Bug-mensch: (Re)imagining our world in workshops with children

By Evva Parsons

The fourth grade class from Humboldthain Grundschule joined the Haus für Poesie and museum educators from Schaubude Berlin for a two-day workshop inspired by the 2021 Object Theater Festival theme: The World Without Us. The ten-day festival prompted artists and audiences to consider the end of our Anthropocene era and imagine alternatives — both to our ecological role in the world and to the empty spaces that could foster community and human connection. Collaborating with Karla Montasser, the head of poetic education at Haus für Poesie, Franziska Burnay Pereira and Alpha Angelina Kartsaki brought those same questions into the classroom for 22 schoolchildren. Through exercises in writing, crafting, building, and imagining students designed and created their own superhero insects. The human melded with the insectile to (re)invent our relationship to the countless critters that permeate our environment.

Students first looked up the meanings of their own names. That encouraged questions like: „What am I called and why?“ „How does that reflect or construct who I am?“ They came up with a superpower reflective of their personal etymology and then they looked up the scientific names of their favorite insects. With the real-life superpower of their 10-year-old imaginations, they then melded themselves with their selected bug to create new creatures to inhabit our world. To the soundscape of the bug orchestra the class became to launch each new portion of the workshop, twenty-two sets of excited hands deconstructed old technology and busied themselves with gluing the disassembled trash onto old bike helmets for object theater treasure.

As the field of object theater fosters, the insect masks tell a story with everyday items. The students pulled apart and reassembled technologies; they studied and reimagined insects. In doing so, they offered their audiences — be they parents, educators, or visitors to the exhibition of the masks next spring — one glimpse at the constructive power of their minds.