Guidance on Using Persona Dolls by 98w4iY

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									Resource Pack: Unit FF: Why are Some Places Special for Some People?

Guidance on Using Persona Dolls


Persona dolls special dolls with their own personalities, life histories, likes and
dislikes. Children readily accept them as small friends. They provide a
powerful tool for exploring, uncovering and confronting racism and other
social inequalities. They enable children to appreciate that words and actions
can be hurtful, to empathise with people experiencing discrimination and to
want to stand up and show their support.

Resource Material:

To purchase persona dolls:
      The Parrotfish Company,
      51, North Street,
      CM9 5HJ
      Tel: 01473 655007

Website with guidance and video clips:

Example: A Case Study

This case study is focused on the story of Sibel, a five year old child from Iran
whose family is seeking asylum in the UK. It is intended to exemplify good
practice in terms of preparing for the session, working with the dolls in
creating a 'persona' and how to actively engage children in sensitive and
potentially difficult issues.

This particular session was run in two infant schools, on five occasions. A
video was recorded for each session and short clips of key moments can be
viewed on the website above.
       Resource Pack: Unit FF: Why are Some Places Special for Some People?

This is Sibel, She is five yrs old, she’ll be six in October.

She lives with her mum and dad, her big sister Sara and her little brother
Talan James who was born in England. The rest of her family live a long way
away in Iran, she misses them very much.

She speaks Kurdish at home, she can speak quite a lot of English now, Daddy
speaks English very well and mummy has learned some English at her classes.

She lives in a flat now; they’ve just moved into it and like it very much because
it is their first real home in England with their own front door, which is blue.

She sleeps in a big bed that she shares with her sister, they like sleeping
together in their big bed better than being in their own.

Some things she enjoys doing are going to the beach, the park and the library.
She also likes drawing, going to places with her family, playing schools with her
sister, putting on her special clothes and looking at her photos.

She doesn’t like going on buses, and she doesn’t like doors being shut.

She likes her mummy’s cooking, especially the sweet sticky cakes and she likes
cucumber, red pepper, chicken, popcorn and chips and ice –cream.

She doesn’t like sausages or fish or baked beans.

She worries about getting lost, being away from her family, and starting school.
        Resource Pack: Unit FF: Why are Some Places Special for Some People?

Sibel’s Story

Sibel used to live in a Kurdish town in Iran. Her daddy used to teach at a college and
he was an author. He didn’t agree with the way the government made laws and he got
into trouble for his writing.

The people who made the laws were very angry with him and said he would have to
be taken away from his family so had to go to a safer place. He knew England was a
safe place and there were people who could help him get there. First he had to go to a
tiny village in the mountains where he had to hide for a few months before he could
send someone to come and get the rest of the family. The family moved to another
village before starting the long and very dangerous journey to England.

Sibel missed her daddy very much when he went away and her mummy was very sad,
then she was told they were going to see him but it was a long way to go. Mummy told
her to choose one special toy to take with her. She had to leave all the rest of her
things behind, but she didn’t know that then. Her big sister found it really hard to
choose. (Sibel chose a special soft doll that her grandmother had made for her mum
when she was a little girl).

What would you take with you if you could only take one toy?

Mummy took some special ‘photos. They said goodbye to their family and mummy’s
best friend, everyone cried a lot but Sibel didn’t know why. She knows now, it was
because they would not be going back.
It was a very hard life in the village; there was no electricity so many things were

What can you think of that needs electricity to work?

They made some very good friends in the village but it wasn’t safe for them or the
villagers to stay there long. So they made plans to come to England. Sibel thought her
mum was very brave as she had never left her country and had never been over the
mountains, she had certainly never been over the sea to a different country.
It was a long, difficult and dangerous journey. Sibel and her sister had to spend long
hours being very quiet and still, hidden under piles of furniture and clothes on a
It took a very long time to reach England and when they got here they had to move
several times before they came to their flat in Portsmouth.
They really miss their family and friends.

