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Pandora’s Box

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By Karen Hartfreelance writer

Lift the lid on this Greek myth to discover an exciting array of cross-curricular activities that will get children’s imaginations racing

pandora's box

When devising a drama activity, you want to provide a range of things: scope for imaginative role play; a way for the children to try various roles; an activity that easily incorporates music, dance and costume; and opportunities for cross-curricular links. Not only does the following drama lesson tick all these boxes, it is also easily expandable and lots of fun!

Demon drama

Start the lesson with a story circle. ‘Pandora’s Box’ will probably be a new story to many children, so read the retelling below, and answer any questions.

Ask the children to find a space to lie in, eyes closed, while you play some music to create a magical atmosphere (such as ‘Aquarium’ in The Carnival of the Animals by Saint-Saëns). How does the music make the children feel?

Invite the children to move around the room as demons while the music plays, thinking about which demon they are being. Can they think of their own demon based on something they really dislike, such as a bullying demon? Ask them to think about how their demon moves. Can each child isolate a particular facial feature and make it appear nasty, using just their eyes, mouth, teeth and head?

Use some chairs to section off a corner of the room and represent the box. More than one ‘box’ might be needed for a whole class. Give the children the roles of Zeus, Prometheus, Pandora, Hope and the demons. Narrate the story while the children act it out. Play the magical music just as Pandora opens the box, and encourage the children to bring as much imagination to their flying and dancing demons as possible.

With younger classes, just have the roles of Pandora and the demons. With older classes, and if presenting at assembly, invite a confident reader to be the narrator.

Creative costumes

Look at pictures of theatrical costumes together, such as Joseph’s technicolour dreamcoat, the Sugar Plum Fairy’s costume or Mrs Wishy-Washy’s pantomime dress. Provide each child with a copy of Activity sheet 2 (see below), which contains two templates of a person. Ask the children to design one demon and one Hope costume. Let them consider which colours they will use and why, the shape of the costumes, and if they will be soft, pointy, holey, shiny, long, short, and so on. If actual costumes are needed for a production, use plain black T-shirts for the demons, with crêpe paper or cloth streamers attached to hair and wristbands. Use a plain white T-shirt for Hope for a contrasting effect.

Describe it!

Read the children the poem ‘Jabberwocky’ by Lewis Carroll. The colourful language, much of it made up by Carroll himself, is a good example of how vocabulary can be used to ‘paint a picture’.

Ask the children to remember their demon drama and how they imagined the demons would look and move. Record their descriptive words and sentences on the board.

Encourage the children to write a poem using their own words and the following poem plan. Let more confident children write their poem unaided. Explain that the poem does not need to rhyme, but should be as descriptive as possible.

Poem plan

The demon moved like… (a snake, seaweed, a prowling tiger)

Its eyes looked like… (fire, black glass, mouldy cabbage)

Its hair was made of… (old bones, ice, worms)

It was the colour of… (snow, ash, night, dirty dish water)

I ran away because… (I didn’t want it to touch me, I was terrified, I thought it would eat me)

I wish I’d never opened the box!

Use a collection of the children’s poems, together with the costume designs, to make a ‘Pandora’s Box’ wall display.

Food for thought

Ancient Greece left the world many amazing legacies: the Olympic Games; the first great plays; the beginnings of theatre; some of the finest early architecture; the development of the alphabet; and innovations in science, philosophy, religion and art. All of which would lead into a great history or geography project. Try choosing a single aspect of life in Ancient Greece to focus on, such as diet.

The Greek diet was very healthy. It consisted mainly of grains, wheat, barley, fruit, vegetables, bread and cake. They grew olives, grapes, figs and wheat, and kept goats for milk and cheese. In summer there was plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables to eat, and in winter they ate dried fruit and stored food, such as apples and lentils. Most people lived near the sea, so there was a plentiful supply of fresh fish, squid and shellfish.

Try making collage plates as a fun way of furthering and displaying knowledge of the Ancient Greek diet. Give each child a paper plate and some collage materials, and challenge them to make a plate full of the type of lovely food that would have been eaten in Ancient Greece. Silver foil is good for making fish; real shells can be used for shellfish, as well as real lentils. Encourage everyone to be as creative as possible. Invite the children to make a second plate, this time showing a typical meal they would have at home. The contrasting dishes make would an interesting and colourful wall display.