Robot Boris makes one giant beep for mankind

Youngsters from St Mark's CE Primary School, Wigan, were treated to a special guest at an Ester Assembly
Youngsters from St Mark's CE Primary School, Wigan, were treated to a special guest at an Ester Assembly

Youngsters in Wigan primary schools are being given a glimpse of tomorrow’s world with special lessons delivered by a talking robot!

Boris, an android made from recycled objects, has been visiting pupils at three primary schools in the borough helping with their PSHE lessons and discussing morality and feelings with them.

The unusual idea is part of a programme called Heart Smart, devised by Boris’s creator Dave Hill, which has been brought to Wigan and Leigh by Rev Tim Montgomery under the Anglican Church’s modernisation project Transforming Wigan.

Boris has been delivering assemblies and helping in classes at Woodfield Primary School on Wigan Lane, St Mark’s CE Primary School in Newtown and St James’s CE Primary School in Worsley Mesnes but is also available further afield to church or state schools in the borough.

Dave and Boris have been teaching children about a variety of issues including their feelings, self-worth and the importance of acting together through Heartsmart and the project has certainly proved a hit with Wigan teachers and school leaders. Theresa Swann, PSHE co-ordinator at St James’ CE Primary said: “Heartsmart has had an instant impact in our school and it fitted our PSHE programme like a glove.

“When it was introduced three children spontaneously made robot ‘friends’ for Boris to meet on his first visit to the school. This was then repeated by all the children in school and a friendly community was created for Boris.”

St Mark’s head of school Ali Rice said: “We were incredibly fortunate to be involved with piloting Heartsmart right from the start.

“We spent last year piloting the resource and working closely with Dave Hill to introduce and develop Heartsmart`s ‘Sticky’ language. Heartsmart has given us a ‘shared-language’ to communicate thoughts and feelings. We now use it as part of our worship, our lessons and our everyday school life. The Heartsmart language has really enabled us as a school to develop a growth mindset with our pupils as well as agreater resilience and determination to succeed amongst our school community, both academically and in facing any of life’s challenges.”

The Newtown school has a particularly important link with the project as pupil Adam Richardson came up with the name Boris for the robot when he was in the reception class.

Dave created Boris from second-hand parts with the help of a friend who has a stall on Manchester Market. The robot sports an old radio for a trunk, has buttons made from

oven knobs and shoulder or arm parts made using two kitchen colanders.

Other bits that went into the construction include underground wire protectors, tubes from Oxford Road railway station, a lampshade and the gearstick frmo a Morris Minor.

Dave uses Boris to teach the children topics including being contented with who they are and working through things that they are struggling with, thinking of others rather than being self-centre, becoming good citizens and learning about the importance of forgiveness and saying sorry.

Boris also has a special friend at St James’s, a female ballerina-type robot called Doris which the year five pupils and their teacher created for him.

Rev Tim Montgomery said Heartsmart is a great way of teaching young Wiganers about the important matters of the heart and developing their spiritual lives.

Although Transforming Wigan primarily bought Boris for the borough’s Church of England schools, teachers and leaders at state establishments can also get involved.