“Walk. And draw the houses!” Swiss Cottage special needs school make a sensory experience from a Slow Way


Join in on this interactive sensory journey through North London, as seen, felt and heard by young people with learning disabilities

Roseanna Gooder from Swiss Cottage School applied for one of our ‘Tales of a Slow Way’ community storytelling awards. Here she shares some insights into the way the route was structured, the filming of the young people’s walk and how the opportunity to direct the film and exercise their creative talents is creating pathways to future employment. Their film, ‘A Sensory Journey through Camden’, is available to watch below.

Hi Roseanna, tell us about the walk

When I first introduced the walking route, one student couldn’t stop responding ‘long, long’ to the length of the route. This carried on for the majority of the walk but with a smile on his face!

Another highlight was watching the students illustrate and write what they were experiencing on the walk. One student draws so freely and I loved seeing him translate the church onto the page in his style. 

Finally, it was amazing to be chosen to create this project through Slow Ways as visibility is so important for our young people, especially in the creative scene. We are just about to launch our offsite design studio (Studio SC) as part of our in-house EmployMEnt Pathway called Card & Design. The opportunity to be involved in projects like this expose the young people to different job roles and responsibilities that can foster their creative talents.

What did the young people involved think of the experience?

They really enjoyed it and were keen to use their senses, stopping to say ‘what can you see?’ or ‘I can hear…’ to explore along the way. They especially liked the canal section where you pass by London Zoo as you can see some of the animals.

Creating the voiceovers and illustrations to the story helped the students to consolidate the purpose of the walk and the story that we were creating. Having to re-record and take constructive feedback to ensure that they were happy with the end result was a great learning experience for them. 

What were the most surprising things you found on the walk?

A huge wall of a jasmine vines! The smell was so strong. At first, we thought the plant was artificial but the closer we got we could smell that it was real! One of the students also found a fruit on the floor which stopped us all in our tracks while we guessed what it could be. We think it had fallen from a tree somewhere and it stayed in the video as we thought it would be an interesting experience in the Sensory Story that will accompany the video.  

Do you have any top tips for schools/ colleges wanting to do a similar project?

We broke the walk into two sections which helped for a few reasons; it meant that we could take our time to explore different sensory elements and to create the illustrations. It also meant that we could recap on the first section and the purpose of the walk before going out again. In that way the students could have more ownership of the development of the story. 

Choosing to present the project as a job through our EmployMEnt Pathway – Card & Design –  worked really well. Each student had a role dependent on their skills and preferences for work e.g. the route planner, the film recorder, the voiceover team and the illustrator. Other schools or colleges could present it this way too, to educate about different roles within the creative and outdoor industries. 

Will the project have a legacy and can you tell us a bit about this? 

Yes – we are going to create a Sensory Story card to accompany the video we created. This is so that the experience of the Slow Ways walk is accessible to all of the pupils in our school. Some pupils cannot easily access the whole walk due to their health needs or their physical needs so we wanted to create a sensory experience that we could recreate in the classroom or on key parts of the walk. 

The video will have a story card that goes with it which will encourage viewers to stop the video at key points for the team to expose the young people to the story through the use of their senses. For example, when the story passes Abbey Road the group will listen/dance to a Beatles song or when the story reaches the canal, the students will explore mirrors and torches through moving blue fabrics to symbolise the reflection of the water or feel real water in different ways whilst listening to calming sounds. There are many ways that the storyteller can be creative with props to stimulate a sensory experience of the walk.  

  • Swiss Cottage School, Development and Research Centre is a community-maintained special needs school in the London Borough of Camden. Their research-informed curriculum and passionate community create innovative learning opportunities to promote holistic development
  • Last year we launched ‘Tales from a Slow Way’, a community stories initiative that enabled us to commission creatives and community groups to work together to produce original stories and content situated around Slow Ways walking routes. Each award included a donation to the organisation as well as a project fee to the creative. Together, the awarded projects map the sheer diversity of walkers across the UK and highlight the importance of forging new paths
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