Every school in Dundee is to receive a “baby” penguin sculpture and an accompanying education pack as part of the Maggie’s Penguin Parade project.
One hundred statues, standing 4ft tall, will waddle their ways into the classrooms of nursery, primary and secondary schools, plus a number of community groups, next month.
The man behind the initiative is Maggie’s Penguin Parade’s education coordinator, Neil Cooney.
He was Project Manager of the 2016 Oor Wullie Bucket Trail, with funds raised for the ARCHIE Foundation, and had overseen a plan to bring 14 mini sculptures of the cheeky red-haired lad into primary schools.
“When I became involved with Maggie’s, I wanted to ensure all schools and children were able to take part – nurseries, primaries and secondaries, as well as young people’s residential units and those with additional support needs,” said Neil.
“I wanted the education element of the Penguin Parade to be as inclusive as possible, and what better time to do this, in 2018, the official Year of Young People.”
Each penguin cost £400 but thanks to funding from Northwood Trust and the Community Regeneration Fund, Maggie’s can ensure 100 of the penguins – which are half the size of the towering 8ft versions in the summer Penguin Parade Trail – go into schools and community groups in Dundee free of charge. A handful of Angus schools are also set to benefit.
“It’s a fantastic opportunity for schools to engage pupils, teachers, carers and parents in whole-school, whole-community conversations around a series of topics, including the difficult topic of cancer in the family,” said Neil.
“The Oor Wullie Trail generated incredible community spirit across the city, so hopefully the Penguin Parade will do the same.”
As well as getting their very own mini penguin which will come with instructions on how to paint it – a task that will be completed by pupils and teachers – schools will be given education packs full of facts about penguins, Antarctica, exploration and Dundee explorers.
Primary schools in Dundee will also be treated to free class trips to the St Andrews Aquarium.
“This is great news for outdoor learning,” said Neil. “Pupils will have a fun day out and be able to meet and learn more about real penguins.”
There is also talk of “community picnics” although plans are yet to be set in stone.
From July to September, during the Penguin Parade Trail, the baby penguins will be publicly exhibited in local clusters.
“They will complement and add real value to the main trail, by showcasing the creativity of Dundee’s youngest citizens,” said Neil.
After the event, the dinky penguins will return to the schools to be kept as mementos.
Earlier this month, project organisers revealed that rock legends Simple Minds were joining the parade as an official sponsor.
They selected artist Fiona Sutherland, a graduate of University of Dundee, to design their penguin.
It’s great news for the cancer care charity Maggie’s, which will benefit from funds raised by the public art trail and auction of the 80 giant penguin sculptures.
It costs a staggering £2,400 a day to run Maggie’s Dundee, a centre which offers free practical, emotional and social support to those affected by cancer.
The centre received more than 12,000 visits in 2017 – around 50-70 people a day.
And since 2016, there’s been an increase of 15% in visits from people newly diagnosed with cancer.
For more information, see maggiespenguinparade.com