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Hello, Switzerland! I'd visited schools twice in Geneva before, once in 2012 and again in 2018. But this was the first time I did a whole week of school events, and I really felt this time I got to know the city a bit better. And it was so fun seeing children and their teachers engaging with my books, showing me things they'd worked on before I arrived, and then making things together while I was there. Here's a poster made from one of my flipchart drawings: the teacher cut it into segments so the children could each colour a section, then reassembled it - what a great collaborative poster!

On Monday and Tuesday I visited the lower primary Pregny campus of the International School of Geneva, which was right across from the street from the fortified 'Mission of the United States of America':

And my bus passed the UN headquarters and lots of other formidable looking buildings with big global acronyms written on them.

And here's the Pregny school!

They're scheduled to move to a new building in a couple years, but I loved this 1970's building; it had lots of wood and was full of fresh air and light, and central spaces between classrooms where the children would gather to make things.

Here's my excellent host, school librarian Kathryn Concannon ('Miss Kate') who arranged my visit and looked after me the whole time. (Here we are, taking a ferry across the lake.) Kate's from the USA, but she's lived in Switzerland for a very long time and is naturalised Swiss. That was one of the fun things about the visit; the staff and students were from absolutely everywhere, so there was this terrific mix of cultures and languages.

Here's a little peek at the library wall, where the art teacher had created a display of previous work the children had done, inspired by Eric Carle's illustrations. A lot of the classes were doing projects on the theme of 'process', so there were some amazing displays around the school about how things are made, including handmade paper and ink prints.

And here are some of the pictures we drew! For many of the classes, I read them my picture book Dinosaur Firefighters, explained to them how I'd created the book, gave then some tips on getting ideas for stories, and then led them in creating their own step-by-step dinosaur drawings. I'm always amazed at how well even the youngest children (three years old, some of them!) are able to follow along. And when their pictures turn out a bit wonky, it's even more interesting, and occasionally very inspiring to me.

If you're reading this and want to try your own hand at drawing dinosaurs, I have step-by-step guides available on my website, for Dinosaur Firefighters here, and Dinosaur Police here.

I had a session with the littlest children, aged three and four, in small groups, where their teachers were keen to have them work on something involving process. I thought they might be too young to create actual books, but that's what I do, so I thought I'd try it out on them. And with a bit of help with the writing, they did remarkably well! Most of them didn't manage to finish their books, but several made quite a lot of progress. One of the teachers filmed a little boy who had finished his book and he described the story to her at some length. At the end, she asked him who had written the story, and he said, 'Sarah McIntyre'. She replied, 'Did Sarah McIntyre make up that story... or did YOU make it up?' And he thought for a second, before a look of recognition dawned on his face. 'I MADE the story!' Then she asked, 'And who drew the pictures for that story?' 'Sarah McIntyre', he replied. 'Are you sure?' she asked. And he got a big grin on his face. 'I DREW THE STORY!' And he looked so terribly pleased to realise HE was the writer and illustrator that it was really rather moving.

Since we'd already talked about Dinosaur police and firefighters, the children imagined new professions for their T-Rex characters.

Before my visit, some of the children had very much enjoyed my picture book with Alan MacDonald, The Prince of Pants. So they presented me with these lovely drawings of its main character, Prince Pip:

The tutorial hadn't even been on my website, but their teacher (or was it Miss Kate?) had been very entrepreneurial and looked up the video on YouTube.

Huge thanks to Miss Kate, and all the teachers and staff who were such fun and made me feel so welcome! (Stay tuned for my next blog post on the following three days at the upper primary school at Saconnex.)


Sarah McIntyre

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