Ready? (Box) Set? Go! How physical theatre inspires creativity with Highly Sprung

Sarah Worth, Executive Director, takes us behind the scenes of Highly Sprung’s work to develop creativity in schools.

Highly Sprung are a physical theatre company who create work with and for children and young people, putting them at the heart of what we do. As experts in embodied, physical learning, we use creativity to address a range of subjects, encouraging every young person to be an independent thinker and discover their unique voice.

Across the last 20 years, we have worked regularly with schools, and in 2020 the restrictions of lockdown took us back to the drawing board. How could we adapt our existing approach to be sustainable and adaptable for schools during these times? We wanted to package up the ‘Highly Sprung experience’ in a remote and accessible way, allowing teachers to take the lead. Enter Ready Box-Set Go.

About Ready Box-Set Go

Ready Box-Set Go is a learning resource for use in the classroom with pupils aged 5-18.

There are 5 tailored ‘box-sets’ for Key Stages 1-5, each using a Highly Sprung performance as its starting point and designed to be delivered across 4 to 6 sessions. They provide a framework to explore that performance, and each focus on a specific curriculum and vocational subjects including science, literacy, history, mental health, the environment and racism.

Box sets include detailed CPD (continued professional development), delivery booklets, physical resources and props, pre-recorded performances, video messages from characters to immerse pupils in that world, and digitally delivered activities from artists.

Here are some of our favourite examples...

  • For Key Stage 1, New Book for the Emperor looks at creative writing. Children fill the Emperor’s book with stories and learn about different writing techniques and structures.
  • Arty’s Broken Heart for Key Stage 2 investigates heart health. Pupils meet ‘Dr Beat’ and become her assistants, helping her discover why the character ‘Arty’ has a poorly heart through a variety of creative, physical activities.
  • Hidden in Plain Sight for Key Stages 2 and 3 tells the incredible story of William and Ellen Craft’s escape from slavery, looking at black history and examining racism in the past and present.
  • For Key Stages 3 to 5, Urban Astronaut focusses on the climate crisis and Fallout looks at mental health. For these, students must use their creativity to devise an original performance that interrogates the theme.
‘A set of exciting, creative solutions to the situation we all find ourselves in’ - Teacher, Rugby Free Secondary School.

Highly Sprung’s 4 step approach

Step 1: Setting the Scene

Teachers and pupils first have the chance to explore the box, discovering the world created through the resources provided to help facilitate pupils’ learning. Box-sets are accompanied by videos, audio recordings and tailored music playlists that allow complete immersion.

For example, the New Book for the Emperor box-set starts with a video message from the Emperor himself. It calls on pupils to help him by creating their own original stories; this direct message brings them into that world, sparks their imagination and gives them a feeling of agency to create.

Step 2: Getting Warm

It’s time to deliver sessions! We always lead with a game, providing space to focus and learn a new technical skill. This might be achieved through our exercise ‘Pass the Clap,’ a Full Body Workout or (a Highly Sprung favourite) ‘Quick Draw’, an improvisational call and response game. It provides a physical and mental workout for both teachers and students and produces plenty of laughter. Exercises get the blood pumping, heart rates rising and give opportunities for teamwork and creative thinking. At Highly Sprung, a physical language is used to tell stories. The style of our warm-ups introduces young people to this, getting used to exploring themes, knowledge and behaviours through gesture.

Step 3: Creative Response

Next is a creative activity, inspired by an element of the box-set’s theme. It builds understanding, giving students the opportunity to apply their newly acquired skills through a creative response. This could be freeze frames, short pieces of dialogue or a movement sequence. In box-set Hidden in Plain Sight, there are diary entries that provide evidence as part of an investigation and inspire creative activities. For Arty’s Broken Heart, a video from ‘Dr Beat’ challenges students to learn about a new area of heart health in each session. Fallout looks at different mental health conditions and uses movement to understand these difficult topics in more depth. In Urban Astronaut, students learn repertoire from the performance, before developing their own response. Teachers are guided through the delivery, with step-by-step instructions, clear objectives and teaching points to share throughout.

Step 4: Time to Reflect

Each session concludes with a chance to regroup, reflect and share experiences, posing questions such as: What new knowledge do you have? Has this learning impacted how you view the world? How do you feel about the theme? What values, creative ideas or actions will you take forward?

‘Our students, who are Autistic, would really engage with this and especially around the idea of expressing themselves through the use of movement.’ - Teacher, Corley Centre.

We’ve been so impressed with how schools have been able to adapt during the pandemic and stay engaged with arts and cultural activities. Our Ready Box-Set Go initiative has allowed us to continue to work with children and young people to develop their creativity through physical theatre in an accessible way that still keeps the Highly Sprung spirit alive!

Takeaway ideas:

Try these sample activities with your students:

Sarah Worth is Executive Director at Highly Sprung. Find out more about Ready Box-Set Go and Highly Sprung, or get in touch over email on or follow on Twitter.

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