Who would you miss the most if you had to leave your home and never go
Has any one here been to visit another country?
How did it feel? What things did you notice that were different?
          Resource Pack: Unit FF: Why are Some Places Special for Some People?

 Sibel’s family were so happy when they had their own home, a home they didn’t have
 to share with any one else, but then a really sad thing happened. She went down to
 the play area with her mum and her sister and you’ll never guess what
 happened……… some children were there and they said you can’t play in our park, go
 away we don’t like you, you’ve got funny clothes and you talk funny and you should go
 back to where you came from, and they picked up some sticks and threw them at Sibel
 and her mum.

 What do you think about that behaviour? What would you say to those unkind

 Now Sibel and her sister are worried about coming to school in Portsmouth, they think
 the children are rude and unkind. Mummy says they can’t go back to their own country
 for a long time as it is not safe, so this is their home until they can go back. Mummy
 says they are special visitors in England, they are refugees and most people will be
 very kind to them.

 Do you think you could help Sibel feel better?
 What would you say to Sibel to make her feel happy at school?
 How would you show her that children in Portsmouth are kind and nice?
 How do we make people feel welcome, especially if they do not speak much


In order to create a 'persona' it is important to develop a realistic and potentially factually
correct background. The story was created as an amalgam of various people, places
and stories known to the practitioner. For example, names and specific details regarding
language, culture and religion were sourced from friends or work colleagues. Details
regarding the reasons for leaving Iran and the dangerous journey to the UK were drawn
together form stories in the media, books etc. 'Family' photographs were found on the
internet. Culturally relevant artefacts such as clothing were obtained from friends (or
could be bought from various suppliers).

It is a good idea to write a complete background for the story with trigger questions
where relevant to extend the story or open up particular lines of enquiry.
          Resource Pack: Unit FF: Why are Some Places Special for Some People?

Building the persona

The 'persona' should be introduced during the session as naturally as possible.
Important initial details might include name, age, family structure, family situation etc.
This information can be elicited through interaction between the practitioner and the doll.

In this particular story it seemed important to start by emphasising the commonality of
experience of Sibel (see Case Study below) who experiences the same likes/dislikes
and worries of any five year old girl. More unusual elements of the story such as her
'secret escape' from Iran to England will be set within more familiar territory for the
audience. As the 'persona' is developed opportunities will present themselves to
celebrate diversity and difference – eg: appropriate discussion around speaking other
languages, different cultural and religious observance etc.

Thoughtful handling of the doll in terms of seating, moving the doll, stroking the hair and
bending down to listen will add to realism.

Using artefacts

The use of appropriate artefacts can add realism and stimulate interest. A pre-prepared
'family' photo album provides a visual focus for discussion around people, places and
events from a different time. Examples of clothing, toys, food etc can also enhance the

Questioning and promoting discussion

Questioning which stimulates discussion needs to be planned for carefully. It is a good
idea to have a number of explicitly set questions which are intended to promote
participation from the audience whilst maintaining flexibility in responding to
contributions and triggering follow-up questions. Here the practitioner elicits
contributions on the level of empathising with Sibel in a range of situations e.g. 'Which
one toy would they take with them on a long journey?' or ' Who would they miss most if
they had to leave suddenly?' or 'How would they make a new child who does not speak
much English feel welcome in their class?'.
          Resource Pack: Unit FF: Why are Some Places Special for Some People?

Times Educational Supplement Article: Living dolls, Diana Hinds
Published: 28 November 2003

Diana Hinds reports on an ingenious teaching method to help children understand and
respect cultural and religious diversity

Today the four-year-olds at Willowbrook Primary School in Leicester have a special
visitor. They have met him once before, and when they see him coming, they shout: "It's
Mohammed!" enthusiastically.

Mohammed is a dark-skinned Muslim boy, who wears loose-fitting white clothes and a
topi. He comes to the front of the class, and the children clamour to be the first to hold
him on their lap. Yes, Mohammed is a doll.

