Our #Theaterasacollectivelanguage training of trainers has just concluded, and we couldn’t be happier with the results! This training course was the result of a 18 month-long collaboration between organisations in Germany, Ireland, and Lithuania. Our goal was to explore how to work with the tools of non-verbal theater and non-formal education to better engage new migrants within youth work.
We began our journey by conducting local research in four different locations – Dublin, Merkine, Erfurt, and Bielefeld. From there, we gathered 20 educators to collaboratively build sessions that combine NfE / NVT, which they can implement back in their local contexts.
Throughout the course, our pedagogical team led reflection on migration as an identity that is present in everyone’s story, rather than an abstract concept. This helped us design sessions that respond to the identity concerns of new migrants.
We also had the opportunity to engage with the local city of Weimar, with a tour on ‘Weimar as an Archive of Emotions’ that used the physical spaces of the city as a tool to explore the diversity of the past and how migrants have been viewed in the city through time.
Our training course was hosted at the Europäische Jugendbildungs- und Jugendbegegnungsstätte Weimar – EJBW and was co-funded by the National Agency for Adult Education in Germany as a small-scale partnership. It was further co-funded by the KJP 2022 program and the Global Bio Gardens intercultural initiative.
Overall, the training course was designed to provide participants with a range of tools and techniques for using nonverbal methods of communication in non-formal education settings. Through a combination of workshops, group activities, and discussions, participants were able to explore and develop their skills in physical theater, devising theater performances, storytelling, and using theater as a tool for social change. The course also had a specific focus on working with migrants to address identity conflicts, and participants were given tools for facilitating discussions with this group. The final showcase provided an opportunity for participants to put their skills into practice and share their work with the local community. Overall, the training course was a valuable experience for all involved, and it provided participants with a range of tools and skills that they can use in their future work with migrants and other groups.
During the week we:
- Day 1: The aim of day 1 was to introduce participants to the overall theme of the training course, build connections between participants, and explore different nonverbal methods of communication. The day started with a welcome and introduction to the course, followed by an icebreaker activity to help participants get to know each other. A workshop on physical theater techniques was conducted by a professional trainer to introduce participants to nonverbal methods of communication. The day ended with a reflection on the workshop and its relevance to the theme of the course.
- Day 2: The aim of day 2 was to deepen participants’ understanding of nonverbal communication and how it can be used in non-formal education, and to give participants the opportunity to practice and develop their own nonverbal skills. A workshop on devising theater performances as a group was conducted by a professional trainer. Participants worked in groups to devise their own theater performances, followed by reflections on the workshop and the devising process. Participants then watched and provided feedback on each other’s performances.
- Day 3: The aim of day 3 was to explore how nonverbal methods can be used to address identity conflicts that arise from migration and to provide participants with tools for facilitating these discussions with groups of migrants. A workshop on storytelling and narrative techniques was conducted by a professional trainer. Participants worked on developing stories related to their personal experiences, followed by reflections on the workshop and the storytelling process. Participants then watched and provided feedback on each other’s storytelling performances.
- Day 4: The aim of day 4 was to focus on the use of storytelling as a nonverbal method of communication, and to help participants develop their own storytelling skills. A professional trainer conducted a workshop on using theater as a tool for social change, and participants explored ways in which theater can be used to address social issues and promote intercultural dialogue. They discussed the potential impact of theater as a tool for social change, and reflected on the workshop and the potential applications of theater in their work.
- Day 5: The aim of day 5 was to synthesize the learning from the previous days and to provide participants with an opportunity to practice delivering sessions using nonverbal methods of communication. Participants worked on finalizing their group performances and rehearsing for the final showcase. The day ended with a final showcase of the performances, which were attended by an audience of local community members and project partners. Participants had a closing ceremony and farewell dinner.
About the broader project:
This small scale partnership is looking to research, develop and disseminate a methodology of engaging and integrating migrants through non-verbal theater methods. Understanding that non-verbal approaches in pedagogy have an advantage over some (verbal) group discussions formats, especially for some immigrant and refugee groups, there is a need for innovative methodologies usable by adult educators who wish to engage migrants in the social, civic and cultural spaces of theater. The basic idea is to develop a methodology that enables migrants to express themselves creatively and to have meaningful encounters with others within a social context.
Social interactions are often denied to migrants because they are (not yet) able to express themselves verbally. However, social contact with the local community and individual expression are crucial ingredients so that a person can feel at home in a place, which will enhance their integration. Although the European Commission supports new-migrant-specific adult education, such as through the EU Action Plan on the integration of TCNs, further action is needed, meaningful communication through arts can enhance the development of mutual respect and understanding what can overcome cultural differences. By enabling young migrants to experience meaningful (non-verbal) communication and to develop skills of creative self-expression we foster the pathway for more sustainable and effective integration.
This project strives to build on our consortium’s previous cooperation on local-level actions, to research and produce a widely transferable, migrant-developed online support toolkit for educators to equip them with methods to support migrants within their inclusion process – ultimately empowering migrants and their communities to become more engaged within the social, political, cultural parts of the society because they feel at home and accepted.
Through connecting research and diverse communities in an 18-month process, we hope to improve the quality of adult education available to young migrants, with a broad range of tools available to adult educators on our online support platform, with the flagship tools focusing on integrating non-verbal tools into education and integration work with new migrant communities. This consortium is driven by migrant-led organisations, which will give migrants the possibility to share their experiences and expertise and create together with the experts from the Theater Impulse e.V. and CGE Erfurt e.V. a program that tackles the existing challenges of the reality the target group faces every day by providing solutions that support the individuals wellbeing and integration. The outcomes of the project will enable educators to hold more capacity with regard to the inclusion of migrants and can be the first step to expanding accessibility on an intersectional level beyond migrant communities.
The training course co-funded by: