Our Planet Festival 2023

Figure 1: Wonderland Forest – Taipei Municipal Zhongshan Girls High School, Taiwan

Welcome to the Critical Connections project which is now in its 11th year. We are very pleased that some lead teachers and schools have been with us from the start and others have joined along the way. The project is hosted by the Centre for Language, Culture and Learning at Goldsmiths, University of London.

We are continuing with the overarching theme of ‘Our Planet’ for the Critical Connections Project (2022-23) as most lead project educators wanted to retain this theme. This theme fits in well with the interdisciplinary approach many project educators take in implementing the Critical Connections project in their educational context. However, this year, we are encouraging schools to develop some sub-strands within the overall theme of ‘Our Planet’.  During the initial project team meeting of the year, we discussed possible sub-strands including roots, waves, time, bonds, connections, and dreams.

The film festival is planned for Friday 9 June 2023. The festival will be a hybrid event in-person at Goldsmiths and live streamed and recorded for schools in other countries and time zones. Young participants will also have the opportunity to take part in a multilingual poetry workshop and exhibit their artwork and poetry as well as presenting their digital stories.

This is a global multilingual digital storytelling project, and we are continuing to work with schools in Australia, Cyprus, Egypt, England, Germany, India, Italy, Malaysia, Taiwan, Turkey, Switzerland and possibly in Scotland. We continue to work with mainstream primary and secondary schools as well as community-based complementary schools teaching a wide range of languages. 

We are keen to promote activist citizenship and think about how creative work and language learning can help students to look differently at the world and listen to each other’s stories. Lead educators can choose to develop work around poetry and art as something alongside or integral to the filmmaking process.

Aims of the Critical Connections Project 2022-23

  1. Connect young participants with their environment, cultural heritage, and languages through taking action and telling stories on issues that matter to them (cosmopolitan citizenship).
  2. Connect young participants with each other locally and globally.
  3. Develop young participants’ imagination, creativity, and multilingual repertories.
  4. Improve young participants communication skills and ability to make meaning through narrative and still/moving images and gain understanding of multimodal literacy and intertextual relationships.
  5. Gain understanding of issues and strategies in translation activities and subtitling (metalinguistic awareness).
  6. Enable creative and critical use of digital technology to transform stories.
  7. Encourage critical thinking, activist citizenship, and international partnerships.
  8. Develop young participants’ understanding of aesthetics and narration through creating artwork and poetry.
  9. Develop more advanced filmmaking skills and techniques.
  10. Develop understanding of film as a medium and its relationship to other art forms including visual arts, drama and poetry.

Handbook for Teachers

The Handbook for Teachers provides practical guidance for embedding multilingual digital storytelling work within a thematic unit of work and planning the following stages:

  1. Pre-production 
  2. Production
  3. Post-production

Timeline for participation in the Our Planet Festival 2023

  • Planning for the project – start to look for stories and resources linked with the theme of ‘our planet’ and poetry/artwork (November – December 2022).
  • Pre-production – start work with the children on creating and transforming the stories and creating poetry/artwork (January- March 2023).
  • Production – film and edit the stories (April – May 2022). Submit the introduction (1 minute) and finished films (3 – 5-minute story), poetry and artwork by Friday 19 May 2023.
  • Post-production – present the films, poetry and artwork at Goldsmiths, University of London on Friday 9 June 2023.

Important factors to keep in mind about the project

It is important to offer opportunities for young participants both to develop their understanding of the issues locally and globally and to make their voices heard. It is good to start the project viewing films from the previous year. The online screening can be seen here, and you can also access the individual films.

Students may well have other views and their ideas should be taken on board.  Careful planning is essential to guide students through the stages of developing ideas, storyboarding and scripting, filming, editing, presenting to an audience. Detailed advice is provided in the project’s Handbook for Teachers and in a range of other resources which can be accessed through the Professional Development section of the project website.

There are also project ideas, resources and activities related to the theme of ‘Our Planet’:

Teachers will need to take into account students’ language levels and help them to draw on structures and vocabulary that they are already familiar with as well as feeding in some new language. Some examples of language used in digital stories are provided in sections 7 and 12 of the Handbook for Teachers. We have found that there can be great benefits from involving parents in supporting digital storytelling projects and guidance on this can be found in section 9 of the Handbook for Teachers.

Digital Stories for discussion

You can select films to share with your students to discuss what makes a good digital story and to help students think about the digital story they would like to create and why.

  • Films can incorporate poetry and song, and this is something teachers may wish to encourage.

Europa Primary School UK (1) – From my Window- De ma Fenêtre

  • We are keen for lead teachers and educators to explore ways of connecting young participants with their local communities and environments and using poetry, artwork and filmmaking to look more closely at their surroundings.

Europa Secondary School UK, Go Ecolo – Save Earth

  • You may want to support students to develop their ideas using animation.

Taipei Municipal Zhongshan Girls’ High School Taiwan – Wonderland Forest

  • You should encourage students to make use of a range of camera shots and camera angles.

Herz-Jesu Institut Mühlbach Italy – Solutions

  • You may want to use traditional artistic skills alongside digital technology.

Shirasu Bunko UK – The Extinction Crisis of Kintaro’s Friend – The Future of Bears in Japan

We look forward to working with you this year.

Project Directors

Dr Jim Anderson, Dr Yu-Chiao Chung, Dr Judith Rifeser, and Professor Vicky Macleroy