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    Cultural Vehicles in Education - assisting the needs of vulnerable social groups

    o.s. VzŠjemnť souĺitŪ ( Life Together)

    30th April 2008

    The participants have realised that it is important to create one more chapter to the incurred story for its dramatisation. They were discussing the options and suggesting the possible chapter to the story. However, many of the participants due to low self-esteem and lack of confidence in their abilities did not want to reveal their ideas. We were trying to support them and motivate to overcome their restraints. Finally, they managed to add the part of the story so that we created integrated and comprehensive story that served as a supply package to the screenplay. While working with the participants we always try to create familiar and secure environment with friendly ambiance. Since we realised how hard it is for Roma to express the emotions aloud, we added the video projection to one of the blocks. The documentary was to inspire the participants to express their feelings; nevertheless, that was too difficult task for them. They had not been used to being asked about their emotions, comments or opinions, so they felt very insecure about that.

    The artistic element (singing and dancing) that we would like to interleave .with the performance are essential for the participants because art helps them express not only their individual feelings but also Roma culture, traditions and history in general. The on stage activities helped the participants improve their communication ability. Communication, especially in the Czech language is one of the features the participants really need to work on the most. They have problems expressing themselves in the Czech language. Some of the words are so difficult to the Roma that they cannot even pronounce them. For this reason the participants prefer to communicate in their mother tongue, which means Roma language.

    We have been supporting the creative spirit in the participants. This has really paid off and the participants have been creating choreography to the Roma dances for individual scenes of the performance. In spite of the problem participants have faced with expressing their feelings verbally, they have been mastered putting their soul and emotions into the music. To memorize the individual scenes is really a difficult task for these actors so we have been trying to do a lot of rehearsals. On these sessions the actors rehearse the entire scene including the accompanying dance steps. We always rehearse the newly learned as well as the older dance creations. With the help of music - dancing and singing, the participants are able to forget their daily worries and they are able to relax their body and spirit.

    Another wish of the participants was to present traditional Roma cuisine to the majority. Therefore, we have been collecting and writing recipes of interesting dishes the participants and their families would recommend. The group discussed not only Roma cuisine but also traditional Czech food recipes. One of the tools used at the workshop were cookbooks, which helped the participants learn many non-traditional recipes and brought up an inspiration to their households.. Very important workshop of the cooking block was the one that took place in the pc room because the participants got introduced to the computer and learned simple operations with PC and the program Microsoft Word. Due to the fact that all the participants have only primary education, typing of the individual recipes was very problematic and challenging task for them. Mostly, they needed help of the instructors, mainly with the Czech grammar and punctuation. While retyping the recipes we encountered another problem with the participants and that was inability to use Roma language in writing (Roma language is based on tradition and is cherished and passed on from generation to generation only in its oral form). This brought us to the idea for the future - to open a Roma language course.

    The computer basics the participants learn while creating Roma cookbook will be very helpful for their future. Among others, the computer literacy will help reduce their social barriers and exclusion. In fact, most of them are planning to continue learning more about the computer in the future, which we consider as a great progress in the group of hard learners.

    Describe main activities at this state of the project:

    1. Creating one more chapter to the story ( May 2nd 2008)
    2. Cookbook (May 5th.2008)
    3. Cookbook (May 9th.2008)
    4. Artistic elements (May 12th.2008)
    5. Cookbook (May 19th 2008)
    6. Artistic features (May 22nd 2008)
    7. Artistic features (May 23rd 2008)
    8. Cookbook (May 28th 2008)
    9. Cookbook ( May 30th 2008)
    10. Cultural and artistic activities ( June 13th 2008)
    11. Choreography to the Roma dance (June 19th 2008)
    12. Rehearsal of newly created dance ( June 20th 2008)
    13. Improvisation of theatre environment ( June 23th 2008)

    Please describe any problems or difficulties at this stage of the project and the actions taken to overcome them

    We are still unable to increase social abilities of some of the participants. We believe that the main reason is the language barrier (many of them know only basic Czech language) that makes the communication rather difficult.Many of the participants were only observing the activities and did not want to join, nevertheless as they have been getting acquainted with the workshops, the team mates and the instructors the situation has improved. Still , we have really diverse characters in the group . Some of the people got comfortable right the way and some are very cautious even when participating in the activities.

