Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Isaac the Investigator @ InvestigateINK

If you've been reading our blog the past year at least, you'd know that we're big fans of Monsters Under the Bed. No, no, I don't enjoy scaring my kids with monsters under their beds!? I mean, the company Monsters Under the Bed who has been conducting impossibly fun and interesting creative writing workshops every school hols. We're blessed to have caught their eye and they've been inviting Isaac to their writing courses since last year.

This time round, we had friends attending as well!  Read about Ch's experience at Simply Lambchops, and Dana's experience at Life's Tiny Miracles.
Always fun to attend workshops with friends, eh? :) Isaac, Ch and Dana.
Now, those of you who read family blogs would know that we receive invitations to all sorts of events and experiences all the time. And for time-pressed families like us, we need to prioritise and be selective about accepting and attending the invites we receive. Monsters Under the Bed workshops are never one that we pass on, if we can help it! Our first was EnchantINK - which was a macabre (though original) twist on fairy tales. Then we attended MonsterHuntINK - which had the kids fashioning their own monster, habitat, and chase after them. These were both fiction writing, which is what creative writing is all about, isn't it?
Apparently not! InvestigateINK taught us that expository (non-fiction, journalistic writing) requires technique and creativity as well. I especially enjoyed the way the Monsters Under the Bed brought it to the kids. There was lots drama (the instructors doubled up as actors!), suspense and mystery - perfect for an investigative themed workshop.

There were even pre-recorded "CCTV recordings" that were being screened to the kids in "flashback style" on the projector. Groups could review the videos on their group computer to try to glean any clues they can pick up from the video. The video segments are usually only a few minutes long, snappy and full of suspense or mystery.
"CCTV" footage and other flashbacks via pre-recorded videos. A good use of technology to aid the cause, I say!
Pre-Workshop Preparation Material sent to attendees a week or so before the actual start of the workshop
If you think this workshop sounds too fun to be able to teach the kids anything, you're mistaken. A week or so before a Monsters Under the Bed workshop, you'd usually receive a package in the mail with pre-workshop preparation materials within. There's usually some information on the background theme of the workshop, and also some pointers or info sheet regarding the writing style that you would be learning for that camp. This time around, a PRESS Name Tag was included as well. The kids are all members of the press you see, and this was their name tags. And we all know what good investigators pressmen are given their insatiable appetites for juicy news...

Interspersed with all the happenings during the camp, the kids are also taught writing techniques in simple layman terms. Thus, even P1 kids like Isaac did not have an issue keeping up. I was glad I was there, I was learning some tips myself!
Photos of presentation slides by Pamela Tan of Tan Family Chronicles.
Text & content of slides in the pictures by Monsters Under the Bed.
Monsters can be very drama too.
A definite highlight of the workshops are the drama bits where the instructors and other Monsters (from Under the Bed) get in character of the background story to the case they were investigating. The kids even got to interrogate the suspects. So convincing they were at acting! At one point, one of the main suspects, Tai Po, fainted to the ground, and was dragged/carried out of the room The trainers came back in and said "Tai Po is dead!" and the kids were stunned. Later, I actually heard the kids discuss in hushed voices about the death of Tai Po. I realised that they were really frightened as they think that Tai Po really died. As in really died, for real. I quickly piped up and told them that it's just a story, an act, that Tai Po is not dead. When they gave me the "Are you sure? He really looks dead." I was like "Go ask your group trainer!"

The kids also had clues to figure out, and secret codes to decipher. Isaac managed to figure out on his own that the hidden message below is in mirror image.
A mirror image hidden message and other cryptic clues.
Another coded message!
Oooh I love all these coded messages and stuff. Reminds me a lot of when I was Isaac's age, and would read all the books on being an investigator a la The Three Investigators. I would always try and come up with my own secret language or code.

Having attended quite a number of Monsters Under the Bed workshops, I like how they pace the days out. Each day, there is usually a small lecture, exciting bits with drama, action or suspense, and then they would break up into smaller groups where the group trainers would lead their groups in small group discussion. And then guide them in completing their exercise in answering leading questions posed to them, or in formulating stories or background to their final work. 

As this was an investigative themed workshop, there was also a lot of discussion, or speculation (haha) on what happened or on the reasons behind what they just witnessed. 
The young pressmen hard at work.
Finale drama @ InvestigateINK
As with every investigative drama, there has to be a twist to the story, and a finale, before the truth is revealed - and then the journalists can write their report for the news paper. Just look at the stills above. Even the adults present were kept at the edge of their seats... well actually, everyone was on their feet, trying to get the best view of the drama that was unfolding before our very eyes. What started out as a theft, had someone die during interrogation, and now there's a gun and death threats which culminated in The Chase of the Black Lamora - as Isaac calls it! That last bit was when the culprit was revealed to be that lady in black with long hair, and she ran away, so the entire team of press investigators gave chase and ran after her. Yes, it was quite the chaos.The kids loved it!

And so all of them enthusiastically set about writing their piece for the MUTB Times. It's a good thing they get to paste them into the "newspaper" so they didn't have to spend time copying over what they have written the previous two days.
Isaac the Investigator cum Journalist, hard at work.
InvestigateINK by Monsters Under the Bed
You know how, as kids, you would write the least possible, just the bare minimum to get by and hand it in? Oh well, maybe it was just me. But these kids, they all have tons to write about! Helps that the story line was interesting too, I suppose. It certainly shows that when the kids' interest is piqued, writing a decent length of content isn't an issue at all.

Monsters Under the Bed had the kids fill out a feedback form which I managed to take pix of before Isaac handed it in. The first page were some general questions to which Isaac replied
  1. That the quality of the workshop was AWESOME
  2. The duration of the workshop is JUST NICE
  3. The materials provided in the workshop is VERY USEFUL
  4. And that he was "REALLY FIRED UP" from attending the workshop
Here's his second page of the feedback form...
Feedback Form in Isaac's own hand!

Isaac & his favourite instructor Mr "Tuna" Adam!
That's Mr "TunaFish" Adam - one of the MUTB's instructors, and certainly one of Isaac's favourite. He seems to be a favourite of quite a few of the kids actually. I heard Ch and Isaac talking about Mr Tuna and "How lucky you are to get Mr Tuna this time!!!" type of statements, at not just this camp but the next camp after this one too. He seems quiet and unassuming to me, but he must really have a natural affinity with kids to be able to connect to them so well.

Oh and if you're wondering about Isaac's vest and top hat - that's supposed to be his reporter get-up. He wanted to look like a detective, more than a reporter, really.
Here is Isaac's piece for the MUTB Times.
Page 1 of 4
Page 2 of 4

Page 3 of 4
Page 4 of 4
If you think that sounds incoherent... watch this video! May clear up a few things!

If you wondering how this creative bunch of Monsters Under the Bed are like in the flesh, you're in luck! They have a free parent's seminar coming up soon!

How To Preserve Your Child's Creative Edge
Date: 28th February 2015, Saturday
Time: 1 - 2pm
Venue: 111 Middle Road, National Design Centre (Opposite the Central Library)
Fee: Complimentary
Registration Link: http://ink.mutb.com.sg/parenting-talks.html

In this talk, MUTB addresses why the pursuit of academic excellence often destroys creativity, and how people arrive at the false conclusion that the two goals are exclusive. They will also examine the aspects of creativity that are mostly commonly repressed, and who's responsible for doing so (it's less the fault of schools than you'd imagine). Through a few simple lifestyle changes, which most children will welcome and enjoy, learn how you can maintain your child's creative edge!

Sounds good! I'm off to register right now!
EpicQuestINK by Monsters Under the Bed
And guess what? Monsters Under the Bed has released their line up of INK workshops for 2015! "Imagination N' Knowledge (INK) Workshop is a three-day creative writing programme that stimulates your child's imagination and passion for writing. Participants will be engaged in roleplaying, group discussions, and physical activities that expand their creative space." (Source: The INK website)

Epic QuestINK
Date: 16 - 18 March 2015
Time: 10 am - 1pm
Venue: The Arts House

In this workshop, you transform into heroes straight out of the Greek myths of old, and go on a journey of epic proportions! Participants will learn how to:
Utilize the Hero's Journey. Structure your story in a way that is truly epic. Create fantabulous monsters. Trainers will introduce a selection of monstrous and magical beings from classical Greek myth, and teach you how to create your own! Dream up weird settings. Learn about all the strange places the ancient Greek heroes visited on their journeys, and come up with your own!

Date: 3 - 5 June 2015
Time: 10 am - 1pm
Venue: The Arts House

Spell CraftINK
Date: 7 - 9 September 2015
Time: 10 am - 1pm
Venue: The Arts House

Date: 23 - 25 November 2015
Time: 10 am - 1pm
Venue: The Arts House

INK To The Void
Date: 14 - 16 December 2015
Time: 10 am - 1pm
Venue: The Arts House

REGISTRATION LINK for all the above workshops. By the way, there is currently a special bundle promotion for the above INK workshops.
  • Sign up for 5 workshops and only pay $1,150 OR get 1 month Story Craft lesson worth $320.
  • Recommend other parents and sign 3-5 students up to get 10% discount.

And especially for readers of the Tan Family Chronicles, Monsters Under the Bed (MUtB) is giving away Journal Singapore the board game (worth $59.90) + S$10 Mubster money (can used for any of the MUtB writing programmes or 2015 INK workshops) - just quote “INK1502" when you register.
Journal Singapore the board game
Journal Singapore is a board game created  by Monsters Under the Bed in conjunction with the Singapore Heritage Board. It  is the first board game to feature the history of Singapore from its early days as a British Colony in 1900, to its Independence in 1965. Play the role of Singapore’s early pioneers and leave a legacy of prestige and influence. The rules are in the box, and there is even an online demo to help you figure it out.

You can even use Journal Singapore as a storytelling tool by talking about the different historical characters and locales (sectors) of the game. It's certainly a good tool to springboard the kids into taking interest in our local history.

So, check out the links above and go register your places now. Don't forget to quote “INK1502" to get your freebies!

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