9 June 2013

Parallel Worlds in Education

After an inspiring and exhausting six-week tour of Europe and Indonesia, the time has come to reflect on this powerful work and discuss a few key points in what makes this work effective both for the students and teachers participating in our workshops.

For the past 10 years occupational therapist, Sharon Gelber and I have been engaged in developing our work in primary schools, secondary schools, universities and in the corporate sector internationally.

For the past six weeks I've had the privilege of working with international schools all over Europe and Indonesia. During this time working with students, teachers, school counsellors and therapists, we explored creative techniques and new ways of breaking down barriers and facilitating open communication within the classroom environment. The warm-up combines simple Brain Gym, followed up by a guided visualisation exercise, which relaxes the participants and gets participants focused into a personal creative space. We then use brown packing paper to create instant puppets. These characters create a powerful metaphor which allows the participants to express themselves, their views and tell their stories. This method removes the threat which both teachers and students experience when trying to tell their story.

We have found that many students who are not academically inclined, find it much easier to express themselves and often are those that give the most powerful performances during such a workshop.

In terms of the puppeteer, the relationship between the object and the life it develops through the performance is akin to the relationship between the concrete idea and the abstraction. The additional element that is native to puppet drama is the strong psychological connection between the animated object and the puppeteer.  The power of the puppet is the power to immediately connect with an audience. It provides a way for connection that is direct because it travels indirectly within the human understanding that is universal.

In society today our senses are bombarded with noise traffic and continual stimulation that cause our senses to become dulled down. We have to make time to slow down in our busy lives and remove this continual and perpetual stimulation, otherwise it becomes too overwhelming.

People need to re-establish their understanding of their sense of 'self'. Too often children are dumbed down by being put in front of a television, which is non-interactive and does not engage their senses.

What we are now learning is that engaging the senses is what we need to focus to enjoy an experience and the more we are engaged with our senses, the better we learn. Play is the most powerful way of engaging. Families are often no longer safe to explore how they really feel and express their emotions without being ridiculed. This is the sad reality of our western life.

We are planning another European Workshop Tour in October - November 2013. If you are interested in organising workshops for your students or professional development sessions for your educators and therapists, please contact me here!

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