Ilfracombe State School: Clowning and Teaching Sustainability

The Principal, Chris, is a lovely guy and his staff were very warm and welcoming. He provided a place for me to stay and more importantly he trusted me in his school, a stranger. He was grateful to me for offering. This was a small school of around 30-40 kids but really wonderful size for workshops.

I didn’t sleep that great overnight at the school. However, I did fall asleep and it was enough for me to be able to give 100%. I was grateful to get free accommodation and it was warm in the school. Where there is a will there is a way to find accommodation. In the morning I had to move as it was 7.45 and I had to be ready by 9. I quickly worked out do I go to the pub to change or the school. I found out their were toilets out the back. Thankfully a mirror is there. So I unpacked aspects of my car with the clowning props, suite, makeup. It is quite an operation. Then I parked my car behind the toilets so I could quickly access stuff without kids seeing. I ate breakfast in the toilet as I did my makeup. I had to be very efficient. I was tired but slowly started to wake up.

The Principal told me to come out when they start singing the national anthem (Advance Australia Fair), I made a joke with him how Australians don’t really know the words, it is so funny to hear people hum it. We are not that nationalistic here. Although some are.

Anyway, I heard the queue and started to juggle as I approached the children at assembly. I gave them a brief rundown on being a peace clown and asked them what makes them happy and why it is important to sustain the planet. Then Chris jumped in and talked to the kids about school business, rules, safety etc. It was interesting to observe social norms.

I siddled up to the teachers and had a chat with them. Asking them about this place. I found out that there had been 8 years of drought and this winter had been particularly cold. That was interesting.

I then spotted a group of emu’s across the road. So I ran over there with my camera in clown suite and took photos of them. I really loved to seem them although they freaked out with my presence. I then swaggered back to the kids.

I went upstairs with the grade 3′s and we did a clown workshop. I had them put on the clown wigs. One of the girls had a clown phobia. What I love about the teachers is that they include the child who is fearful. I heard the Principal say to face it. I try not to overwhelm the child but I do make eye contact as slowly I seek to melt the fear. We did the welcome parade. Getting them focussed can be challenging. We did that and hand shakes and then I intermittantly brought out my clown props. They particualrly liked my singing cow and lion. The dragon that laughs is a favourite. The kids love to squeak my nose and they love to squeeze my dummy. They look at every details as that is what they see. We talked about happiness and the importance of it. To include everyone and to follow our dreams.

I finished the group and the next one came in. This was a tricky session as the workshop was really appropriate for older kids. I had Grade 5′s but I felt it is more for secondary school kids. However, I felt I should ad lib it a bit. I introduced them to the American indians and the notion that when we use everything we can’t eat money. I questioned them as to why we should care. What that really means. How do we feel in nature? What animals do we like. I noticed that got much more of a reaction, more a personal experience. We played a game of passing the funny face and talked about how people copy. I spoke of cars and pollution how we all have them. What ways could we make sure we didn’t pollute nature? kids felt bikes, horses etc. I told them about water powered cars. We can think of new ways to do things. I asked them to think about what happens if we don’t? Many were aware we don’t survive. That link is important as what we do to nature we do to ourselves. One refered to the air we breathe.

I also did a mexican wave to emulate the waves in life, we are all connected, almost a domino effect. I didn’t go too much into the metaphor here but the idea was we are connected. I also did some juggling and explained that this is what balance feels and looks like. That nature is in harmony. In some games like the rhythm clap I asked how it feels to not be in harmony and how it feels when we clap together. That we have to work together.

It was a good workshop, but I would need more preparation. I like to think more deeply. With the little ones they need more activities, the older high school students can handle more complex topics. So it was a good first attempt, pretty much off the top of my head.

The visit went well and I had lots of positve feedback from the Principal. The teachers spent some time asking me about my experiences, one was interested in India as she is going. I told them it was confronting but to try and see it as your own home. We talked about the times we are in and many feel like is changing. I have had a resound positive to living in the country. They would never live in city. One lady lived here for 25 years. She really enjoyed it. So that was gratifying for me to hear. Definitely the sense of community is strong. It was good to see the parents at the school last night, creating those deep connections and important contributions.

I had a few children that were particularly enamoured with me. One loved my whoopee cushion, when word got around about that. They all demanded I sit down. I joked with them and really did a good fart, they all laughed. Funny how we love farting. Makes me laugh. I forget how great it is for kids. They found my nose (yes literally a nose) onmy suite. It is like a nose with a cold, you squeeze it. Sounds terrible doesn’t it but kids like that sort of thing. It is just gluey, but they laugh and are fascinated by all the things hanging off my suite.

One little boy told me about the suicide of his father and his siblings living elsewhere. He spoke matter a factly about it, as only innocent children do. He was around 10 and his father died 6 years ago. He has a photo of him. He told me sometimes the door opens by itself and he believes it is his dad. So he doesn’t think he is gone. He had 6 siblings and lived with an aunt and uncle. he is in a good place, so I am sure he will receive much support. Thisis the beauty of community, there are a wonderful group of teachers, parents and other kids around. I gave him a big hug when I left. I know he wanted to see what I looked like without my wig, but I was careful to quickly change. I don’t like to take away the beauty of the clown. Also I should add the girl with the clown phobia I hugged and she was then fine with me. So we broke down that barrier (those were the words of the principal). For those who say don’t expose kids to their fears, I would say, do so, but gently. It is very important that we learn that fears are false evidence appearing real. Otherwise we go thorugh life fearing things and never facing them. You grow when you face fear, definitely. You can end up doing what I do when you do. Life becomes a challenge and mind opening experience, nothing to be feared.

Anyway, I need to work out my next stop. I believe it will be Winton. Must get there before dark so I can put up the tent.

Have a wonderful day.

Peace fool :)

Mohandas Gandhi

“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”