MORE than 1,000 primary school children gathered in Sheffield’s Peace Gardens to take part in a special Mad Hatters ‘talk picnic’.
Around 1,200 children from 30 schools sported colourful hats, which they had made and designed themselves using cardboard, brightly-coloured paper, glitter, stickers, tissue paper, drawings and cotton wool.
The event was held as part of the National Year of Communication and the council’s Every Sheffield Child Articulate and Literate (ESCAL) campaign.
Children had their voices recorded for a ‘chatterstream’, a sound sculpture of the children talking about what they love about Sheffield.
The recording will now play in the city’s Winter Garden for a week after it was officially switched on by Lord Mayor of Sheffield Coun Sylvia Dunkley.
Coun Dunkley said: “The council has been concentrating really strongly on children’s literacy and communication skills.
“The children are going to have a great time, they have all come together and it gets them talking to each other, and they realise that learning is not all about being in a classroom.”
As children from Stannington Infants sat down to enjoy their sandwiches, teacher Liz Hart showed them a selection of photographs and asked them to think and talk to each other about what they could write about them.
Liz, who teaches Year 2 pupils, said: “We’re a key school for ESCAL, so we feel it is really important to support events like this. .
“They have all been recorded for the chatterstream as well, so they got the chance to hear that, and hopefully they’ll bring their parents to have a listen too.”
Benjamin Powell-Wiffen, aged seven, who goes to Stannington, said: “It’s been good and I’ve enjoyed it because we get to sit and chat and listen to the funny man on stilts.”
Shai Fitzgibbons, also seven, who attends Longley Primary, said: “To make my hat, I took some cardboard and put on glitter, love hearts and other stuff. It took me two days at school to make it. It’s really exciting to be here.”
Her teacher Michelle Barker said: “We’ve been doing extra reading and speech with the kids. It’s a great experience for them - a lot of kids don’t get to go on outings, so it’s exciting and fun.”
There is also a ‘code crackers’ trail, like a treasure hunt, around the city. People can use their mobile phones to scan bar codes that they find, and read messages and thoughts that children have written.
Marie Lowe, strategy manager for ESCAL, said: “Across the city we’re trying to get everybody focusing on children’s speech and communication.
“Because it is the National Year of Communication, we are addressing the serious subject of how important communication is.”