Paper theatre in three acts

As one of the beneficiaries of our “Education for the Future” grant, we supported Igazgyöngy Foundation’s Paper Theather project so that children aged 5-10 attending Toldi Tanoda could playfully get closer to comprehensive reading via storytelling and illustration.

We inteviewed Máté Lencse, the leader of  Toldi Tanoda about the successful implementation of this project and their experiences and challenges they have faced over 2020.

How has the fate of the Paper Theatre project evolved afterall in 2020?

We were able to redesign the project in the spring, which helped us to complete it successfully. Our goal with Paper Theater was for participating children and adults to use a tool that promotes text creation through creative activity. They had to illustrate and present their own text, thus interpreting their writing multiple times. On the go, they may have experienced that this is a process in which they feel comfortable. According to the plan, we would have finished the tale of the lower and upper tenses in the second week of March, and started writing the third Toldi tale with the parents.

We also tried to provide safe conditions for the children in the epidemic situation. We gradually began to move into the online space, adapting to the changed situation. Both the bigger and the smaller ones managed to compile the pieces of fairy tales already created within the framework of a group-video session.

With the little ones, we combine the fairy tale elements with situational acting, hiding in the skin of the dreamed characters, dialogue improvisation, online dialogue writing. We studied the previously written excerpts in a google document shared with the bigger ones with a more serious, multi-handed technique, and then – like a puzzle – we stapled the story together. The storytelling with the adults took place entirely online, through several group sessions, with persistent excitement and dedication throughout. Thanks to this, we also wrote two stories with them, a real magic tale full of known motifs, creatures and twists.

In the second creative phase, which were during the summer camps, the illustration of the tales was made, led by the teachers of the art school. All three groups formed self-forgetfully and in a good mood: first we dealt with the puppets, then we drew backgrounds, colored them together, and the additional elements were produced We made our debut at the Toldi Kindergarten with the little ones, and the grateful audience thanked our stage presence with a huge applause. We were in the second summer camp with the superiors: we seasoned the puppetry with a short film, which we performed in a sold-out premiere at the House of Culture. The tale written by adults was also filmed in the first weeks of autumn. Unfortunately, due to the evolution of the epidemic situation, the participants could only receive this as a recording.

The greatest beauty of the Paper Theater project is that all three tales, with all the backgrounds and puppets and frames, reach every family in rotation, so that families can use it at home, freely, for free play – this is how the tales go on.

The tasks of everyday life are very demanding, especially during Covid-19. How did this affect Toldi Tanoda?

Like all civil society organizations, we have been unprepared for the crisis. Fortunately, the team has several engines, we have consistently supported and will support each other in this situation that requires unprecedented effort.

Unfortunately, the spring period was characterized by unpreparedness for digital education, lack of competencies and support for digital education. We managed to provide resources for most disadvantaged children, however, we were unable to complete the entire development process. Fortunately, the joy of seeing each other again in the summer camps was able to make us forget the hardships of spring to some extent.

We have the tools, but we can’t prepare for the unexpected, unpredictable situation in the new school year. The goals so far need to be reviewed, new goals need to be found adapted to the autumn situation, which we can achieve on the digital platform if necessary.

It is not a question of funding and human resources for us to operate; rather, the question is, in September 2021, if we get back into the normal education system, what will we experience. Many children now suffer harm that the education system cannot compensate for. The most difficult situation is for the institution changers: for example, who go to school from the kindergarten or who are now seniors, but could not finish the primary school improvements.

Switching from classroom education to digital education, or back, makes the system completely opaque. Children and educators also need to be together and shake back. It’s unpredictable what tomorrow will bring, what to prepare for. In this uncertainty, it is very difficult to do real pedagogical work. Disadvantaged and cumulatively disadvantaged children are exponentially affected by this dubious situation.

We’ve seen that fully digital education isn’t our strength, and while we’ve been working on it a lot in recent months, we’re also working to improve children’s digital competence and use of tools, we want to keep in touch for as long as possible. We have no idea what this means for as long as possible, so we work week after week.

Who, how many stakeholders can you help through your programmes?

Told is a small village of 300 souls. Under normal circumstances, 70-80 people visit our various programs on a weekly, fortnightly basis, through which we also reach the family members of the participants. In this way, we can have a significant impact on the entire community.

Our baby-mama club is visited by parents who come with their children aged 0-3. At the Kindergarden Club we have a school preparation program for small and large groups of preschoolers. The classic classroom is open to children aged 6-18, and for parents we hold a parent club on topics that affect children regularly.