Fun in the jungle...
In early May I was back in Singapore for a week to contribute to writing a curriculum for the ground breaking Camp Mosaic Program. With seven other education, research and creative professionals from backgrounds as varied as Neuro-Science to Opera singing, Engineering to Leadership Management and Architecture we collectively built a week long program for 8-12 year old kids that teaches "heart-centered" creative techniques leading to new innovative strategies and non-linear thinking. Camp Mosaic created this program to offer kids additional learning opportunities beyond the standard scientific and mathematical focused course work typical in most of Asia.
The short camp-like program will run during holiday periods when kids are not in regular school. Content is tied across four disciplines of art, music, creative writing and drama through "awareness of our inner and outer universe".
After two days of internal planning and theoretic activities, led in half day blocks by each of the primary curriculum contributors, we ran a mock Earthaware program with the team, out in the jungle, hot, sticky, sweaty and covered in vegetation and buzzing bugs at the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve next to the historic Singapore Quarry and Dairy Farm.
We wanted to run the team through the standard hands-on Earthaware process of discuss, draw, gather, clean, form, skin, adorn, story, song and present so we ran the experiment at two levels: on the analysis and educator level and on the experiential level of the child going through the program.
The first step is to identify what we "think" we want to create. We started drawing basic shapes on scrap paper while talking and chatting about form, relevance of topic, interest to children and the like. We quite quickly arrived at using the Singapore national mascot, the "Merlion" (bottom half is a fish and top is a lion) as our pet project form to create. We sketched the Merlion and broke it down into its component parts: head, torso, fins and base to stand upon. We discussed the symbology and grandeur of the form and the meaning in Singapore history and as a modern day mascot. We took away an understanding of how the selection process is in itself a lesson on awareness and sensitivity to historical and current values.
Then we hiked into the Singapore jungle, into the humid, chirping, dripping forest... the base is mostly sand and the thick vegetation is mostly no more than 10 meters high.
first order of business in an equator adjacent jungle is beating trees with sticks to scare off pythons and cobras (not joking). Next comes trimming flexible branches and vines which seem to grow back as soon as we take them. Our materials gathering encompasses both organic and manmade items, branches and trash are transported out of the forest by piling them up and dragging them on a trusty old sheet back to our assembly area. Sad to say that as in most of the rest of the world there is far too much human fabricated and discarded synthetic material sitting in plain sight and buried under the jungle growth. This is so common everywhere on the planet by now that the sight softens in its ability to shock... a matter which is beyond shocking itself. Since it exists in nature now we gather the trash alongside the beauty of natures bounty. During an Earthaware program the discussion of what belongs in nature and what does not begins at this stage.
Next we follow the standard Earthaware procedures of cleaning the materials and removing and sharp or dangerous parts. We forming the sturdier items into a frame or skeleton of our Merlion binding the joints with bio-degradable masking tape we had brought and wire that we had found.
A family with two daughters passed by as we were working and asked if they could help: of course! They pitched right in and began weaving leaves onto the skeleton, the skinning phase had begun. Children take to the weaving stage immediately and with little need for instruction. On this day the big brained adults needed far more explanation than the randomly passing children.
Using the balance of the colored leaves plus some plastic items our Merlion took form. We set it in front of an impressive large leaf about two meters tall to command importance amongst the squawking forest birds and monkeys and we were done!
Fun was had by all! During the day we covered the sequence of a basic Earthaware program and its place in the Camp Mosaic curriculum was established. We took our Merlion back out into the jungle, removed the plastic and trash elements for recycling and left the organics to be reclaimed by the forest.
The Camp Mosaic team will reassemble in Singapore in the fall of 2012 to run the full curriculum in a test manner then again in December for the real deal with 120 kids over two weeks of back to back week long Camp Mosaic events.