On Wednesday we just missed out on breaking a world record with Washwood Heath Academy. We were attempting to topple 19,240 dominos. The current world record stands at approximately 4.5 million, so our world record would have survived briefly in 1976, but still it was an ambition and 19,240 is the number of soldiers believed to have been killed in the first day of fighting on the Somme.

The school’s technology department had done a magnificent job paining and cutting the ‘dominos’. Year 7, 8 and 9 Students spent a day learning about WW1. They wrote letters home from the trenches and a selection of these were read and videoed in a trench-like emplacement Johnny had constructed with students in the playground. This impressive structure included an impressive coil of the world’s most Health and Safety conscious barbed wire (no barbs). The emplacement was perfectly safe during break time and lunch time as one of the history teachers had dressed in full military uniform and stood guard with rifle and hand grenade.

Through the day the students also referred to historical records to research the names, ranks and ages of soliders who had died in the fighting. They wrote these names on the dominos to turn them into gravestones and on the reverse wrote a message to the soldier. Teams of student leaders then transfered these annotated dominos to the Sports Hall where they and I set up the domino topple.

Frankly, I’d do a better job of it next time. We only had time to set up about 15,000 and then I hadn’t communicated very well how the corners and junctions work so, despite attempting to check all the troublesome points not everything fell in one go. However, an enormous number did fall in an unbroken chain, the pupils created some wonderfully imaginative effects and they worked as an efficient team as well as learning a good bit about the war.

I learned a great deal about domino toppling, including the fact that it’s no activity for a grown man (today I can barely move). Our plan is now to deploy this knowledge in making our new mini-show Finger Trigger Bullet Gun.

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