Girls Day July 2012

How hard is it to be open to a new idea?  15 girls came together to experiment with Haydee Jimenez and I about gender, the environment, spirituality, education and their hopes and wishes for the future.  Since we are living a landscape that is fast and furious where information is consumed and then regurgitated out again, we wanted to give them the opportunity to experiment like the like Dada artists did, being able to take back the means to production and re-produce in simple and effective ways using paper, poetry, sound and theatre to understand the world around them.  Since there are many different ways to learn, the girls had the benefit of two facilitators with different skills to take them through a creative learning process. 
    The first day after empowering their bodies, hearts and minds through Augusto Boal games.  We took them through some images that are seen in the media and asked them in small groups if these images respected or disrespected girls.  (see slide-show) In dialogue with each other and then to the whole group they expressed their opinions of how they would change things and how they many times the media tries to not only sell useless products, but also how it is actually selling girls and women to each other. 
     After they had critiqued the media we introduced them to the idea of paper collage by making a mini Zine.  By using different kinds of colored paper and cut-up techniques from old fashion and art magazines, they created zines that they wanted to read, not banal information to be passively consumed. 
     We took them through time to different Austrian and German women throughout history to present day  as a time-line spread out across the room they were able to see that there are women who have overcome challenges to contribute greatly in the world to the benefit of many other people.
     On day two they brought in photos and objects that they felt were important for them.  ‘Who am I? What do I value?’  This photo elicitation exercise is a site of negotiation for meaning-making and construction of self.  In their groups they introduced their object, news paper clipping or picture.   
“If students are not able to transform their lived experience into knowledge and to use the already acquired knowledge as a process to unveil new knowledge, they will never be able to participate rigorously in a dialogue as a process of learning and knowing” (p. 19).
Layered like a collage, constructed and juxtaposed piece by piece, everything a girl values is a layer in her own self-portrait, and a mirror in which to view herself. Her particular way of seeing the world, her valued aspects of identity, and her part in cultural processes, clues about these things are conveyed through the content of the photographs and what the children have to say about them.  Description of their own lives and to emphasize their roles in society and culture. The girls asked questions so that they could elicit the reasons why they chose these pictures or object.  The main point was that the girls got to know things about each other`s intrinsic aspects of their lives, not the actual objects or pictures themselves.  This formed the basis for themselves and how they wanted to see themselves in the future in relation to their environment. This was largely based on how and what they valued to construct their sense of selves.  This was to form the basis of the "I am" poem that enabled the girls to go express these values and feelings in a creative way.

     We continued with onto sound experiments, to get them thinking about thoughts and emotions as sound. We took up Augusto Boal`s games, all the participants clustered in a group and one person came out and stood in front of them.  The group made sounds, using their names changing the volume according to how near or to how far away from them the single participant was.  When the ´volume-control` participant is far away, the group gets louder and when they are close, they get quieter.  The girls could move anywhere she liked around the room.  The aim was so that the girls communicate a thought or emotion to the each other, not just making noise.  This was combined with rhythm games before we went outside into the open-air of Mirabell garden and scouted for sounds.  These sounds were under the rubric of themes that we had been exploring such as families and gender: where they recorded babies crying, boys and girls excitedly playing carefree in the playground, the sounds of slides and swings; for the environment, they recorded sounds of rubbish-plastic bottles being stepped upon under foot, plastic or paper bags blowing in the wind, cans and bottles being thrown away, paper being crumpled as well the leaves rustling under foot and the birds above them. For education they followed school groups around and captured how they the students and teachers interacted with each other--their senses awakened and they opened their ears to life all around them.
    Entering back into the enclosed room after lunch they seemed calmed, more relaxed and focused.  We entered into a very personal "I am" poem  they made a mini zine which they put their "I am " poem into which expressed their hopes and fears not only about themselves, but also the world around them.  They experimented with adjectives both negatives and positive to help them construct their poem around their values.  This poem can be used as a form of a diary so that when you do another one in years to come you can see not only how you have changed, but also the world around you and how you have shaped or been shaped by your future.

    Finally we went out into the gardens and experimented with the themes through image theatre.  One group chose to show passive banking-style education in comparison with dialogical education full of hope and meaning. Another group chose to show a parody of girls who only consumed the media, who picked at each others clothes and only spoke to each other through pop songs and words that they did not understand, but reproduced passively word for word--a real satire, at such a young age!  There was a group who explored the theme of spirituality through image theatre and decided to show mediation and asked the question: Does Meditation have to be quiet?  Can music be meditation?
 Two girls in another group expressed their concerns of climate change and weather turbulence, (especially since as I write this, it is July and has been raining and cold all day, when in April we had over 75 degrees).  They began by being wrapped up in coats and scarves only to go to the other extreme where they had to take off their over garments down to their t-shirts and were drinking fruit cocktails to keep cool.  These themes engaged them both at the personal and social level and they were able to express their concerns and opinions in a creative and fun way.  
    On the last day the girls started to set-up an exhibition that was a collage of yarn strung in the inner courtyard of a Stadtsalzburg government building of the objects, words, zines, themes, pictures from their creative explorations.  They performed their image theatre in miniature episodes, continuing the Dada form...Haydee had put together all their sound collage and as they performed they where filmed so that their sound collage will be the base of their soundtrack for this film. 
  Not needed to heavily explain these issues of concern this workshop gave the girls an access point to pertinent themes to our times, not only to explore them, but also to give us suggestions too.  Let`s hope we are given more chances to get activated into critical action through these transformational workshops, then maybe there is some hope that we can reach our wishes for the future.