But not just any doll. Mohammed is one of a series of Persona dolls, which Marilyn
Bowles, foundation teacher and RE co-ordinator at Willowbrook, believes can be very
effective in introducing young children to the idea of other faiths and getting them
talking. She has been working with her collection of Persona dolls for the past four years
at Willowbrook, and is as accomplished - not to say, evangelical - a practitioner of the
art as you could wish to see. Her theme for this morning is the idea of Ramadan.

"Mohammed has come to see us today to tell us about something really interesting that
is happening in his family," she tells her class. "You won't believe this, but very early in
the morning, when it's very, very dark, his mum and dad get up and have some
breakfast. Then when Mohammed gets up, his mum and dad don't have anything to eat
or drink all day."

The children talk about what it might feel like not to eat all day. "You'd feel poorly," says
one. "You'd get grumpy," suggests another. Marilyn Bowles relates how Mohammed's
parents told him that they were "trying to see what it was like, because poor people don't
have any food. They are praying to their God and saying, help me be a kind person,
help me share things."

An awed silence greets this explanation, but this is nothing to the expressions of horror
when the children learn that Mohammed does not watch any television during this
special time. They then comfortably digress into talking about their own favourite

By the end of this year, says Marilyn Bowles, these children will be holding more
sophisticated and less egocentric, discussions on issues raised by the Persona dolls.
They might, perhaps, be finding out what Geeta, the Hindu doll, enjoys about
celebrating Diwali; what it is like for Phoebe, a white doll, living with her mum, but not
her dad; or how Jezzie, a black doll, feels to be newly arrived from South Africa and one
of the only black faces in the school.

These discussions will not only do wonders for children's speaking and listening skills,
but will also help, Marilyn Bowles hopes, to develop in them vital powers of empathy.
The dolls' personas are built up slowly, incorporating everyday details about their lives
and families, as well as the particular issues they encounter. The dolls now form part of
          Resource Pack: Unit FF: Why are Some Places Special for Some People?

Willowbrook's PSHE programme for key stages 1 and 2, and there are many spin-offs
for citizenship and RE.

"The idea is for the children to see the dolls as friends, as people who have many things
in common with them, who feel happy about things, who get upset about things," says
Marilyn Bowles. "I want the children to grow up as global human beings, who are not
wary of other cultures."

She first encountered Persona dolls six years ago at a Leicester educational workshop,
and was so taken with them that she contacted their founder, South African-born
Babette Brown, to learn more. Marilyn Bowles began working with the dolls at a
multicultural school in inner city Leicester, where parents were able to advise her on
details of costume, family life and worship.

Bringing the dolls to Willowbrook, a school with an almost entirely white population
drawn from what she describes as a "very insular" estate (with a British National Party
presence), was a bigger challenge altogether. But with pupils from such homogeneous
and non-religious backgrounds, the dolls, she argues, are even more valuable in
attempting to broaden the children's spiritual and cultural outlook. Their parents are
guarded in their reactions (some, for instance, kept their children at home on the day
Willowbrook hosted a Diwali celebration), but Marilyn Bowles hopes to draw them in
gradually, through Persona doll sessions for parents and children.

"I want the children to lead the parents," she says. "I want Willowbrook to be a
multicultural beacon in the middle of this estate."

Four neighbouring schools are already using the dolls, and Marilyn Bowles has written a
resource book (to be published in January), with ideas to help teachers get the best out
of them. Purpose-made Persona dolls - large, soft and likeable - can be bought through
Babette Brown (about £50 each), but Marilyn Bowles says other dolls will do almost as
well, provided the children regard them as special. And wherever possible, she adds,
the dolls' stories should be backed up by those of real people, invited into school.

Lat Blaylock, executive officer of the Professional Council for Religious Education, is a
convert. "This is an excellent set of strategies for bringing complex religious material into
a classroom for young children," he says. "It is often said that multi-faith RE creates
confusion, but this method shows that it actually clarifies confusion and helps children
see the significance of religions in a fun way."

