Enriching the learning experience

The programme will culminate on November 20, at Environmental Story Fest, an event where the children will perform their stories publicly as part of Universal Day of Children celebrations.

Project AWARE is now in its second year and is the brainchild of Culture House, an arts education centre based in Portof- Spain. Speaking at the launch on March 21 at the Arima Public Library, which was timed to coincide with the celebration of International Day of Forests, Theodora Ulerie, a theatre arts practitioner and the centre’s creative director, said the project aimed to “enliven and enrich the learning experience” of the children taking part. She said Culture House had, since 1999, developed an approach called Learning Through the Arts (LTA) to work with students.

“It is a methodology and a practice that utilises the arts and culture for active learning with a focus on the needs of the target group,” she said. “In this case it is to engender and instill in the children not only a desire to come forward in November at Environmental Story Fest and tell a great story, but it is to nurture in them a love for storytelling which we see as a dying art.” Bemoaning the lack of arts and culture education in schools, Ulerie stated: “To overhaul the education system is nigh impossible.

What we would want to do is pitch light into a dark system because from our research, there is not a lot of creativity happening in schools.” Brian Brooks, principal of Arima Boys’ Roman Catholic School, one of the participating schools, welcomed the initiative and said his school had for a number of years “embraced the visual and performing arts, the creative arts generally and culture as being an integral part of delivering the curriculum.” He said memories of engaging in the creative arts and sport were often what stayed vividly in people’s minds after they had left school.

He added: “For me it was in 1970 when I had the opportunity to represent the very school I am principal of now at the Music Festival as a member of the then choir. “We came first in our category and later we were featured on 12 and Under with the late, great Aunty Hazel Ward.” Explaining why Culture House had focused on the environment, the organisation’s director Shabaka Thompson said: “We have a responsibility to make sure our environment is secure and the same way we met it and benefited from it, we leave it [for] our children and children’s children to benefit also.” Cheryl Quamina-Baptiste, librarian III, on behalf of the National Library and Information Systems (Nalis) applauded the work of Culture House. She said staff at NALIS “strongly believe that information, oral tradition and empowering persons to make informed decisions are all critical to our existence and way forward as a nation. Republic Bank, the sole sponsor of Project AWARE since its inception in 2015, will be donating $2,000 to each participating school. Senior manager in the IT Management Division Marlon Persad said the project’s vision worked well with the social mandate of the bank.

He said: “When we learned of what (Culture House) wanted to do, how they wanted to power up the national conversation starting from perhaps the most invaluable resource of all — the youth — we knew this was a project worth our investment.”

Persad said it was easy to feel “dismayed” when one considered the myriad problems facing the environment such as deforestation, destruction of eco-systems and mismanagement of water and other resources. However, he advised that people should look at “the big picture” to chart a way forward.

“The big picture when it comes to environmental awareness must take into account two things: First, how we are going to change prevailing attitudes that have brought us to this state; and secondly, the roles and roads to change must get complete buy-in from future generations if they are to fully understand their role in bucking the trend.” Students and teachers from the majority of participating schools attended a Rise N Shine workshop after the launch where they learned the rudiments of storytelling.

Culture House facilitators will be visiting the schools in the coming months to continue the work started at the launch.

The schools taking part in Project AWARE are:
* Good Shepherd Anglican School, Tunapuna
* St Xavier’s Private School
* St Joseph TML School
* St Joseph Government Primary School
* Arouca Anglican School
* San Juan Presbyterian School
* Atwell’s Educational Institute, Trincity
* Arima Boys’ RC School
* Tunapuna Government Primary School
* Aranguez Hindu School

Forthcoming events in the project include:

* World Earth Day Celebrations on April 22 at Tunapuna Hindu Primary School
* The Inner Self: Spoken Word for the Environment, an evening or oral traditions, on June 5 at the University Inn and Conference Centre, St Augustine
* Teachers’ Workshop on Disaster Preparedness on September 8 at UWI Learning Resource Centre, St Augustine
* Environmental Story Fest November 20 at Republic Bank Exodus Pan Theatre, Tunapuna.


"Enriching the learning experience"

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