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“The Beginning of Spring” Kids Drama Project helps children cope with the Covid-19 isolation

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The world we know ground to a halt in 2020 due to the Coronavirus outbreak. As the calamity has unfolded, it has revealed contrasting and otherwise hidden facets of our world: heroic and mean, splendid and sordid, infinitely beautiful and extremely hideous. We are experiencing the world as never before, and this is especially intense and frightening for children. All of a sudden, the comforting rhythms and routines of daily life have been replaced with uncertainty and alienation. Everybody is forced to self-isolate; schools are shut down; children cannot go outside and are unable to socialize. The powerlessness and depression caused by social isolation not only affect adults but also may leave lasting psychological scars in children. In the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, how can we prevent our children from being traumatized? How can we reassure them at a time when many adults are themselves grasping for answers?

In February 2020, a Children’s Drama Project entitled “The Beginning of Spring – A Micro Theatre” was jointly launched by Nishan Furen College, Yichen Drama Education Group, and GuruBear Picture Book Publishing Group in China. Prof. KANG Changyun, the Chairman of Nishan Furen College, initiated the project to help children cope with the Covid-19 isolation and empower them to share their voices after lockdown was declared in China. Consisting of four videos, “To combat the pandemic, we want to say” (poems, songs and paintings), “Ten soul-touching pictures seen through children’s eyes” (quotations and images), “Stay at Home: Dad, Mom and Kids” (playlets), and “Lung Protection Campaign” (informative show), the project shows how children can take action to help overcome this global challenge. Children are the most vulnerable group we need to protect from the long-term impacts of the pandemic. Yet they also have enormous potential to help the adults around them who may suffer from illness and anguish during this difficult time. “The Beginning of Spring” project is a manifestation of this potential.

Children quarantined in different cities remotely delivered all of the narratives, performances, music and illustrations for these plays. Production was coordinated virtually by the three launching institutions. The project comprises the following four plays:
 
1. To combat the pandemic, we want to say
 
“To combat the pandemic, we want to say” is the first video of “The Beginning of Spring” children’s drama project. The video contains a montage of thoughts and wishes from children from different parts of the world, including China, Singapore and Canada. In the video, the children pay tribute by reading poems and singing songs dedicated to doctors, nurses, patients, cashiers, cleaners, construction workers and all the people working at the frontline against the coronavirus. The video aims to teach children how to show appreciation and express gratitude for frontline workers, healthcare heroines and heroes, first responders and essential workers. As mentioned in the video, “We isolate the virus, but we don’t isolate love. Being apart doesn’t mean you are alone.” No winter lasts forever; no spring skips its turn. Coronavirus is unprecedented in our lifetimes, but we will finally get through it.

Click here to watch the video: https://mp.weixin.qq.com/s/dnwxY670_e8YEPSRsvf2bQ

2. Ten soul-touching pictures seen through children’s eyes
 
The second video is a selection of images and texts reflecting children’s reactions when they see photos of health workers working at the frontline of the Covid-19 pandemic. When the coronavirus first hit China, the epidemic was contained thanks to the heroic efforts of doctors in the epicenter, Wuhan. Doctors and nurses devoted their time, risked their health, and some even sacrificed their lives. The following are some quotations expressing children’s feelings when they see the photos of those frontline healthcare workers.

“I see a doctor crying in the picture. I want to give him a hug, and tell him not to be afraid.”

“They can only rest when they eat. I wonder how long have they been away from home? I would like to treat them to my mom’s soup so they can feel better, at least not too tired.”

“I asked my mom why these young doctors and nurses shaved their heads? Mom said because they need to save time in order to save more lives. I really don’t want to cut my hair. So, I think they are really great and respectful.”

“They are ordinary people, but they are doing extraordinary work.”

Click here to watch the video: https://mp.weixin.qq.com/s/IWEnlZ-ycY9l3U1YUBW91w
 
3. Stay at home: Dad, Mom and Kids
 
This video is composed of five separate playlets, self-directed and performed by five families to reflect their experience of staying at home in quarantine. The five short plays are “Understanding forever”, “Fighting against the monster ‘Nian’”, “Suspiciousness”, “Scrambling for the TV remote control”, and “Him/her and I – the story of distance learning”. Each play is based on an inspiring idea from a child that mirrors what they have been going through, and is intended to help others understand this new reality and its challenges, especially isolation, restrictions, suspicion and academic pressure. Due to the constraints of confinement, it was not possible to have onsite guidance, professional photography and lighting, or scenic design for these playlets. Nonetheless, the original screenplays written by kids, and with supportive parents performing the roles, express optimism and passion for life.

Click here to watch the video: https://mp.weixin.qq.com/s/L7PwCoU9-ZveyeHalt813w
 
4. Lung Protection Campaign

“Lung Protection Campaign” is an informative show depicting how the coronavirus has disrupted our normal lives, and explaining how to protect our lungs from infection. In this video, children address the importance of taking care of your lungs during confinement through illustrations of personal protective equipment (masks, sanitizer, and coverall) and safety measures like washing hands and disinfecting the home. This 10-minute video was created by an all-children team. Thirty-six children aged between 5 and 12 collectively designed the show, wrote the scripts, drew the visual illustrations and recorded the voiceovers. Teachers and tutors from Yichen Drama School and GuruBear Picture Book Publishing provided children with technical guidance. Nishan Furen College edited the video.

Click here to watch the video: https://mp.weixin.qq.com/s/-dRYbw2GAXDU6ZQ1i_sSGg
 
Childhood has its own seeing, thinking and feeling. The Children’s Drama Project demonstrates the potential of children to use the art language in a magnificent way. For educators and professionals interested in education, this is yet another proof that children are capable of dealing with complex, painful and unknown issues, like the Covid-19 isolation, with an intelligence and sensitivity that can be more creative and inspiring to that of adults.