P&C "We have Story Wheels..."

WE HAVE STORY WHEELS … AND YOU CAN, TOO

On September 20 2012, Wollongong's Lord Mayor, Gordon Bradbery OAM, came to our school to launch a unique piece of playground equipment – something created by our community that we want to share freely with the world.

Story Wheel

 

How it happened

It began three years earlier when the P&C (Parents' and Citizen's Association) wished to install new play equipment for our children but, at the time, couldn't afford to go out and buy it.  Parent and P&C member Hazel Flynn set herself the task of coming up with something low- or no-cost which would catch the kids' interest and encourage their imaginations. It also had to work for ages from Kindergarten (age 5) to Year 6 (age 12).

What she came up with was something that encourages open-ended, co-operative, creative play: the Spin Up A Story Wheels.

Our Story Wheels made the transition from a sketch on paper to reality via wonderful community contributions. The craftsmen at the Corrimal Community Men's Shed refined the design and did the construction. The local signwriting company Visual Energy donated their services to put the simple ‘how to play' instructions on the backing board. And parents Matt Kocher and Christine Carey created vibrant artwork for the wheels.

How they work:

The way The Story Wheels work is this:

A large backing board is bolted onto the external wall of a classroom, in a playground area accessible to all the children.

On the board are mounted three wheels which spin the way ‘chocolate wheels' do. There is a Friend wheel, a Foe Wheel and a Special Powers wheel.

The wheels are divided into six segments each containing a character (eg Peace Dragon, Flying Horse, Troll) or special power (eg, Invisibility, Freeze Time). A painted arrow above each wheel determines which segment your spin lands on.

First, children form a team for the game. This can be any number from two upwards.

Next, the team spins the Friend wheel once. The Friend on whom it lands is going to help your team.

Then, the team spins the Foe wheel once. This is who is trying to stop your team.

Then each person on the team spins the Special Powers wheel to gain their own power.

Now you decide together "What happened was …" and you create the story. It can be as simple and quick or as long and complicated as you wish.

(The segments have the names of the characters/powers, but they also have appealing, clear images so that even children who are not yet reading can use the Story Wheels.)

While the equipment is freely available for children to play with in break times, it can also be used by teachers as part of Literacy learning, particularly about narrative structure.


We're playing nicely, so let's share

As far as we know, our Story Wheels are unique, and because of that people had suggested to Hazel that she should trademark the idea and commercialise it. But as she said at the launch, "That's never what the Story Wheels were about. The project was always meant to be something for the community, embodying the school motto ‘Working Together'. So I'm setting the idea free to go out into the world, and any school or kindy or community group that wants to make their own version can do so with my blessing."

The only cost of our Story Wheels was for the materials—everything else was donated. And when Principal Pam Grosse joined Corrimal Public School in 2011, she liked the idea so much she offered to pay the $450 timber cost. This left only the cost of paint to be covered by the P&C.  Our wheels came in under $500 and it would be possible to create your own version for even less if you could get the timber donated.

Technical info:

The timber we used for backing board and wheels is marine-ply, to stand up to weather. (Our Story Wheels are in an area which is sheltered by nearby shadecloth and overhung by eaves but not completely waterproof.)

The backing board is 2400mm x 1200mm x 18mm thick.

The three wheels are each 500mm diameter x 9mm thick

The wheels are designed to be easily removable for repainting or maintenance.

The board and wheels were primed, then painted in exterior acrylic matt paint. The wheel segments were done in two contrasting shades of yellow base colour. The wheel segments were then completed with character images and names done in bright acrylics. Finally, a clear varnish was applied to both backing board and wheels for durability.

It was important to ensure that little fingers could not get trapped under the wheels, so they are mounted closely enough to prevent this, while still being able to spin. There are two small rounded handles on each wheel (these are cabinet door handles found at a charity shop) which the children grasp to spin the wheels.

The explanatory wording on the board says:

  1. Get your team together
  2. Spin the Friend wheel. This is who will help your team.
  3. Spin the Foe wheel. This is who's trying to stop you.
  4. Each player spin the Special Power wheel. Use your Special Power to help the team
  5. Now you have your Friend, Foe and Special Powers. Together create your story: "What happened was …"

The concept is now yours to do with what you will. You're free to use the idea, the tech specs, the list of characters and the wording, just not the character imagery – instead, find a clever member of your community who can create their own artwork.

Have fun!