The Malmsbury Rapscallions

Our founding school in The Malmsbury Project is Malmsbury Primary School in rural Victoria. One of our first tasks was to develop rapscallions with the students. We will be dealing with two forms initially, personal rapscallions and those we are making in class for the entire school.

Personal rapscallions are any character who already exists for the student – a toy, pet, or tree. (More about the trees in another post). We have yet to find a student who doesn’t have at least one rapscallion in their imagination already. This is a natural thing to do!

As part of the art curriculum, students are learning about sculpture. But the sculptures they are creating will then form a pantheon of characters which can be used in the stories which will tell of the knowledge from all aspects of the curriculum. These rapscallions will talk about science, be the audience for persuasive text – and the creators of alternative persuasive writing. They will perform mathematics and debate spelling. We are just beginning to see the potential. But first we need our rapscallions.

Art teacher, Paul Allen, has devised a sequence of steps to create varied and animated characters. First the students draw the character they wish to create. That is all students from Preparatory year to the Grade Six. Students then use bits of small branches from the local trees. This ensure that they have strange twists which become striking characteristics.


A rapscallion ready for the next stage.


Making sure we understand the action of the rapscallion.

The skeletons are then wired into place. Paul does this for the younger students, but the older students can do it themselves.


Then they start adding the ‘flesh’. Paul has them bulking out their rapscallions with paper and tape.


The rapscallions are already gaining individual character and the students are already talking about the way they want to paint them and what their personalities will be. We have people and bears, horses and skull-headed critters. We have trees and angels and fairies and … a whole pantheon coming into being.

Unlike art projects which then head home, the rapscallions will stay at school to be learning tools. But it is only Week Two – we have to give them skin and paint them first. That will be another post.

Lynne Kelly

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