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Dundee pupils reveal how they turned a virtual reality lesson into a real-life book

Children looking excited looking at St Ninians Primary School book.
Pupils Teya Hristova, Ruby Okwuadigbo, Ava Gardener, Louie Kolapczyk and Amelia Brownlee were delighted to see their book in print. Pictures by Gareth Jennings / DC Thomson.

When a class from St Ninian’s Primary had a virtual reality lesson it fired their imaginations so much they created their own fantasy tale.

Now the book they wrote has been published and they are selling it to raise funds for Tayside Children’s Hospital.

Avatar ME tells the story of fictional Discovery Primary School where, under a full moon, the children mysteriously transform into avatars they created during a lesson. To break the spell they must enter a world of virtual reality and solve a series of riddles.

Published authors, St Ninian’s Primary School P6 class.

With class teacher Lyndsey Robertson, St Ninian’s P6 class collaborated to bring their ideas together into one story featuring their own avatars and launched a business enterprise project to bring it to their audience.

We met up with the class and asked them how they created Avatar ME and how it feels to be published authors.

The children’s story

What’s your avatar like?

Mutembo said: “My avatar is like me in anime. My eyes are flaming blue. I have straight up, spiky blue hair.”

Cziara told us: “My avatar looks like me but with moon buns.  I chose this hairstyle for myself because it is fun.”

What were the VR sessions like?

Aariz said: “My favourite game was Star Wars because it allowed you to explore an unchartered planet and made you feel as skilful and as powerful as a Jedi.”

What was your role in the enterprise project?

Market researcher Ruby surveyed children in other classes about their reading habits. She said: “With the data I collected from the surveys I made bar graphs and noticed that the P5s enjoyed reading more than the P7s. We plan to give one book to every class to see if our book improves students’ opinions and feelings about reading.”

Amelia, illustrator, drew the front cover and blurb image. She said: “I got my inspiration from a cartoon called anime and soon found out how to draw in a similar style.”

The children have been thrilled to see their story in print.

Teya proofread the story for errors. She said: “I noticed a few things that had to be edited, for example, the word “split” was typed instead of “spilt” and the word “chucked” typed instead of chuckled.”

Graphic researcher Louie was responsible for finding a good-sized font. He told us: “The class voted for Bauhaus 93 for the title of our book because it suited our techy story.”

Ava was personnel manager and explained: “I keep a record of everyone’s job role and at the end of each enterprise lesson I place a tick beside their name when they have completed their tasks.”

How does it feel to see the book published?

Jessica said: “Now it is published, I am happy that I can read it to my little sister.  I bought an extra copy for my gran and surprised her by placing the book on her bedside table so she can read our story at night time.”

The children also illustrated Avatar ME.

Why did you want the children’s hospital to benefit?

Aleeza said: “Children who have to stay in hospital for a while need to be happy and to have fun.  This ties in with the work we are doing for our Rights Respecting School Group.  At the moment, we are working on Article 31, the right to have fun.”

Logan told us: “Someone very dear to me was very ill and received care from the staff at the Children’s Hospital Ninewells. I am grateful to the nurses and doctors for helping to look after my family member.”

Eva and Chloe researched different toys to buy for the hospital and Eva said: “We think that board games, bracelets, crochet and knitting sets would be good for children who have to stay in bed.”

The teacher’s account

Class teacher Lyndsey Robertson.

The initial aim of the VR sessions at Showcase VR was to enhance pupils’ literacy skills by appealing to their senses. They learned how to create their own avatars and enjoyed VR experiences propelling them into new worlds and adventures.

Mrs Robertson said: “Using virtual reality as a stimulus to story writing inspired the children to include increasingly adventurous vocabulary whilst setting the scene.

“Pupils shared their writing with their peers during collaborative literacy lessons and suggested that we create a fictional story incorporating their personal recounts, resulting in this wonderful adventure book, Avatar ME.”

With Guildry Business Enterprise and sponsorship from local companies the class received funding to have the story printed by Tayprint.

The finished product is on sale at the school for £10.