Children’s theatre adds a dash of life skills

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A new production at Patch Theatre Company is incorporating Flinders University expertise in tips for children to roll with the punches and be the best they can.

It’s not easy to fail and take criticism, but learning resilience and how to manage knockbacks is what our children need to thrive in uncertain times. Even from the early years of learning, these life skills will prepare young people to be more emotionally secure and also more successful in their education and the workforce, says Flinders Professor Martin Westwell, director of the Centre for Science Education for the 21st  Century (Science21) at Flinders University.

“We’re starting to think about resilience in other ways than general emotional resilience,” Professor Westwell says.

“As the future of work becomes more uncertain, we need to become more creative,  innovative and entrepreneurial which means taking risks, being curious, perhaps taking criticism and learning from our mistakes.”

In a novel marriage of the arts, science and academic pedagogy, Adelaide’s Patch Theatre Company has recruited Professor Westwell as ‘Scientist in Residence’ to work on the latest production for 4-8 year old children.

Called Yo Diddle Diddle, the show’s focus is on the nursery rhyme about the cow who stoically decides to jump over the moon, with mixed success.

The play, inspired by Tony Wilson and Laura Wood’s book, The Cow Tripped Over the Moon, opens at the Odeon Theatre at Norwood on Saturday 12 August and runs until 26 August. It will also be performed for schools and then goes on tour interstate. Public performances are on 12, 19 and 26 August. Audio described and Auslan performances for the blind and deaf community will be held on 18 and 19 August, and a ‘relaxed’ performance on 26 August will cater for children with autism, learning difficulties and sensory communication needs.

After the opening performance on 12 August, there will be a panel discussion on ‘Resilience, Arts and Parenting’ with Tony Wilson, Naomi Edwards and Professor Westwell. It will explore how theatre and storytelling can help develop resilience in children and parents.

Exploring the neuroscience of preschool and primary school children has been a fascinating experience for the cast, scriptwriter, director Naomi Edwards and Professor Westwell.

The unusual collaboration between the theatre-opera director at Patch and Cambridge University PhD in biochemistry will result in four works conceived in response to the challenges facing children growing up in today’s post-industrial, high-tech world.

Empathy (based on Can You Hear Colours?), Sustainability (Hive Mind) and Creativity (What Do You Do With An Idea) are other themes to be incorporated in future productions.

Patch Theatre Company artistic director Naomi Edwards says resilience is an important theme for children and the four themes “have a strong resonance within the early childhood context, and are essential capacities for a bright future”.

She says many schools and families are focusing on developing resilience in their children.

“By making a fun and magical theatrical experience, we also celebrate the importance of trying, brushing yourself off and finding a new way forward,” she says.

(Source: Flinders University)

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Date Created: August 21, 2017