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Day 1 - Text : Planet Puppet

I am working as 1 of the 4 artists on this project. I am collaborating with the hospital play specialist on a children`s ward in a regional hospital, working from the playroom and on the wards at the bedside. In the future, the other 3 artists and myself will be able to connect via the internet (webcam, text chat, and a multi-media journal). We will be working in different parts of the country, but on same days of the week to facilitate link-ups and exchange. I have started the project a little earlier, so today I focussed on the use of video to create and share stories with the puppet characters the children devised. The short videos will be edited and uploaded on the secure hospital website ait eile, for other children to enjoy. The project`s theme is intercultural dialogue. To address this theme and the wider theme of health and well-being, I introduced the concept of perspective to the children today. One of the magic elements of puppetry for me, is that it exercises the imagination to see things other than what they are. Puppets provide an insight into alternative realities and ways of seeing, and encourage flexible thinking. So today, with a group of 4 children in the playroom, I began the session by setting a scene in outer-space using a prop sun (a torch with a translucent sun attached) animated by a child and prop planets made of Crayola Model Magic (or also known as AirDough). I told a very brief story-description of each of the 3 make believe planets, to provide an imaginative frame-work to the following making activity. Each child then imagined and created their own small planet. The playroom can be a busy place, with both day patients and overnight patients. It is therefore a transient environment where children arrive and depart during the workshop activity. The play specialist worked alongside those children who arrived a bit later. This allowed me to continue progressing the creative work of those who had already started earlier. After making the planets, we began to imagine who lived on each planet. Who would we meet if we imagined traveling to and landing on the planet? I had prepared a large, rotating globe (a paper lantern painted in white acrylic) as a stage or platform to build sets onto, and eventually perform stories from. Trying to record the children`s performances in the busy playroom proved noisy. With the suggestion of the play specialist, next week we will use an office space as a `recording studio` which will eliminate the background sound. Part of my aim for the day was to begin building an alternative universe from the children`s small planets, and to leave this as a hanging display in the playroom. I hoped that, as the children were making puppets and sets, as well as their planets, they might be happy to leave them behind. I was wrong however, and they wished to take everything back to their rooms with them. I have taken photos of all the planets, and will use these as a basis to make a mobile in the playroom, in order to share each planet`s story with next week`s children. (I am working in an acute hospital, and therefore each week I am likely to meet new children, although there will be some repeat patients.) The videos and photographs taken today will be uploaded onto a media journal designed by the Centre for Health and Informatics and available to view by the other hospitals and their children on the aiteile.ie network. I will also upload some photos and video to practice.ie tomorrow.

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