Over the Christmas break, my nieces and nephews, Mi’a, Kona, Safia and Liban, decided to make films about their imaginary adventures at Machu Picchu after learning about our latest creative writing and art competition. I confess that I was so excited! I often tell them stories about my own Andean adventures as an archaeologist and I couldn’t wait to see what they would create!

They decided to put together a series of short films and this entire process took several days. To inspire you to get creative, I thought I would share with you how they developed their adventure stories.

Becoming Researchers of the Ancient World

In the early stages of their project, my nieces and nephews, who are naturally curious, transformed into researchers of the ancient world. Seeking fuel to ignite their imaginations, they bombarded me with questions about the Inka, such as what does an Inka house look like? What is it made of? What is it like to walk through Machu Picchu? What is the climate and environment of the Sacred Valley like?

To help them build a clearer picture of the Inka world in their minds, I guided them utilising a range of resources, including photographs of Cusco, archaeological drawings and plans of Inka houses (wasi, also huasi) and compounds (kancha, also cancha) from my own digital and physical library. When gathering information about the Inka and other ancient civilisations, local libraries are truly wonderful places. One widely available book I recommend for primary-aged children is ‘Step Into The Inca World’ by Philip Steele. Meanwhile, DK and National Geographic have great online resources, including short videos, about the Inka and Machu Picchu. Can you view these Inka Houses and also on On National Geographic.

Inca Houses

The next stage of their project involved creating the narrative and working out how they were going to present it. The children quickly decided together to create films, and sorted out the various roles: my eldest nephew, Liban, put his hand up to be the cameraman, while the other three wanted to perform their stories.

Next they developed basic storylines selecting main characters and working out the main sequence of events. To my surprise and delight, they settled on stories that included Ana Solana, Wacho and Otis and asked me if I could print out my illustrations along with photographs of themselves. Once printed, they cut out the characters and attached them to paddle pop sticks with sticky tape. Other characters can be made from clay, wooden doll pegs, or paper.

Main characters made for the creative project

Main Characters of the Machu Picchu Adventure Films

Each child had a unique approach to story development, which was fascinating to observe. For example, Mi’a scripted her introduction, while Safia and Kona decided to be more spontaneous and give impromptu performances.

Designing and Building the Film Set

After learning about the essential components of Inka architecture, the children made three miniature Inka houses or wasi. A wasi is essentially a rectangular building with battered walls and a trapezoidal doorway. The walls are made of stone and at times, adobe mud bricks. Meanwhile, roofs were commonly thatched with bundles dried of grass called ichu (Jarava ichu) that grows at high altitude. 

Painting walls for the creative project

Painting Walls

With my help, the children measured the walls and roofs using a ruler and pencil and roofs on recycled cardboard and then cut them out and assembled the pieces with sticky tape. They then painted the walls with grey acrylic paint and thatched the roofs with strips of raffia, attaching them with PVA glue.

Thatching roofs made for the creative project

Thatching roofs


Ready, Set, Action!

On a sunny afternoon, the children chose a well-lit corner in their garden and then laid out their houses in a kancha, an arrangement of buildings around an open area or patio. Since the children had constructed three buildings, they placed two buildings facing opposite one another and the third on the long end.

The set. A miniature Inka Kancha made for the creative project

The set. A miniature Inka Kancha

Once the set was ready, the cameraman, Liban, worked out that the best angle for the stories was the medium shot, which is semi-close, allowing for the characters and their environment to be seen, and, therefore, provides context.

Cameraman checking angles and lighting for the creative film

Cameraman checking angles and lighting

Satisfied with the angle and lighting, the cameraman called, ‘Action!’ and after several takes, stories were filmed and are now history. With their consent and also of their Mum, I invite you to view their great videos onto our very new YouTube channel. You can view them at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ocdzX1GvEtc

Bringing the Ancient World into the Present

Throughout this film-making process, I was reminded of how storytelling is an essential part of the research process. Developing a creative writing and art project while learning about the ancient world is a great knowledge construction strategy, as it provides children (and adults) with fun and memorable experiences that aids their understanding. It also helps to make information about the past relevant to today.

We hope that our project inspires you to get creative while learning about the ancient world. For those of you entering our Machu Picchu competition, remember entries close 27 January 2018! You can read more information about it at: http://ancientexplorer.com.au/ancient-explorers-school-holidays-competition-2018/

If you have any questions or wish to share an adventure story with us, please write to us, as we would love to hear from you.

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