Critical Connections Project 2021-22

Figure 1: Safir International School, Turkey

Welcome to the Critical Connections project which is now in its 10th 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 have applied for major funding from the Arts and Humanities and Research Council for a project that brings together multilingual learning, environmental activism and the arts. If this bid is successful, the 3-year project will start in September 2022. We are, therefore, very keen to continue with the project this year and  potentially gain additional funds for networking.

We are continuing with the theme of ‘Our Planet’ for the festival on Friday 10 June 2022 at Goldsmiths. We hope you will be able to take part in the project and build on the wonderful work from the Our Planet Festival 2021. You can read a blog about the festival and reflections from students and educators involved in the project. Deptford Cinema volunteers, Lucy Rogers and Louis Holder supported the online screening of ‘Our Planet Festival 2021’ with 20 films including 20 languages.

We hope to continue working with schools in England, Taiwan, Luxembourg, Cyprus, Egypt, Germany and Turkey and potential new schools in Australia, India, Italy, Malaysia, Japan, U.S.A. and Switzerland. We will also continue to work with community-based complementary schools and a wide range of languages will be represented. 

We will organise a preliminary online conversation on Thursday 14 October from 6.00 – 7.30 pm to discuss the scope of the festival and lead teachers will be able to decide on how they want to approach the main theme of ‘Our Planet’ with their students. 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 teachers may want to develop the work around poetry and art as something alongside or integral to the filmmaking process.

Aims of the Our Planet Festival 2022

  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.

Stages of the project

The Teachers’ Handbook 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 2022

  • Planning for the project – start to look for stories and resources linked with the theme of ‘our planet’ and poetry/artwork(November – December 2021).
  • Pre-production – start work with the children on creating and transforming the stories and creating poetry/artwork (January- March 2022).
  • Production – film and edit the stories (April – May 2022). Submit the finished films (3 – 5 minute story), poetry and artwork by Friday 20 May 2022.
  • Post-production – present the films, poetry and artwork at Goldsmiths, University of London on Friday 10 June 2022.

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. For instance, at Saint Jérôme Church of England Bilingual School, Silke Fernandes (parent) worked with a group of students to include a range of home languages in their film, Plagued by Plastic.  

Films can incorporate poetry and song, and this is something teachers may wish to encourage. Waking up from a Nightmare was created by Kamares Primary School, Cyprus from young participants’ haikus.

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. We will discuss ideas to support this such as sensory walks. You can view the film Breeze made by students at Safir International school.

We understand the global pandemic continues to have an impact on the way we work. We hope to be able to hold the ‘Our Planet Festival 2022’ at Goldsmiths and overseas schools will be able to participate remotely. We look forward to welcoming you to the festival. It would be helpful if you could confirm your participation in the project this year and whether you will be able to attend an online conversation about the Critical Connections project 2021-22 on Thursday 14 October from 6.00 – 7.30 pm.

We look forward to working with you this year.

Project Directors

Jim Anderson:

Yu-Chiao Chung:

Judith Rifeser:

Vicky Macleroy: