142: If the shoe fits…

‘Mummy has too many shoes and too many books,’ my daughters used to say to random strangers in shops (admittedly said shops were often purveyors of these commodities, as we trekked about the abundance of charity shops in Epping). I can’t argue with the former, but in the case of the latter it’s more that I don’t have enough shelves as you can never have too many books.

Imagine my joy, dear readers, when the development of the new museum gave me the perfect excuse to create a whole schools session ALL about shoes. When we were rationalising the learning collection prior to closure I made sure we kept the shoes (apart from the Crocs we used in the seaside session), and this week I have been testing the shoes session at a local secondary school. Called ‘If The Shoe Fits’, it’s a user centred design session for Key Stage 3 again and our guinea pigs were Year 9 students. An enormous thank you to my friend and crafty partner in crime Heather who is a DT teacher there, and to her head of department at Davenant Foundation School for letting me loose in her classroom.

We started by thinking about school shoes vs the shoes we choose to wear off-duty – who decides what school shoes look like; are there rules; what qualities the shoes need to have; why we choose our trainers (22 out of 24 Y9s prefer Nikes). Each group then did a ‘mystery shoe’ activity, comparing a historic shoe to a modern shoe. All the shoes were from the collection – from centuries old children’s clogs (these haven’t even been creased miss, are you sure they’re old?) to new pieces which will feature in the design gallery like Vans Autism Awareness skate shoes.

Then they had a go at making a model of one of the shoes, using materials like cardboard, lolly sticks, tape and more. Some were amazing – the exquisitely detailed version of a child’s leather party shoe created from masking tape and cardboard, complete with rosette, for example, or the clog, with paper straws to represent the ‘horseshoe’ on the bottom. Proper sparking clogs, as the song goes. The students demonstrated amazing creative problem solving skills, thinking about how to represent fastenings, how to make the cardboard curve more flexibly, and how to hold materials together. We deliberately don’t give them glue or staples, partly as there’s collection involved but also because Pritt Sticks are a waste of time with anything but paper and the students get frustrated and turn to tape anyway.

It was a fast paced session so we were strict on time and many of the students wanted to finish their models, but after we allowed this on day one we were firmer on day two. Removing the need to sketch or draw before making takes away the ‘I can’t draw’ problem (I have this) and allows them to get straight into working in 3D.

We then talked about being ‘fit for purpose’ and the idea of specific shoes being used for specific purposes – from steel-toed construction boots and firefighter boots, football boots and cycling shoes, pointe shoes and Lady Gaga’s ludicrous heels, running blades and running shoes for various conditions – and they annotated images in answer to a set of questions. I used images of female sports players and firefighters, male ballet dancers (urgh, look at his legs Miss!) and made sure they were diverse to reflect the students themselves.

The final activity was to create a shoe for a specific person – real or fictional – so they filled in a sheet about the qualities, materials and properties needed and, with additional materials like fabrics, felt, laminate insulation and more, created their own shoes. The outcomes were amazing, with super-bouncy running shoes, shoes for the art teacher, convertible heels-to-flats for their mum, and more.

I tweeted a thank you to the school for allowing me to pilot the sessions with their students, and this response came back, which made my day! This is one of the sessions we’ll be opening with next year, and I can’t wait to be running it alongside a whole gallery full of amazing design.

A note on Christmas music

If you’re like me, your Facebook feeds will be smattered with people going on about bloody ‘Whamageddon’ and whether they are in or out, whether a cover version counts and so on. SHUT UP. No one cares.

Other things making me happy this week:

  • Opening night at the Geek Retreat in Harlow. We had a lovely time.
  • A cracking day at Epping Christmas Market yesterday
  • Liqueur chocolates for breakfast. It’s advent, it’s allowed (thanks for the calendar, mum)

Now I must go and get ready for today’s Christmas fete, this time a school one in North London, and then the Museum of London grand reunion this evening. Same time next week!

Kirsty x

What I’ve been reading:

Aberystwyth Mon Amour – Malcom Pryce

Don’t Need The Sunshine – John Osborne

Terry Pratchett: A Life in Footnotes (Audible)

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