‘The Amazing Adventures of Wallace and Bates’ was an interactive play which took the children on a journey through the true stories of the intrepid Victorian explorers.
Two Victorian scientists arrive at the school to prepare for their expedition of discovery to the unexplored Amazon. In their telling of tales of adventure, the children have the opportunity to venture out on their own. They also have the opportunity of sharing their experiences with peers, giving them a greater understanding of the natural world.
In addition to the performance within the classroom environment, the actors take the audience on their very own expedition into their own outdoor area to discover something new for themselves.
In recent years, Theatr na nÓg has found a demand for productions that have a strong storytelling theme especially involving environmental and scientific topics for young learners.
The production was accompanied by bilingual teaching resources which were created by Foundation Phase specialists on secondment to the company. The production toured schools mainly in the Neath Port Talbot, Swansea and Bridgend areas including Gnoll Primary, Neath; Tanylan Primary, Swansea; Trelales Primary, Bridgend and Ysgol Y Wern, Ystalyfera, Neath Port Talbot.
This project fulfils many areas, Skills and Range, of both the English and Welsh programmes of study and also links with many of the seven areas of learning within the Foundation Phase, e.g. Language, Literacy and Communication, Personal and Social Development skills. In terms of Literacy, it delivered these sections of the LNF for Years 1 and 2:
In relation to Numeracy, pupils documented their findings by cataloguing and classifying the plants they found outside:
Theatr na nÓg works with teachers and advisers on productions and resources, to make sure that they meet the needs of learners and the school curriculum.
Theatr na nÓg meet with a professional reference group of teachers twice a year to consult with them on maintaining and developing the service provided to the local authorities. Generally, this group consisted of up to twelve teachers, head teachers and advisers. Discussions were held between schools and the theatre company’s project team to plan each particular school’s experience.
The way in which pupils are introduced to the production, varies from school to school. Some of them, such Ysgol Y Wern and Ystalyfera, set the scene with a storytelling session that prepared the learners for the actors’ visit. Others used the performance as a starting point and then developed the theme through activities suggested by the accompanying resource pack. Generally, the performance was a springboard to a whole term’s topic work.
The theatre company carried out six months of intensive research before starting on the project, followed by four weeks of intensive preparation work involving rehearsals with the actors (school environment), and composer.
The project introduced the learners to the art of storytelling by, communicating, at times complex, information and using various techniques to create impact, e.g. mime and rhetorical questioning. As various elements and aspects of the LNF were introduced, the schools made decisions as to which were focused on - either prior to or following on from, the performance. Therefore the learning outcomes differed from school to school.
For many of the pupils this was their first introduction to real actors and their roles. The theatre company hoped that by meeting these characters, learners would be encouraged to attend further productions in the theatre.
Feedback from both learners and teachers was sought orally as well as through feedback forms. From the children, comments included,
“I thought it was fun and I enjoyed the exploring activities”
“It was great when we went outside and had a chance to chat with the actors and find some bugs in the school field”.
Comments from teachers, included,
“Because we received a CD for follow-up work, I intend to use many of its activities to inspire the children further especially with investigative work – a really worthwhile experience”.
Theatr na nÓg produces theatre for a wide range of audiences throughout Wales, in a variety of locations and in both languages. http://www.theatr-nanog.co.uk/amazing-adventures-wallace-and-bates