With schools now open and children returning to or experiencing traditional schooling again, the negative impacts of the pandemic on young children are slowly but surely starting to show. This newest generation of kids has faced isolation unlike any generation before them in living history. Now more than ever we can see the power the creative arts have to engage with our children and rectify the damage caused by the pandemic.
Of course, as we write this, it is important to put in place a caveat, for yet again, we see increasing numbers of Covid-19 infections, and the possibility of another lockdown is far from distant.
But, powering through with faith and optimism is Power of Play, who, next week, will launch (or rather, relaunch) one of their flagship initiatives, Camp Kreativ, in a unique way for 2022. Power of Play uses the power of storytelling and mixes it with the even more powerful medium of theatre to create meaningful stories that drive social change. Founded in 2011 by Artistic Director Sulochana Dissanayake, Power of Play is a company that utilises performing arts for communication, with a special focus on puppetry and theatre.
The origins of Camp Kreativ
Camp Kreativ, something Power of Play has held since 2010, is a children’s theatre programme with a difference that saw its roots begin to form when Power of Play Founder Sulochana Dissanayake was asked by the then Principal of Asian International School to devise a weekly puppetry club for its students. Fast-forward to 2014, and Power of Play launched Camp Kreativ as a two-week theatre, puppetry story-telling workshop that helped students enhance their creative and critical thinking skills.
Reflecting on Camp Kreativ’s origins, Dissanayake explained that it stemmed from the rigidity she observed in parents’ mindsets when it came to their children and career choices – the only acceptable choices were the traditional doctors, lawyers, engineers, teachers. and so on; creative careers, regardless of a child’s creative potential (and interest), were not considered.
Having studied theatre and economics abroad, Dissanayake, who refers to herself as a businesswoman who uses art as her main medium of work, was amazed by the level of progress of Sri Lanka’s creative industries and the high demand for creative jobs in a post-war nation, but still saw at the school level how the only seeds cultivated in children’s minds was to follow traditional, conventional career paths they often had no passion for.
It was this that led Sulochana to form Camp Kreativ in the two-week format in which she initially ran the initiative – a gentle way to introduce children (and parents) to thriving creative professionals and show the viability of building a successful career through following your passions.
“Power of Play has always approached behavioural change gently. We think behavioural changes take place slowly over a generation, not overnight,” Sulochana explained, speaking of how Power of Play is working to shift perspective on creative careers. “There is no right or wrong in encouraging a child to become a doctor, lawyer, or engineer. All we’re saying is that the world is a very large place. There are careers now that we hadn’t heard of 10 years ago that are very lucrative. I wanted to paint a picture of the broad range of choices we should be showing our children that can come from a place of passion and what that child is already interested in and that their abilities are naturally inclined toward.”
Camp Kreativ 2022
Taking her vision of Camp Kreativ after a four-year hiatus, Dissanayake is launching Camp Kreativ for 2022 as a regular children’s programme.
Taking place physically on Mondays at the Oneness Centre in Colombo 3, Camp Kreativ 2022, or CK 2022, will feature workshops in drama, puppetry, music, and storytelling, targeted for toddlers (one to three years), preschoolers (four to six years) and primary/middle schoolers (seven to 12 years).
CK 2022, like all versions of CK before it, is a non-competitive programme. “We only issue a participation certificate. Initially, I absolutely resisted any form of certification because that’s not the goal of the programme, but I understand that there has to be some proof that children have attended and participated in the programme. There is no concert or showcase at the end like other programmes of this nature. I feel that puts too much pressure on the children,” Dissanayake explained, adding that instead of a concert or showcase, there is “creative sharing” at the end of the camp to show parents the journey of the child over the course of the programme.
Return to physical interaction
With schools now open again, Dissanayake felt it was vital for CK 2022 to not be virtual. “I am seeing that everyone is tuned out within the virtual world and everyone is craving to return to physical interaction,” Dissanayake said, adding that even with virtual learning, “the negative impacts of virtual have largely been documented”. “It’s been especially hard on young children and on educators as well. Trying to reach children dynamically through the screen while keeping archaic syllabi from 30 years ago engaging; it’s not been a good combo. I’ve seen my own six-year-old struggling with the return and going back to a highly structured classroom,” Dissanayake expressed.
Noticing this struggle and knowing she can’t be the only parent seeing it, is what made Dissanayake approach CK 2022 as a physical weekly offering, because in addition to being a creative outlet and skill-building opportunity for kids, it allows them to rebuild (or learn) skills that the pandemic has robbed from them – interaction, social intelligence, and critical thinking. “Covid-19 robbed all of us of the simple things in life – community, interaction, playing, sharing, and even the simple act of a family meal was compromised,” Dissanayake said, adding: “Drama and puppetry are kind of our forms of connecting humans together. Ancient humans gathered around the fire and telling stories was one of the simplest and oldest acts of community-building, and CK 2022 goes back to those roots, with theatre, games, live music, and other unique offerings.”
CK 2022 takes place weekly on Mondays at The Oneness Centre starting from 7 February. Please WhatsApp 0777396389 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information or to register.