We have discovered a positive goldmine of creativity in Phnom Penh!
Today, to introduce some non-ferocious characteristics of tigers, we started with a bit of help from a 1995 National Geographic article (thank you parents’ basement!) on tigers. I started by showing the girls a photo of a mother tiger tenderly licking the heads of two of her cubs. Going around the circle, we each chose a word or phrase to describe the photo, some saying “makes me feel like she is human, has a family and loves her cubs just like we do” or “her fur is colorful but also matches the forest behind her.” To bring in a bit of humor – since probably most kids would agree that the best books are the funny ones! – the next photo was a tiger that was so hot, it found a cool crevice with a puddle of water just big enough for its butt to sit in. This brought lots of giggles and “I feel bad for him, he looks so pitiful!”
With significantly more compassionate and amused feelings towards tigers flowing around the room, each person came up with their own tiger character and description. When we shared these with the class, I was STUNNED. Not only were they so hilarious that my cheeks hurt from laughing, but some of the girls had written entire stories then and there! In one story, a tiger most likes to eat fish, but is afraid of water and cannot swim. One day, a bird swoops down from above and gets a fish from the water. Seeing this, the tiger tries the same tactic – he climbs a trees, and then jumps through the air like bird, plopping in the water (HA!). Since he cannot swim, though, he fails to catch any fish and returns to shore embarrassed. Pretty good, eh?
One thing we’re trying to do is let the girls have control over the creative process, and part of this means letting them be the ones behind the camera for once, instead of the object of journalists’ cameras and questions. They’ve learned how to use the video camera, and took turns throughout class filming each other present tiger stories. The resulting footage will be the world through their eyes – and they seem to like this. Maybe one day a VFC girl will be Cambodia’s premier documentary filmmaker, or maybe a journalist!