Our platform is part of the Every Story Matters (ESM) project, a collaboration between partners across Europe that is supported financially by Creative Europe. In this article we take a closer look at how our German partner Bluedar approaches diversity and inclusion within its organization, and at its partnership with ESM.
Bluedar is a digital art production company that implements animation, new media, and technology in art and education. With the motto ‘Education through entertainment’, they transcend political borders and collaborate with diverse artists worldwide to target children and young adults in the MENA region (the Middle East and North Africa) as well as Arabic-speaking communities worldwide. The aim is to make education more creative and fun.
What They Do
Bluedar focuses on animation production, providing everything from the idea to the final product, as well as multimedia production. It offers a wide range of products such as augmented reality, virtual reality, smartphone apps, social-media art and games. Bluedar also offers creative workshops that bring together children and young adults from different cultural backgrounds. It’s an innovative way of approaching global education and psychosocial support.
Digital Storytelling with Augmented Reality
Technology is an important part of children's and young adults’ lives, and it’s crucial for them to acquire the multimedia skills they need to express themselves in digital storytelling.
As part of the partnership with ESM, Bluedar organized five workshops in Berlin, attended by around fifty children and young adults. The workshops combined technology with traditional narrative methods. Each student created a short story on a sheet of A4 paper, combining drawing, collage, writing and multimedia content using the augmented reality technique, and enjoyed the results through their smartphones. The workshop gave the students a basic understanding of digital narratives, storytelling and the importance of inclusion.
The Memory Box
Another project led by Bluedar is the Memory Box. These animation workshops aim to give psychosocial support to Syrian children and young adults who were forced to leave their homes because of the war. The workshops bring together children who have similar experiences and memories of war and destruction. The children in the Memory Box workshops produced various creative products, one being a comic book containing their stories and drawings. They also made a short animated movie, which consisted of the stories of children of distinct age groups. The children each chose a story from their own memory box, wrote about it, drew the characters, recorded the sound and brought it to life by turning it into an animation.
Sulafa Hejazi of Bluedar is happy to share more about Bluedar’s creative approach to education, diversity and inclusion, and their experience as an ESM partner.
Why do you think creativity is such an important aspect of education and children's development?
I grew up in Syria where the education system involved a lot of propaganda. It lacked fun and creativity for children (we wore military uniforms in school), and that made me passionate about working in the field of edutainment.
Classical educational methods worldwide are often limited in how they inspire children’s imaginations. Combining the educational process with creativity opens up new spaces for children, stimulates their imaginations, enhances their sense of initiative and develops their thinking skills. Learned information itself is not as important as sparking a child's cognitive curiosity. So new, modern, entertaining curricula aim at developing children's encyclopaedia of knowledge, making it not only theoretical but applicable to their lives, and increasing their social skills.
Your main focus is children from the MENA region and other war zones. Why is there a need for creative projects in these places?
Creative projects are important all over the world, especially since technological developments and the contemporary pace of life are not accompanied by simultaneous development in schools’ curricula. There is always a need to search for creative projects that are in line with modern children and their development.
But there is no doubt that children in conflict zones need special support. Psychosocial support through creative projects has a significant impact on their mental health and helps them overcome the trauma of war.
These are children born and raised in war, and their knowledge of life is limited to that perspective. It’s important to help them imagine and build a peaceful world where they can live in safety in the future.
Educational facilities were severely damaged during the war and many children were prevented from going to school, which created an urgent need to find alternative creative educational methods to help these children learn.
Do you notice any recurring themes in the stories from the workshops?
The workshop focused on diversity by bringing children from different backgrounds together and helping them share their stories with each other. Many children's stories addressed diversity through the characters, culture, language and so on.
It’s nice that the stories were diverse and similar at the same time. They stimulated the imaginations of children who live in the same city and belong to the same age group. But each child has their own unique characteristics that are reflected in their story. The results ranged from stories about fictional characters or children talking about their dreams to children exploring their relationship with technology and the city they live in.
Did you notice a positive impact on the children? What is their general feedback about the workshops?
We got a lot of positive feedback from the children, and some of them would love to participate again. What caught the children's attention most was the variety of things they worked on, with technology, drawing, collage, colouring, and the use of video and audio. The workshop involves a lot of play and fun but at the same time takes the children's work and ideas seriously.