In June we got the great news that Rejig had been awarded funding from Future Screens NI to work on a ‘Rewriting the Narrative’ project which would give us the opportunity to try out our design thinking approaches in schools again. We partnered with Peter Worth, an educator and learning designer and our focus this time was on finding innovative ways to capture the stories of young people during the COVID-19 pandemic. We were incredibly excited about this project, considering it as a unique, once in a generation, opportunity to try to get a deeper understanding of the impact of the pandemic on young people. Back then we thought we would be delivering in a post-pandemic environment and designed our programme accordingly. Little did we realise just how apt the programme title would become as we soon came to repeatedly re-jig and re-design our offering in accordance with ever-shifting Covid restrictions.
Our first priority was to secure a partner school. Alistair Hamill, an educator with a deep interest in the development of resilient teaching strategies for blended learning was inspired by our unique approach and welcomed our programme for the students at Lurgan College. Spirits were high as we set to work on our programme design. We circumnavigated the zoomiverse as we discussed, debated, designed and developed an experiential programme delivery. Our aim was to introduce students to a diverse range of storytelling tools so we designed and developed four new physical tools focused on sensory stories, talking and listening and physically building stories. The realities of delivering midst-pandemic quickly hit home and words and phrases like - bubbling, social distance, quarantine of materials, masks, hand sanitizer, gloves, stay 2m apart, all became part of our language of delivery. These challenges, though testing, strengthened our adaptability and delivery output.
We had the amazing opportunity to work with the students and teachers over 3 live sessions, which allowed us to build trust, really get to know the students and observe how they interacted with our prototyped tools. Initially students were quiet, subdued and a bit uncertain about this “storytelling “ but our exercises quickly transformed the rooms and dissolved any nerves or shyness amongst the groups. Rich qualitative data emerged as the class openly shared and discussed their thoughts and feelings, exchanged stories about their experiences.
During the 3 sessions we flipped from online tools back to physical tools (which had been quarantined for 72 hours). The “old style” tools – post-its , sharpies and random materials all found their place again back in the hands of learners. This highlighted that in an age of technology there is very much still a space and place for traditional tools in the classroom. An additional lock down of schools delayed the final session in October so we actually built a fully online alternative version for remote delivery. A few days before delivery we were delighted to learn that it would be possible to deliver the final session in the school and we happily reverted back to the physical tools again.
During the programme we introduced the students to sensory story telling, alternative story telling modes from around the world, the fundamental building blocks of storytelling - ‘Talk, Build, Write’, and kinaesthetic ways to reflect on their stories. Students responded very positively to the tools and produced a multitude of narratives, understanding how each new tool pushed them to think a little deeper about their own story. Students were armed with the relevant storytelling toolkit required to ‘Climb Covid Mountain’, which is what we named our final tool.
Delivering in a school during Covid was both a privilege and a challenge. We confronted these new challenges head on with passion and determination and in the process learned a lot about our own established processes’ and ways of working. The resilience and flexibility of the faculty of Lurgan College inspired us greatly and we would like to take this opportunity to thank them, our funders , Future Screens NI, and the students who so generously shared their experiences and stories. It was the students’ curiosity, passion and willingness to experiment and learn which made this project a real privilege to be a part of and an incredibly exciting learning journey.
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Tel: 078 5460 4991