnaissance mission (but really to get the wiggles out of the younger kids who had been sat in a room for too long).
Each group had their own little pick-your-own-adventure, heavily customised to the suggestions of the group’s participants, and at the end of it each group discovered a bizarrely decorated cube.
They were then asked to examine the cubes and decide what each component of the cube could do. Some of the kids were asked to present their Scientific Findings to the rest of the class.
J, as usual, applied his comedic mind to the task and decided that the telescopic sight on the cube could be used on bad guys by making them appear naked so that they would be embarrassed and run away!
During the second day of the camp, the kids were encouraged to dress up and get into the role-playing spirit of the workshop! J carefully packed his blaster and shield into his backpack and I managed to cobble together an outfit for him using one of my tunic tops which I cinched together at the waist with a sash. I thought it would help him pass for a pretty good Jedi knight!
The day started off with a set of games, where the kids had to use the characters that they had invented from the previous day’s work and imagine how their characters would interact with each other in different settings and scenarios.
These games eventually evolved into a create-your-own-adventure style group storytelling session. At the end of it, the trainer wrote down the main events of their adventure on a whiteboard which each child used as an outline to base their story upon, adding their own details as seen from their character’s role and point of view.
On the last day of the camp, Little E (who had been attending the camp as an observer) wanted to get in on the roleplaying action, so I did up her hair into two little buns, turned a fleece-lined vest inside out, and found an old braided hairband for her to wear as a belt. Not a bad costume for a Princess Leia wannabe, if I do say so myself!
This last day of the workshop was mainly focussed on refining their stories and sharing their writings with each other, but the highlight of the day was when each child ‘graduated’ as Knight initiates and earned their Inspiration Blades.
Basically, this meant that they built a lightsaber from scratch using parts supplied by KIT SABERS.
As you can imagine, the room was awash with excitement, as each child helped assemble their own working lightsaber, and then customised their lightsaber hilts with coloured duct tape. J just had the BIGGEST grin on his face the whole week after that!
Apart from holiday workshops, Monsters Under the Bed also holds regular writing classes for both primary and secondary school students! If you are looking to give Monsters Under The Bed a looksee, I hear that they are holding trial classes at the upcoming SmartKids Asia Exhibition during the March School Holiday week from 18 – 20 March 2016. They’ll be at the exhibition from 11pm to 9am. You can sign up for their trial classes here.
I’m also looking forward to hearing what they have in store next! Apparently there will be another INK holiday workshop this June 2016, which is going to appeal to both boys and girls alike!