Hobbits move into the Red School

Something weird and wonderful has been growing at Nambucca Heads Public School.

As the kids filed into the school for a brand new year there was a monumental surprise waiting for them.

Whispers started to circulate throughout the Red School about what the big, brown monolith in the playground could be, and who was responsible for its appearance.

The next day the kids were astounded to find the installation had grown in both size and curiosity.

And so it went on over the course of a couple of weeks - a window here, a campfire there, a parrot, and a cage, and a pair of spooky eyes. Kids couldn't wait to get to school to find out what else had appeared overnight.

They took the mystery home with them. Oh, how fun it would have been to be a fly on the dining room wall during those dinner table discussions.

And then finally, after imaginations had been stoked to boiling point, they got the chance to put their observations, hypotheses and predictions down on paper.

The teachers' cunning plan had worked perfectly.

School principal Kate Battiston explained that the mystery sculpture was an initiative the school had devised to build writing and language skills through "real-world stimulus".

"We wanted to create a buzz at school and at home," she said.

"So we knew we had to do something different.

"The sculpture was a prop to start and guide conversations. It was a tool for language acquisition, and to prompt our students to communicate imaginative ideas, predict and infer.

And we wanted to show that reading and writing is not just something you 'have to do', it can be fun too.

The getting of the giant potato that was the basis for the 'hobbit house' (as it was later coined) was an epic tale in of itself, which Ms Battiston has creatively dubbed 'The Ballad of the Mountain Potato'.

"The Dorrigo potato came up on Buy, Swap, Sell, and we all thought 'wow, imagine what we could do with this'," she said.

"We were reliably told it was small enough that we could fix it on top of a box trailer ... we could not.

"Long story short, I headed back down the mountain and hired a car trailer. It was a pretty long day, but well worth it."

The staff had a loose plan of what they would add to the sculpture after the kids went home each day.

"But as it evolved it was also driven by the kids' conversations," Ms Battiston said.

It's been the little things the kids have picked up on and most wanted to talk about.

Last Thursday students from every grade sat down to engage in the 'Big Write'.

Classical music softly played in the background, and mood lighting set the tone. Each child was given a "special author pencil", and teachers engaged them in activities to help "activate their vocabulary".

Ms Battiston said the pieces of writing will be collated and bound in a special book which will be housed in the library as "a celebration of what everyone has achieved".

And there are already ideas brewing about what the potato will become for next term's Big Write.

"It's already having the effect we've been hoping for. We're now hoping to build that same engagement with parents to create a buzz for next term."

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