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Reimagining Home Together: Saving Planet Anksi!

An interactive story for children aged 8-12 years in response to COVID-19.

ReimaginingHome

This story can be read in full or just by using the stepping stones in bold.

Home means different things to different people, for some it is associated with a place, for some a person, for some home is associated with feeling, emotion, affect and a sense of belonging for others a sense of dislocation, unbelonging and oppression. For all of us, our association with home has been radically changed over the last few weeks. Paradoxically at this present time, we stand upon a precipice of the Earth’s history, the seas are rising, we are on lockdown in our homes, we are in it together, interconnected, whether we like it or not! This is our present moment.

Reimagining Home Together was the original focus of our Story Makers Festival summer 2020. We had chosen the title because through our Story Makers Press, over the last year, we had been lucky enough to co create three different stories with children: a Roma story, a story retelling of a South Asian fairy tale with Muslim girls and a sci- fi adventure with boys in an alternative provision. These are critical stories of place told through the eyes of children, they are also stories about aspiration and hope. The stories are published and children co create them from conception to completion. Through the story process they tell us that they feel empowered. Sharing diverse stories is a way for us all to see differently and the festival was a celebration of this. My role as drama facilitator is to create spaces for imaginary communities, settings and exploration of social problems with children in the fiction, which we call Worldbuilding.  It’s a complex process which is littered with ethical questions and community building. We work in different ways, speaking different languages, 100 languages through our bodies, materials, graphics, objects and sound. This means that all children can join, expressing themselves in different ways which adds depth and meaning to the story. We are a ‘polyphonic’ community. Together, within the fiction, children negotiate different places and alternative ways of being which matter to them. They ‘live through’ these experiences in playful, felt, everyday ways. These experiences become shared place stories, a critical pedagogy of place. Within the fiction, we all affect and are affected by the actions of each other. What happens to you, happens to me. It is the rehearsal of global citizenship, activism and hope. A fictional home.

For me, the heart of this work is embracing uncertainty as hope. It is worth defining hope here. By hope, I draw of conceptualisations by philosophers such as Brain Massumi, Sara Ahmed and Rebecca Solnit. Hope is located itself in the premise that we don’t know what will happen and in the spaces of uncertainty there is room to act, even in the smallest ways. The key word is to ‘act’ in the present moment, not to focus on future visions of optimism or pessimism which excuse any kind of action but to focus on where we are right here and now. This is what children practice when we are Worldbuilding using dramatic enquiry. It is a very broad perspective of hope, within the fiction children are called to action, to embrace a social problem, where there are no immediate answers or resolutions but possible actions. They are called to act together and find the spaces of possibility in a story, the wriggle room in the situation, the immediate issue to be tackled. Embracing the idea that not everything will always get better, but not everything will always get worse. In this sense, they are also practicing active citizenship without the direct consequences of actions. This gives confidence and some experience of ways to act in the real world. Central to this work is the social imagination as a tool for thinking about ‘other ways of being’ and it is nurtured through this work. As we develop ethical fictional communities where everyone has a role to play, we produce knowledge together and rewrite social histories. It is critical work and I have spent the last 5 years mapping the affective and effective responses of children to this work as part of my PhD in relation to positive wellbeing and critical consciousness.

It seems to me that this kind of knowledge creation has never been so relevant, not just for children but for adults too. As we ponder on the uncertainties of our global situation, we have the present potential to become more interconnected, if we choose to act. That’s why we are launching Reimagining Home as a critical place project on May 11th 2020.

Reimagining home is a 3-part immersive online story experience for children and families across the world. At its heart, the project is about celebrating the joy and wellbeing associated with ‘making’ creatively together but it will be underpinned by hopeful action. It will draw from children’s ideas as it develops over 3 settings as we produce a shared story about home, past and present. The story narrative will change in response to children’s interaction. A story conversation. Children will be called to action:

What if the secret of our secure future laid in the forgotten past? A secret that only children knew about. It told the stories of a past world which became a wasteland. Once upon a time there was a city of dreams. Something happened there a long-time ago. An event that shifted everything. Since that time, a group of children have become Story Rebels. They are time travellers who reimagine histories and create new worlds. Worldbuilders. Can they find out the secrets of the past to save the future? Are they brave enough to face the challenges ahead? Will they save Planet Anksi?

Through the story they will explore a cave, a wasteland and Planet Anksi, creating shared histories through music, words, images, objects, collage and materials as a universal language of story. Children will make artefacts using everyday found objects in their home spaces. These will shape the events in our fictional story. In this way home is reimagined a third time, becoming merged with the fictional story. We hope that children and parents will upload their ideas online and respond to each other as the narrative unfolds. We are even having a creative writing and art competition! Children’s voices are always at the centre of our work and in climate change they are already leading the uprising! The story also explores eco-literacy or the understanding of the ways in which we can look after our planet, and global citizenship or the ways that we can live together in ethical and meaningful ways. It does so by making spaces for the voices of children who have campaigned for a curriculum that focuses on reconnecting them to the eco emergency. These children will curate aspects of the story experience online for other children to respond to.

The story will also capture and document our present moment. We invite a range of artist educators from our Story Makers hub and beyond, to contribute to the story, creating a collaborative and rich story tapestry with us for families and children. Our tools are drama, theatre, creative writing, art, craft, spoken word, poetry and we have over 50 diverse artists involved in our hub. We are delighted that many of these artists are involved in this story and in this sense, we are creating a new shared practice. Many of us work in embodied ways and we are embracing this time to think about the ways in which our work might transfer to online spaces. We are uncertain about this. Our artist educator interviews will offer further insight into our collective storying processes as we reflect on the ways in which the hybrid storying might or might not work. Thus, contributing to our ongoing research in these areas, bringing story methods together. We hope to bring our settings alive with 360 technology. Our story will be repeated after 3 weeks to invite different iterations, reminiscent of Dorothy Heathcote’s, ‘Rolling Role’.

If there is one thing, we are sure about, it is that the imagination of children will offer us new insights into the way that we understand the world and ourselves. Activism starts in the every day. It’s a start, in the here and now.

How we see our landscape, our place, our planet dictates how we relate to it and each other.

Our next blog will introduce our story architects.

Blog by Lisa Stephenson @lisa_stephenso

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About the Author

Lisa Stephenson

Course Leader for the MA in Drama and Creative Writing in Education, Lisa's specialist area is Drama pedagogy. She works in partnership with schools and communities to develop meaningful and motivational learning opportunities for children. As Director of the Story Makers Company, she also works with a wide range of Theatre and Arts Practitioners developing research opportunities in areas such as Social Change, Critical Pedagogy and Mental Well-being.

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