Learning goals: Understanding visual symbolism; understanding how we are connected (i.e. everyone counts: diverse perspectives shape the world); engaging in team work whilst exploring creative individuality
Activities: Alternative national flag / Your piece of Sri Lanka
The first exercise was to draw an alternative national flag, in response to the prompt, “If there was no Sri Lankan national flag anymore, and you were tasked with creating one, how would you go about it?” (This week, we had to move the workshop to Sunday because of Independence Day, so it felt like an opportune moment to reflect on national identity!)
For the second exercise, we traced the Sri Lankan map on 9 sheets and gave each group one part, saying “This part is yours – what will you do with it? Put in your ideas what your Sri Lanka should be like.” When everyone was done, we put the map back together- there’s something about combining individual pieces into a larger image that makes for an interesting piece as well as excitement for the kids. It helps reflect on processes of taking things apart and putting them back together in ways that demonstrate the power of diversity.
Interesting projects: One of the kids drew a yellow flag, and there were four trees, and two hands in a handshake in the middle. The flag was red, yellow, and blue, with a green border. He explained that the four trees were symbols of the four religions, because trees are important, you find them everywhere. He included blue, because our country is an island and we depend on water, yellow because turmeric is used in food, red because it helps us understand danger, and green to signal land. The handshake symbolised unity.
Insights/surprises: Today’s workshop was almost three hours to give the kids plenty of time to work through all the activities, but they got pretty restless at the end of it – even though it feels short, two hours works best.
We try to do the activities alongside the students, and we found ourselves stuck for new ideas (while the kids had less trouble!). We wondered if our age, and being exposed to almost too much information, held us back from taking on a project as definitive as a national flag.
Also, spontaneous ideas work the best. We had other plans, but came up with this idea an hour before the workshop, and it worked really well.
Workshop feedback: Getting the chance to design the national flag, and see how others responded to the prompt, really gave the children food for thought and motivated them to think critically about current national symbols, as well as seeing how different ideas can come together, merged as a single landscape. They really appreciated each others’ artwork, often pointing to someone else’s work as their favourite.
Continuing challenges: The school lacks any murals or decorations, and we are planning a craft project in a future workshop that re-uses old bottles from a previous workshop as planters for lemongrass (which is a natural mosquito repellent), to be attached on a mesh wall. Firi has some seeds that will be ideal. It will brighten up the school, and teach students about about recycling and dengue prevention. We tried to create some suspense by telling the kids to keep the bottles (but not telling them what for!).