Dialogue : Birds

In many ways it's better to think of Birds as having more to do with landscape than birds. This is because the players, once they know which bird they're dealing with, should be encouraged to think as much about where the bird is as what it's doing. Poems from the bird's or its prey's point of view are also possibilities. In all cases care must be taken to prevent bland stereotypic or encyclopedia writing. Often, as with the World Game, the player will have a limited knowledge but they have all seen or heard birds; more, they have seen them somewhere. Again, discussion will reveal which approach is most suitable and pictures of birds in action or landscape will help their remembering.

The players were told that there were over 250 different birds common to Britain and that 110 of them were hidden in numbered envelopes in our `bird box'. To discover their bird they played for its number.

The first version of the game was played in a wooden box (a baker's tray) part of which was hollowed to make a nest. The players rolled 32 marbles, and the number that stayed in the nest was counted. In a simpler version of the game players draw numbered eggs which relate to envelopes containing the shape and information card. The original workshop was dominated by two hinged display boards bearing eagles with eight-foot wingspans. The feathers of the eagles were a collage of poems and pictures about birds for the players to look at, read and refer to throughout the workshop.

The envelopes contained an information card with picture, and details of habitat, call and diet; and a cardboard template of the bird cut in four - wings, head, body and tail. Since I had to create the bird jigsaws from scratch, checking scale and drawing them individually, I would not recommend it unless very long-term use was anticipated. But because it does offer each player the opportunity of producing a properly shaped and proportioned drawing, some, more standardised, templates are provided to assist empathy and artwork. The information cards are not that necessary but some background should be available, if only to find out small details like nest materials which can often help the poem along.

Whatever game is played, it is only a mechanism for selection from a wide ranging subject, and at its simplest the players could be asked which birds they've seen recently and where. Then, either by putting the names or descriptions on slips of paper for random distribution, or by asking players to choose which of those they've seen they'd like to concentrate on and write about, they can focus on the subject, making quick notes and then recalling detail from memory.

After the poem was finished the players usually copied it onto blue card with the outline of the bird from the template, and coloured in. During the summer workshops murals were created on large sheets of hardboard, the first players drawing a picture in chalk, the others over the course of a week filling it in with small pieces of various paper and fabrics stuck with suitable glues.

For further information on this sort of game click on games listed under DIALOGUE in the INDEX side bar.

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Windows Workshops Dave Calder, The Windows Project ,1997,1998,1999,2009