    Some of the people enjoyed the activities but were not used to think of their own ideas. For example when they realized that they were to create a story on their own they felt somehow ambivalent and listened to others expressing their ideas at the beginning, Later on their started to get engaged in the conversation but still obviously being very nervous and tentative while revealing their ideas.

    In what way did the educational and artistic activities interact? Please give some specific examples

    Theatre art prompted all the senses and uncovered hidden qualities of the participants. The participants have been slowly overcoming their restraints and engaging in the activities more and more. The method that we chose to teach the participants cause that the participants have been learning new things and developing their personalities in the entertaining way not even realizing that they are in the process of learning, They have been getting more and more creative able not only to think about the ideas but also using comprehensive way to present them to others.

    How did the arts-based educational activities help the participants to:
    a) acquire certain competences and skills
    b) facilitate knowledge assimilation (learning specific information)

    Please give some specific example

    The participants were developing their personalities, in particular:
    1. Cultural, social and civic competences were improved as well as communication in the mother tongue (Lisbon key competences no 1, 6 and 8).
    2. Expressive and theatrical skills - beneficiaries are able to express their feelings to the society more effectively (with the help of art)
    3. Self-esteem - the participants have believed in themselves and their abilities more and more during the course

    While working on creating Roma cookbook the participants have learned basics ® about the computer, typing and some features of the program Microsoft Word.

    Play rehearsals were very essential for development of the participants for many reasons. First of all, they were training their memory - ability to memorize , which is the most important feature in the educational process. The participants if simply asked to learn some load of material by heart they would definitely get discouraged and refused, but since they created the draft to the story themselves , they were actually eager to learn each their own part from the screenplay.All the activities taken so far have also contributed to the improvement of communication abilities. The participants learned how to express their opinion and ideas in a comprehensive way to others. Every session they felt more and more comfortable about speaking aloud. The key point was the performance in the public at Bielsko Biala. All our participants in spite of being nervous were able to perform at completely different place and for the people they had not met before. The singer Anna was the best one to prove this point because she did not panic even when due to the problems she had to sing without the guitars accompaniment. The attendees have been improving also verbal and written skills of the Czech language in particular. Since they live among all the Roma in the socially excluded neighborhood where they speak mostly Roma language, they do not use the Czech language as much. Realizing the progress they have been making in all the activities the participants have increased their self-esteem. Additionally, they are starting to realize the potential each of them could actually have with just a little effort. Even though they still have a long way to get from their social exclusion the activities certainly helped to put them on the right track. In the group of students - hard learners it is also essential to use supporting tools and material that would keep the attention of the participants. At this stage of the workshops we have used mainly video projection, PC and literature to facilitate the learning process.

    Please reflect on progress made by individual persons (for example, increased motivation of a reluctant learner or better social skills of a shy participant).

    The participants have been enjoying the course and are enthusiastic about engaging in the course activities.The workshops increased the self-esteem of the participants and as a result of this fact their motivation to learn. At this moment the group has 12 enlisted participants who have been enjoying all the activities. Very beneficial and essential is also the fact that Roma are very unified. That means that all of the participants talk about the workshops in their neighborhood , especially to their family and friends. Practically, the entire neighborhood knows about our workshops and people when hear about interesting upcoming session they come and join as well. It means that some workshops have even 18 or 20 attendees . We believe that this is very important because we have realized that our participants are valued in the community and have the power to possibly motivate others to possibly get involved somehow in the educational process.

    A great progress the participants have made was especially their ability to perform in front of others. They proved their increasing competency in Bielsko Biala where in spite of being nervous they were able to perform in completely different place and for the people they had not met before. The singer Anna even did not panic when due to the problems she had to sing without the guitar accompaniment in front of all the people.

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    The Bielskie Artistic Association Grodzki Theatre
    Premises - contact address: ul. Sempo≥owskiej 13, 43-300 Bielsko-Biala, Poland
    Office:ul.Sempo≥owskiej 13, 43-300 Bielsko-Biala, Poland ,
    Phone: +48 33 497 56 55, 496 52 19Fax: +48 33 497 56 55, mailto: