When a High School classroom becomes a theater play

Fundació Catalunya Voluntaria and Artixoc, with the support of the Spanish network of the Anna Lindh Foundation, carry out the workshops ‘Turn your back on violence’ in a High School class and playground.

Playgrounds are the place where children and teenagers dream, play, grow and take a rest from their classes. But in Barcelona, a playground from a High School in the Sants-Montjuic district, also becomes a special ‘experiment’. Students can improve competencies like expressing themselves in a non-violent way or active listening through different activities.

On the other hand, the classroom of students will become a theater play, while creating spaces to put into practice pedagogical tools that are based on creativity and free expression, as well as on the interests, experiences and teamwork capacity of the students.

The activity takes place between the months of February and May 2021 in a center of high complexity for 24 hours in total, and will allow discovering and recognizing relevant aspects of communication, acting, knowledge of the self and one’s own emotions, words, gestures and feelings, with the aim of focusing on how to develop the skills to express oneself in a non-violent way, listen actively, communicate peacefully and prevent and manage conflict situations. This will help the participants to have more resources to prevent violence and fight against the various forms of discrimination and bullying, inside and outside the classroom.

“The interesting part is that the initiative implies different ways to learn, communicate, and different competencies. Knowledge and abilities are not the same. Nowadays, it is possible to learn in a creative way. In their case, it implies commenting and receiving comments in a non-violent way, or being able to take the initiative”, Lluc Martí, Project Manager in Fundació Catalunya Voluntària, who is in charge of a part of the program, explains.

So far, the students have done activities in the playground to work on specific attitudes. “For example, active listening, which was one of the fields were the participants had more problems with. They were placed in partners and they had to play: they had to listen to their partner with a percentage of active listening (20, 50, 80 or 100%) and after they also had to guess the percentage of active listening of their partner”, Martí exemplifies.

Scenes that become a mirror of daily violence

With the coronavirus pandemic, there has been an increase in the violent attitudes of a part of the students. More and more children are victims of hate, bullying, and violence online because of the coronavirus pandemic, a new United Nations report said. But violence sometimes also takes place in homes. According to the experts, without access to the support networks such as educators, friends and extended families, students usually find at school, some children have been stranded in abusive homes with no place to turn for help as schools are locked down to control the spread of the coronavirus.

Playgrounds have also become on of the main sources of violence among students.“We realized with some High School teachers that in the playground there was more violence than usually. The fact that students have to always be in bubbles was not good in their daily life”, Àgia Luna, director of Artixoc and responsible of the theater part of the activity, explains. Artixoc is an NGO from Barcelona that uses art as a tool for education and social transformation.

This activity becomes an antidote to prevent and fight violence among students and to raise awareness. The goal is that the scenes that the students create become a mirror of the violence they experience. “The theater scene that the students from 4th of ESO (who are 15-16 years old), will record will be about daily violence, that they live, abuses on social network, in the playground or even outside form the school”, Luna states.

The students will film the scenes they create with their phones and the best will be selected and translated. “With this activity, students will also learn to act, public speaking without being too shy, emotional intelligence… it helps them grow”, Luna adds.

An international perspective

Oncecompleted, the results of the initiative will be presented in Belgium and Morocco. The workshops are part of the initiative of the Spanish network of the Anna Lindh Foundation (European Institute of the Mediterranean) entitled ‘Educate in Diversity-Building Citizenship’.
The initiative has the collaboration of the entity Mediterranean Editors and Translators, which will edit the digital pedagogical dossier with the lessons learned from the workshops and will translate the videos into different languages, collaborating in the dissemination of the activity.

The workshops are part of an exchange of experiences and practices with other similar initiatives taking place in Belgium and Morocco. Their results will be presented in an international event in Safi (Morocco) in June 2021. The videos and plays done by the students will be shown, and the participants will encourage other educational centers and youth organizations to carry out the activity.

“Acting is so much more real than life”

The poet and playwriter Oscar Wilde said “I love acting. It is so much more real than life.” Theater allows us to create other worlds, but it also can become an accurate radiography of our own world. ‘Turn your back on violence’ will help the students to use their imagination, but it will also allow them to reflect on their life and on their actions, and to become active citizens to improve the world they are surrounded by.

Laura Andrés Tallardà

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