This past winter term I conducted nine two hour sessions, once a week, with a highly creative, enthusiastic & energetic group of twelve Grade Three to Grade Six youth.
Each session we explored materials and/or form: traditional (meaning rooted in the oral ways) storytelling, shadow plays, puppets, masks & fabric, hoop dancing, ribbons, creating a scene and playmaking.
For our last session we returned to the source. I invited each to bring a story. It is a sign of the times that the youngest brought her self composed story on an iPod. The most intriguing "story" was scratched on a six inch diameter round clay circle wrapped in tinfoil displaying the story through pictograph. She called it a badge. (The shape was similiar to the picture though her scratching was not a natural representation. This was an art/social studies school project. Kudos to her teacher!)
I was reminded of ancient Babylonia and the story of Gilgamish told in cuneiform.
It shared the story of Treaty Six.
"Treaty 6 is an agreement between the Canadian monarch and the Plain and Wood Cree Indians and other tribes of Indians at Fort Carlton, Fort Pitt and Battle River. The area agreed upon by the Plain and Wood Cree represents most of the central area of the current provinces of Saskatchewan and Alberta." (Wikipedia)
As the session progressed. We acted out each story, directed by the author. Two of the participants had rather long, developed stories. We divided into groups working & sharing the stories. Finally we arrived at Treaty Six.
The characters were the sun, the river, the grasses, the axe, the First Nations & The Europeans. I narrated the story. The children chose roles and began to add dialogue. I was informed First Nations believed nature were spirits and thus could also talk as well as make sounds. They wanted to repeat the story over and over again, switching roles each time adding their own personal touches. Europeans spoke in English or German accents. "Tansi", the Cree greeting was introduced. I slipped to the background when they took over the narration.
Although we moved on to another story they played out Treaty Six as the first parent arrived and wanted to do it again with the arrival of each parent.
Drawing depicting the Treaty Six signing site.
It was a remarkable completion of our time together. I rarely planned the sessions beyond bringing materials. I wanted them to explore and honor their own desires. This was not "school" but a time out of time for them to play. A time for me to listen to their creativity.
There was chaos & anarchy, at least from my perspective, though they always seemed to know what was going on and they mostly followed my interjections quite happily even when it curbed their excitement.
I developed a listening and shaped the "moments" of reflection. I believe we had incredible fun. I did.
I wish to thank all, especially Tara who assisted me with an intuitive sense of play and wisdom. She was involved in high school productions I supervised, was a first year student in my drama in education class, is now in my acting class at the drama department and will be completing her internship next year. The future of education cannot be in more capable hands.
:: Note :: ... it has been two years for these community association sessions ... they have taught me much ... many thanks to the parents, organizers and school caretaker for their support ... just a reminder I was promised some of the stories would be sent to me ...