School Event with Gill Lewis

In October the Scottish Book Trust took the brilliant and award-winning author Gill Lewis to the Scottish Borders for a special day of school events!

After a successful career as a vet, which took Gill to Africa and as far south as the Arctic, Gill turned her talents to writing and became a successful children's author. She now spends her days writing in her very own treehouse at the bottom of her garden in Somerset. Her passion is wildlife and all her books explore the natural world. Her first book, Sky Hawk, was published in 2011 and was named the UKLA Children’s Book of the Year 2012. The book explores the themes of friendship and loyalty; an unlikely friendship forms between Callum and Iona when they pair up to protect Osprey in a remote part of Scotland.

Her latest book Sky Dancer returns to the style and themes of her first novel. The book explores the plight of the Hen Harrier, which is in danger of extinction across England and is becoming rarer in Scotland. In the novel, Joe finds himself in the middle of a community divided over the fate of the Hen Harriers and is uncertain of the choices he should make. 

Gill's event focused around Sky Dancer and was educational as well as entertaining. Amy, a representative from the RSPB, started the session and gave pupils a fascinating introduction to Hen Harriers. She brought two beautiful handmade models of a male and female Hen Harrier for the pupils to look at, as well as encouraging to engage in some active learning through the "food-drop game". Hen Harriers complete what is known as a ‘food-drop’ in mid-air. This is where the male passes the female the food he has collected, as he never goes back to the nest. The game involved rubber cloves, some bean bags and imagination to recreate a Hen Harrier food drop. 

Following this, Gill mesmerised pupils by reading a sneaky peak of Sky Dancer. She then took pupils through a whistle-stop tour of a Britain’s environmental history, starting at 12,000 years ago and running through to the present day. She asked pupils to think about what our environment and wildlife would have been like versus how it is now. Of course, props were involved to fully engage the pupils and make the event even more memorable. A tree line was held aloft by two pupils and gradually depleted as we moved through time and wolves, bears and farm animals all featured. Gill's concluding point was that we need to encourage more variety in our landscape, as this will encourage a vast array of wildlife, creating an environment in which Hen Harriers and other native species can thrive. 

The pupils at Kingsland Primary in Peebles and Tweedbank Primary in Tweedbank all had a brilliant time with Gill and certainly learnt a lot about British wildlife! This event definitely encouraged pupils to take a renewed interested in nature and their local environment. 

To find out more about Gill, visit her website.

To find out more about the RSPB Hen Harrier conservation project LIFE, visit their website.

Learning Resources

Learning resources full of cross-curricular activities to help your pupils engage with the themes explored in Sky Dancer are available to download here.

Learning resources are also available from the RSPB Hen Harrier Life Project website