Continuation of What do our children need to know?
I came up with the idea back in 1997. I had been thinking over an idea for a little manuscript that I could use while teaching English. If I was to give you a dollar, could you turn it into ten dollars? That was the principle of my idea. Not in terms of money of course, but in terms of learning. And so came to be the basis for a play called “A Lesson in the Jungle.” Seven scenes that just like the dollar; would grow into ten dollars. I wrote the foundations for the play, leaving ample space for the pupils to add new lines and new ideas along the way. I placed before my pupils a one dollar play and let them decide if they could turn it into a ten dollar play. No games, no playing around, just the chance to improve on something, they could call their own.
A Lesson in the Jungle is about two wild game hunters, who go off to Africa to hunt wild animals. They don’t aim to hurt the animals, just to capture them and sell them to a large zoo back home. However, their plans are thwarted, when two young children stumble across their camp while the hunters are away. The children (brother and sister) decide they must free the animals and they seek the help of a witchdoctor to do so. Now, the witchdoctor doesn’t just rescue the animals from their impending fate, he teaches the hunters a vital lesson. A Lesson in the Jungle is a play with a theme. English is on the menu here, every idea; every instruction is kept, for the most part, in English.
I was given the opportunity of trying this play out from November 1998 to October 1999. Several groups of children were invited to take part in the play, each group molding it, so that it suited their particular needs. 4th graders, for the most part, followed the manuscript and made only a few, small changes, although 5th and 6th graders made many changes. I set about making and painting a scene as cheaply as possible. Several parents offered their time, creating believable costumes. It was all quite amazing to think that I had gathered so many to do such a worthwhile job.
Still there was something missing though. Something wasn’t quite right, was amiss; was desperately needed before A Lesson in the Jungle could achieve its full glory. Now, writing comes easy for me, just like mathematics comes easy for others. It wasn’t mathematics that I needed though, it was music. The play needed music; it needed songs to give it life, needed songs to bring it toward a happy audience. That’s where I was stuck. I have written many song texts over the years and knew that I could easily write several texts for A Lesson in the Jungle, although that is where things come to an end for me. I racked my brain, thought over and over until my head felt like bursting. And then it hit me, like a boxer’s punch. The answer had been staring me in the face all the time; and yet only now did I understand.
There was somebody who could help me. There was a young man, who flowed and overflowed with musical talent. There was a young man, who was studying to become a teacher of both English and music. This young man had worked with me once before on another play, although a much smaller one. Yes, now why didn’t I think of him before?
I phoned him and oddly enough, he had been thinking of phoning me too. He had been running ideas through his head as well, had been thinking of contacting me and asking for help with one of his projects. Isn’t it strange how some things appear to be set into the course of one’s life? The name of this young man was Martin Lignell, a Swede who has lived in both England and Australia. A single phone call one dreary, rainy day; and the wheels of progress were set into motion. It can be difficult to find creative people, who can remain focused, no matter the problems lurking around each corner of that winding road of life. Not impossible, never impossible, nothing is impossible.
Bye for now