For books, dolls, videos and details of training, contact Babette Brown, 51 Granville
Gardens, London N12 OJH; or NES Arnold, Novara House, Excelsior Road, Ashby de la
Zouche LE65

The Little Book of Persona Dolls by Marilyn Bowles is published by Featherstone
Education, 44-46 High Street, Husbands Bosworth, Leicestershire LE17 6LP
          Resource Pack: Unit FF: Why are Some Places Special for Some People?


Spend a few minutes introducing the Persona doll. If the children have met the doll
before, recap on some of the things they talked about. Young children will enjoy taking
turns to hold the doll.

Introduce a new event in the doll's life. It might be something positive like a religious
festival, or it could be something the doll is finding difficult, such as coming to a new
country, or school.

Ask the children to explain how they think the doll feels.

Give as many children as possible an opportunity to respond. Sometimes they will
repeat what others have said, but often they have their own special insights.

Always finish on a positive note, before the children say goodbye to the doll.
      Resource Pack: Unit FF: Why are Some Places Special for Some People?

                     Visualisation of a Special Place

Close your eyes and think about a place that is special to you.

Imagine that you are stood outside your special place..…What can you
see? Is it a big or a small place?

You are about to go inside now…How do you feel? (Happy, sad, worried,

Step inside your special place, is it warm or cold? Can you smell
anything? Can you hear anything?

Look all around you… What can you see now?

Reach out…. Can you touch anything? What does it feel like?

Walk a little bit further….Is there anybody else inside your special place?
Who is it? Do you know them? What are they doing?

How do you feel inside your special place?

Have you been here lots of times before?

When will you come back again?

Why is it a special place to you?

When you are ready I want you to slowly open your eyes.
Resource Pack: Unit FF: Why are Some Places Special for Some People?

Stilling in the Church

Step One – Relaxed and Alert

Now sit very straight upright and let your body relax.

Place your hands in a cup-like position in your lap, or let them lie loosely on
your knees.

Give your shoulders a shrug to make sure you’re relaxed even though you’re
sitting upright. You’re sitting in a relaxed and alert position.

Breathing: Can we breathe in for 4…out for 4, through the nose…..

Step Two – Tense and Relax
Now relax any tensions you may have in your body.

Stretch your toes and then relax them…..

Pull in your stomach muscles, then relax them…..

Pull the shoulders back, then relax them….

Shrug the shoulders up and down. Look left, look right, look forward. Now
screw up the muscles in your face and relax them…..

Feel your whole body relaxed – all tensions have gone. You feel so good.

Step Three – Senses

Be aware of the 5 senses – the smell of the air in the room….

The taste of the water in your mouth…

The firmness of the ground under your feet…

The touch of the air on your skin…

Now you’re going to let your eyelids close very slowly while I count to 3 (then
5, then 10!)……

Your eyes are closed now..
Resource Pack: Unit FF: Why are Some Places Special for Some People?

      Listen to the sounds inside this room….
             Take your hearing outside the room…
                     Let your hearing stretch as far as you can……

You are in a really special place. Listen carefully.
What can you hear? How does it feel? How do you feel inside?

Open your eyes now.

Have a careful look around, just use your eyes and look up. Look around you.
Can you see some lovely things? What colours can you see?

Step Six – Back
Now bring your attention back to me. Relax your body….

Jobs to do:

Look carefully around the church. This is a special place, and we are going to
be very quiet and careful.

Look for some beautiful and interesting objects. You might draw a picture, or
remember it some other way.

Look for beautiful and interesting pictures, colours and patterns. You might
want to draw them, or remember them.

You might want to tell a grown up about the lovely things you have found.

We will need:

Crayons, pencils, paper, camera

Box or bag for carrying things.

We might collect:

Hymn book, prayer book, picture of the church, candle
Resource Pack: Unit FF: Why are Some Places Special for Some People?

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